Girl Friday: Dr. Elise Brisco
Photography by: Michelle Darlene
Full disclosure: Dr. Elise Brisco is my optometrist. She’s also beautiful, incredibly intelligent, empathetic and single mom to an adorable four-year old little boy. I’ve always wondered how she possibly does it all, especially at such a high competency level, and our Girl Friday column lent me the excuse I needed to finally uncover her secrets! Dr. Brisco shares her story of being a woman in a difficult medical field, gives solid advice on nutrition and health and making your home your castle.
How did your childhood lead you to the medical field? Was it always a passion of yours?
There are several physicians in my family and many family friends who served as role models for me; all were caring and happy people. I was fascinated by how we could make our bodies feel better and stronger by doing simple things. My mother is also very loving, and always seemed to know what do to when it came to health care. I became interested in complementary health care because I’ve seen many health issues where traditional medicine has come up short, but natural and alternative health care successfully treated me, friends and family.
What is the number one thing each of our readers can and should do for the health of their vision?
Healthy eyes look beautiful, and what keeps your body healthy also keeps your eyes healthy. Eat well, exercise daily, and rest. Take vitamins to supplement what you eat, and have an annual vision exam.
Although 50% of medical school graduates are female, women currently account for only 30% of practicing physicians. Do you find the medical field to be welcoming to women or have you felt you had to fight to get to where you are today?
Medicine has changed since I was in grad school. Many doctors I spoke to were concerned that women would take a seat in a graduate program, but then leave the profession to raise a family.
My patients would ask when the “real doctor” was coming to see them.
Many people didn’t see women as viable doctors before, but I think that bias is changing. Several clear examples of this happened in my career. The first: For a long time, patients would ask me, (the doctor), when the “real doctor” was coming to see them. The second: I was the team optometrist for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The guard who greeted me when I went to the locker room to care for the players told me I was at the wrong entrance, and that the Decoys (their cheerleaders) enter the stadium at another door. When I told him I was Dr. Brisco, and one of the team doctors, he called to verify this with the Mighty Ducks office. He apologized profusely once he found out that I indeed was one of the doctors, and not a cheerleader. I later found out that I was the only female team doctor in the NHL at that time. The third example: I was asked to audition for a national TV commercial to play a doctor, but the casting director told me that they liked me very much but I wasn’t middle America’s view of a doctor. They invited me to return to audition for one of the non-doctor principal roles, (and I did get the part!), but they proceeded to cast a man in the role of the doctor.
I am proud to be a woman doctor. I use my maternal instincts to provide loving and knowledgeable care. I consider all my patients to be part of my professional family, or my babies.
You’re currently developing a line of products based on the relationship between Lasik and Homeopathic medicine. Tell us a little bit about this!
I am a co-investigator with Paul Dougherty, MD in Los Angeles studying the use of homeopathic remedies to help patients recover more comfortably and quickly after LASIK eye surgery. Dry eye is one of the most common discomforts that patients experience after surgery. The standard protocol includes antibiotic and steroid drops to suppress unwanted inflammation and prevent infection. Artificial tears are given for dry eyes, but they only treat the symptom by wetting the eyes for 10-15 minutes. After that, the tears drain out of your eyes making them feel dry again.
Homeopathic tears stimulate tear production in addition to replacing tears. This goes to the root of the problem by triggering a self-healing response in the body. There are also remedies in the study medication that Natural Ophthalmics formulated for us that help to repair and heal tissue on the front of the eye. We are still enrolling patients for our study, and will publish the results in medical journals to encourage surgeons to use homeopathic drops in conjunction with steroids and antibiotic drops after LASIK.
You also have a four-year-old son. How do you organize and schedule your days? What kind of childcare help do you utilize?
I have to function at 200% as a single working mom: running my own practice, overseeing the Rehabilitative Vision Clinic at Cedars Sinai that I co-founded, lecturing, writing, doing research, and just living life with my son! I am naturally blessed with a lot of energy and serotonin, (happy chemicals), but I can’t take that for granted so my son and I eat healthy, and I dance, play tennis and swim. (And run around with my son!) I also take a high-level natural antioxidant called NingXia Red. A few years ago, I felt like I hit a wall, and lost my “edge”. I became tired and couldn’t multi-task as much as usual. Anne Meyer, MD, one of my mentors at Cedars Sinai recommended that I take NingXia Red, and within 2 weeks I was tack sharp, and full of my previous energy. The rest is history . . .
I balance my careers as a doctor and a mama by working part time, (I take one ‘mommy day’ off per week), and having a wonderful nanny who is caring, kind and supportive of our family. I am honest and fully present when I am with David, and then have to be highly productive as soon as he falls asleep. There’s no time to dilly-dally when you’re a single working mom!
When David and I are together, it’s all about him. I look for experiences with him, such as going behind the scenes at the LA Zoo, (where I’m on the Medical Advisory Board), taking a Disney cruise to the Caribbean, taking a pottery class, a train ride to Legoland, or going on an aircraft carrier to learn about the significance of Memorial Day! We have lots of fun together while he learns.
How would you describe your style and what role does fashion play in your life?
My style is casual elegance with a touch of glamour. I was raised by my mother and grandmother to be a lady. I remember my mother bringing beautiful purses, blouses and scarves to my grandmother when she was in a nursing home because my grandmother wanted to look nice even when she didn’t feel well. She put her best foot (or shoe!) forward at all times.
I love beauty that is created by God in nature, as well as man-made beauty. Fashion is beauty and respect for yourself and those around you. Fashion also starts with health. Nothing will look good if you don’t take care of yourself inside and out. Dressing nicely doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. I use it as an expression of my artistic side and love for all things beautiful. My son began commenting on my clothes, textiles and patterns when he was only 2 years old. He enjoys art whether it is at the Getty, LACMA, or on his Mama!
What advice would you give to the younger you?
Have more children! I love kids, and would love to have more!
Ask your partner to truly be a partner in raising your child, and taking care of your home, your castle.
If you could change something about today’s culture for the future generation of women, what would it be?
It’s OK to be feminine and a woman, as well as be strong and assertive in your career. Ask your partner to truly be a partner in raising your child, and taking care of your home, your castle. It’s a woman’s AND man’s job to take care of the family and home.
Girl Friday is a phrase more common to the 1940s and 50s, defined as “a female employee who has a wide range of duties,” and is most recognizable from the film His Girl Friday. Here at Move LifeStyle, we’re resurrecting its saucy vibe for the title of our last column of the week which profiles inspiring women in the workforce. If you like this series, click here for more Girl Friday Interviews.