My Journey Into Medicine

I was a nerdy straight-A kid growing up in the border town of El Paso, Texas. Good grades came easily, and if I weren’t good at something, I would study or practice harder.  I always loved any type of challenge.  One time, my dad brought home a unicycle and challenged me to learn to ride it.  So, like a budding circus clown, I did.  I’ve also always liked creating and building things with my hands and discovering how things work.  I once built a little AM radio when I was about 8 years old.  In college when my parents finally allowed me to trade in my bicycle for my car, I wanted it to have an upgraded sound system, but I didn’t have the money to hire someone to install one.  So, I learned how and did it myself.  You can imagine the stares I got with the interior of my car gutted out in my Stanford dormitory parking lot!

Though neither are physicians, I credit my parents with being the greatest influences in my life and career path.  My dad, an Army veteran, taught me that with hard work, anything is possible.  He spent his youth working farmland owned by his parents, picking cotton at the crack of dawn before school, only to head back to the same grueling labor after school.  His example has been fundamental in shaping my character – from his laser-focused discipline, to his impeccable work ethic, to setting the standard as to how a woman should be treated and revered.

My mother personifies the patience and perseverance it takes to fulfill a dream.  Born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, she came to the United States at the age of five with her family with very little money and knowing no English.  After marrying my dad, and then raising my sisters and me, she decided to go back to college to pursue a degree in education.   She graduated with her bachelor’s degree my sophomore year in high school and subsequently enjoyed a career as an educator with a specialty in English as a Second Language.  My mom’s humility, compassion, and selflessness are traits I have inherited which allow me to better care for and empathize with my patients.

Heading off to Stanford University was a dream come true for me.  I had been accepted at several prestigious schools, but beautiful California called my name.  I battled homesickness and struggled initially because I wasn’t prepared for the volume and pace of such a prestigious institution, where many of its entering students came from private, college preparatory schools.  I studied long and hard to maintain my GPA. I volunteered at a perinatal resource program where we solicited donations from the more affluent Palo Alto community to give to underprivileged East Palo Alto new moms.  I’ll never forget the look on one 19-year old young woman’s face who spoke no English and had just given birth to twins.  We were the same age.  It was then that I realized the unique privilege of having a higher education and decided I wanted to go to medical school.

I fell in love with Obstetrics and Gynecology after watching my first delivery during my clinical rotations.  My residency was a high volume, county hospital training program where patients all too often crossed the US-Mexico border to receive care and deliver their babies.  I was confronted with patients with advanced disease and uncommon pathology.  I learned more from my patients than I ever learned from books.  I soon realized how much I enjoyed surgery.  I thrived in the operating room where I could use my hands to problem solve and heal.  I was hungry for more.

After residency, I pursued fellowship training in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery.  I was fortunate to train under two gynecologic oncologists who enhanced my knowledge of pelvic anatomy and disease by means of laparoscopic, robotic, open and vaginal surgery.  I spent every single day in the operating room, and my evenings and weekends were spent rounding on critical patients with complex conditions.  The work was arduous but the experience, skill, and knowledge I gained was beyond measure.  After fellowship, I felt the need to give back to the community that had raised me and also taught me the fundamentals on how to be a good physician. For six years after all my training, I enjoyed a very rewarding academic and private practice career in my hometown of El Paso, TX.

California again beckoned for me in 2015, when I took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles – my sisters had already been living in the LA area for over a decade and I wanted to be near them.  My particular expertise in robotic surgery was highly sought after. I was surprised to learn that adoption of robot-assisted technology in gynecologic surgery in the LA area was well behind the rest of the nation.  I first set up shop in Beverly Hills, then, in 2017, found my niche in the South Bay.

Along the way, private practice has been very rewarding, but has had its challenges as well.  The business side of medicine is an area we, as physicians, do not learn well, if at all.  I would much rather spend more time enjoying and working harder at the important parts of my field – taking care of patients, fixing what ails them via professionally sanctioned procedures and evidence-based medicine. After 10 years of navigating the business of private practice, I have amassed a formidable little team and together we opened South Bay Women’s Health and Surgery in November 2022. We are one of few remaining stand-alone private practices in the area that have not succumbed to corporate medicine or a “concierge” model. We pride ourselves on doing our jobs well and providing quality care because we enjoy working together as a team, and, more importantly, we truly love what we do.

You won’t find a big fancy “med spa” in our office. You won’t be offered ways to reverse the aging process. I can’t rejuvenate anything for you unless it involves healthy lifestyle habits like clean eating and regular exercise. What you will find is that I will always try to make you feel comfortable, secure, and well-informed during your visits or when facing surgery.  I can offer you empathy, respect, focused attention and presence. Being a doctor is an honor and a privilege. It is a role I do not take lightly. To put your health in my hands at a time when you are feeling most vulnerable is something that I, too, as a woman, can relate to and understand wholeheartedly. I thank you in advance for entrusting me with your care.

–Sonia Rebeles