Monthly Archives: October 2016

8 RealSelf Fellows to Support Reconstructive Surgery Efforts Around the World

This summer we announced our new RealSelf Fellowship to help fund trips for medical providers who deliver care and training in highly underserved communities worldwide.

Now we’re excited to present our first class of RealSelf Fellows, eight physicians dedicated to humanitarianism and bringing their knowledge of reconstructive surgical care and sustainable solutions to improve the overall quality of life in these locales.

Here are the RealSelf Fellowship recipients (in order of their trip’s departure date):

The impact of these trips will be far-reaching, primarily focused on providing reconstructive surgery free of charge for children and adults with traumatic injuries and correctable deformities. In addition, the teams will work to educate host-country doctors and medical staff to perform these complex procedures, as well as providing additional training in anesthesia, pediatrics, speech therapy, and nutrition.

The RealSelf Fellowship is an ongoing program open to physicians and surgical-care team members who will volunteer medical services or serve as volunteer educators to advance the skills of local doctors and staff. Fellowships can cover a wide range of needs, including hand surgery, burn reconstruction, microsurgery, and advanced cleft techniques, as well as anesthesia, nursing, orthodontics, and physical and hand therapy.

Giving back is at the heart of culture at RealSelf, and as we continue to grow, we are determined to find ways to use our scale for good, so our impact grows with us.

RealSelf evaluates applications twice per year. The next phase of applications for trips taking place after April 1 is open now, with a deadline of Feb. 1, 2017. Medical professionals interested in participating are invited to view eligibility requirements and complete the online application.

Cancer Took My Breasts. Reconstruction Helped Me Move On.

Pre-chemo hair shearing.

The week I started chemo, I got my hair shaved off and made into a wig.

Our employees have incredible backstories. Community Manager Mari Malcolm shares her experience with breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I’d just turned 35 when I found a lump in my right breast. My doctor told me I was so young that it was probably nothing. It took a few months before I admitted to myself I should probably get that optional mammogram.  

My original diagnosis was stage IV. Thankfully, I was really only late stage III, so I’m still here. But the tumor was so big and close to my chest wall they had to shrink it with five months of chemo before they could do the mastectomy. They took so much tissue, I was left with pretty much just skin over ribs.

The first time I peeled back the bandage, my knees buckled and I had to sit down, which my surgeon said was totally normal. Nurses would compliment me on the neatness of my scar, but I felt like I had been (very necessarily) mutilated.

I kept working through most of my treatment and recovery, often from the hospital. In an environment where showing weakness wasn’t a smart career move, I went to the office in a wig, missing eyebrows and eyelashes, trying to hide how tired I was with makeup.

I was honest about my cancer, but I wasn’t comfortable with most people knowing I’d lost my breast. For a year and a half, I wore a prosthetic pocketed into a bra and avoided low necklines.

Breast Reconstruction Isn’t a Given

Whenever I see stark black-and-white photos of breast cancer survivors baring their mastectomy scars, and I’m in awe of their badassery.

Choosing to live without breasts in this culture is an act of defiance and intense self-love. When I’ve talked with women who decided against reconstruction, they’ve told me that by the time they’d finished cancer treatment, they were sick of surgeries and just wanted to move on.

After five months of chemo, three surgeries, and six weeks of daily radiation, I understood this.

But also I suspected reconstructive surgery would help me move on in the way I needed to. In my oncologist’s waiting room, I’d met a fiftysomething woman in for a follow-up. She heard about my upcoming mastectomy and came this close to taking her top off to show me her new breasts. “Look, they’re so perky!” she enthused, giving them a squeeze.

After that, I knew if I made it to the other side, I’d get new breasts. I wanted a reality where I didn’t have to think about cancer every day. Continue reading

RealSelf Turns 10: Staffers Share How It’s Changed Over the Past Decade

Ten years ago, RealSelf launched in CEO Tom Seery’s spare room. Today, we’re a fast-growing company with over 130 employees located in Pioneer Square.

Getting from there to here has certainly been an interesting ride. From the early days of bringing your own fork to work (huh?), to champagne toasts of today, it’s been quite the journey. We have employees who have been here from the very beginning, to newbies who’ve only been here a few months. For our 10-year anniversary, we asked them to tackle two big questions: “What was RealSelf like when you started” and “What has changed the most?”

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RealSelf Community staff attend a Mariners game.

Sharon Walls, Community Engagement Manager

Years at RS: 10 

What was it like? RealSelf was still finding itself when I started. My first article was about SPF labels on sunscreen! The site was based around articles and first-person “as told to” stories. We were less focused on elective surgery and more focused on what women did to look their best.

Tom always had the mission to empower consumers through information.

What has changed? The site evolved from a single perspective (via articles), to having consumer reviews and doctor tips, which became the Q&As. I think the doctor involvement is what makes RealSelf truly unique. Consumers can get perspectives from fellow community members and also professional opinions from healthcare professionals all in one place.

Peter Krengel, Manager of Analytics

Years at RS: 3

What was it like? When I interviewed at the office near the ferry, they had just moved and there were half as many applicants as employees in the office that day because the phone lines hadn’t been installed yet.

What has changed? What’s changed the most is the sheer volume of work and progress the company is able to make on a daily basis. Going from 20 employees to 130 is nuts.

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Doctor Advisors at a spa day.

Maureen Ezekwugo, EVP Doctor Community

Years at RS: 6

What was it like? When I started in 2010, RealSelf was mainly unknown. Traffic was at 900K unique users a month, there were only about 1,000 claimed doctor profiles, our revenue model was fueled by Google AdSense, and Tom Seery carried a pink water bottle around to each meeting. There was no coffee at the office. No snacks, not even a fork.

You had to bring your own fork.

What has changed? Unique users have increased 10X, claimed doctor profiles are up over 12X, and we no longer have any reliance on Google AdSense to pay the bills. We have ample snacks, coffee and beer, a great following by both consumers and doctors, and Tom Seery has upgraded to La Croix and Talking Rain.

Most importantly, the talent and experience on our team has grown exponentially and continues to expand with some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with in my career.

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RealSelf staffers ran Ragnar, a 200-mile relay race through the Pacific Northwest.

Meredith Russian, Manager, Administrative & Billing Operations

Years at RS: 6

What was it like? When I started, there were seven of us in the office. There were a very conservative amount of office supplies. No one had monitor stands, so we’d stack up reams of paper. The only office snacks were coffee (if Maureen made it) and Talking Rain. There were basically three departments: Sales (four people), then the Dev team (two), and Community.

What has changed? The biggest change has just been the displays of generosity from RealSelf to its employees. The bigger and more successful we’ve become, the more RealSelf has been able to bless its employees.

Charlie Chu, Doctor Advisor

Years at RS: 1

What was it like? I started in July in 2015 and instantly loved the atmosphere and culture. I think we were around 60 people, maybe less?

What has changed? We are growing so quickly and it is exciting! The Doctor Advisor team has grown and developed a ton. When I started, we only sold doctor spotlights. Now we have a new and improved model, invited non-core doctors, renewed almost all our doctors, added business pages, and new treatments.

I love how our team and company is able to grow, adapt, and make an impact!

Debra Gravelle, Doctor Advisor

Years at RS: 4

What was it like? I was the fifth advisor on the team, and it was a very close-knit group. Because I am remote they keep a hangout open so I was always with the team. Even on a bad hair day.

What has changed? The number of employees has increased so much in four years that when I make my quarterly visits I always think, “When did all of these people show up” So now I get to be on a hangout for meetings and trainings, but don’t show my face any more because a bad hair day is my new norm.

Anthony Mendonca, VP of Engineering

Years at RS: 5

rs-office-1
What was it like? Much smaller! This is a photo of the developers’ office, just enough room for the four engineers we had at the time. This wasn’t even the first office, just two months before this, we had one developer, and we were squished into an even smaller office with everyone else.

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What has changed? Aside from the growth itself, it’s been amazing to see how our culture has flourished with every new team member that’s come aboard. I’m happy to be a part of this family.

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CEO Tom Seery.

Tom Seery, CEO

Years at RS: 10

What was it like? I liked that I got to work with my wife for the first, and probably last, time.

What has changed? My perspective on our purpose. It was an idea to empower consumers, and now is one that is about delivering on our mission to instill greater confidence.

See more of our 10-year anniversary celebration via #RealSelfLife on Twitter, and be sure to check out our Careers page and learn more about how you can help shape our next 10. 

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