An Austin Girl Comes Home: Dr. Jennifer Walden
Dr. Jennifer L. Walden
“You need the personality and internal drive to sustain your education, career, and well-being of your family and yourself over the long haul, not just over months or a few years.”
By Leslie Hancock
Dr. Jennifer Walden, named one of the 24 best beauty surgeons in the United States by Harper’s Bazaar magazine last month, is a woman who arguably “has it all.” An acknowledged leader in her field, she trained with the best cosmetic surgeons in New York City, establishing a successful practice in Manhattan before returning to her hometown of Austin to do the same here. She’s one of the only women to have ever been on the board of directors of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), a board on which she currently serves. She’s a published author and award-winning surgeon. She’s even a media darling, regularly appearing on many national television programs and in prominent magazines. She has two beautiful children, several siblings who are highly successful in their own fields, and a mother Dr. Walden says inspires her on a daily basis.
Assertive and Strong; Warm and Caring
Dr. Walden is brilliant, beautiful and successful – the kind of woman you might think would be intimidating or cold. She’s anything but that.
Jennifer Walden is in fact warm and friendly, putting people at ease with her calm confidence and relaxed manner. Though she’s always busy, she doesn’t come across as rushed. Though she firmly controls every aspect of the environment in her office and OR, no one would call her harsh. And though she’s a powerful woman with a waiting list of patients eager to receive her elite services, her eyes shine softly with a mother’s love when she shows off pictures of her young twin sons, Houston and Rex. She’s a very grounded person with an easy smile who empathizes with her patients’ desire to improve their looks and feel better about themselves.
How did Jennifer Walden get to where she is today? It may seem like a cliché, but it was quite simply hard work – lots and lots of hard work, backed by keen intelligence, talent and a drive to be one of the best.
Deep Austin Roots and a Large Supportive Family
Jennifer Walden was born in Austin and grew up in the Northwest Hills neighborhood. Her late father was a dentist, and her mother was a surgical nurse. One of five children, young Jennifer grew up in an environment where education and achievement were valued. She calls her mother her hero and a role model in raising her own two sons. “I honestly don’t know how my mother did it with five kids. I can barely get through HEB with two!” Dr. Walden laughs. She claims that in some ways being a plastic surgeon is easier than being a mom. She can control the environment at work, but kids are totally unpredictable. “I have great respect for at-home moms,” she says. “Seriously, it’s the most selfless and challenging job you can do.”
A Fiercely Determined and Highly Successful Woman
She attended The University of Texas at Austin for her bachelor’s degree and was accepted to medical school on a waiting list. She would not be sidelined, though, and made it into the program. Determined to show that she was not a second-choice candidate, she ended up graduating as Salutatorian of her class. She decided to go into plastic surgery because she loved the artistry and creativity of it combined with the immediacy of surgical outcomes. She also felt an affinity for the primarily female patients who want to look better. She was matched into the plastic surgery program at UT Galveston, and then she was accepted to an exclusive post-residency aesthetic surgery fellowship program at the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital. She was one of only two fellows accepted that year. She found she loved Manhattan and stayed there for eight years, starting her own practice in association with her mentor Sherrell Aston, an experienced plastic surgeon with an international clientele who has been in practice for over 30 years. She learned the business side of things and built a thriving practice there from 2004 until 2011. She might still be in Manhattan today if not for what she calls the “game changer” – the arrival of her twin sons Rex and Houston.
Shifting Priorities: Kids Change Everything
Dr. Walden says that dating, marriage and children weren’t really on her radar in her twenties and early thirties. But in her late thirties, she found that she did want to be a mother, and that maternal instinct was growing stronger. “I think I had about one egg left,” she laughs. “Well, I guess two.” Since there was not a man in her life she wanted to marry, she opted for in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Her boys were born in November of 2010, much to her entire family’s great joy. She decided to return to Texas so that her sons could grow up surrounded by family like she did.
Starting Over and Exceeding Expectations
She had to start all over again with her practice when she arrived back in Austin. But with the support of her mother, who still lives in Dr. Walden’s childhood home, and the help of nannies and other family members, Dr. Walden was able to move effectively to reestablish her business. In less than three years, the practice has grown beyond her expectations. She takes great pride in what she has built here. “Westlake Medical Center is a surgeon’s dream,” she explains. “I do 99% of my surgeries in my own operating room, which is just 15 feet away from my private office.” She maintains the highest standards for her operating room, which is fully accredited by AAAASF, the premiere program for office OR accreditation. Although she rarely ever has to admit anyone to the hospital on an urgent basis, she has an arrangement with Westlake Medical Center to admit patients for overnight nursing if needed. “The Hospital at Westlake Medical Center feels like a five-star hotel,” she says. “If a patient needs to stay overnight, it’s a fantastic facility.” 90% of her patients, though, are outpatients and go home the same day with family members after surgery in her office operating room.
Making Things Happen
Dr. Walden’s guiding philosophy in life is her desire to make things happen. “I’m a doer,” she explains. “I wake up each morning, and the first thing I want is for my children to be happy and healthy. I want to do the right thing for them so they have a fulfilling life. So I’m proactive. I’m achievement-oriented, and I thrive on challenges. I never let anyone tell me I can’t do something if it’s in the best interest of my patients or my family.” She wants to pass that internal drive on to her sons, who are her reasons for doing everything she does.
Having It All
She also hopes she inspires other young women to pursue careers in medicine and business with confidence and determination, and as such female pre-med students often seek her advice and mentorship. If other women decide, as she did, to have a family and a demanding career, she wants them to understand that it’s not at all easy. “Be a well thought-out, organized woman,” she advises. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You need the personality and internal drive to sustain your education, career, and well-being of your family and yourself over the long haul, not just over months or a few years.” She adds, “You must be prepared to make difficult decisions about your own priorities in life.” She also wants other women to understand that, in order to “have it all,” they’ll need a support system. Whether it’s a flexible spouse, professional nannies or nearby family members, a woman with a demanding career and children can’t do it all by herself. Dr. Walden considers herself incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful and supportive family surrounding her and her sons right here in Austin.
Visit Dr. Jennifer L. Walden’s web site at http://www.drjenniferwalden.com for information about Dr. Walden, her practice, procedures she performs, and more.