Women in Medicine: How this surgeon is inspiring the next generation of doctors

In Women in Medicine, read stories of Baylor Scott & White physicians, leaders, employees and patients who are inspiring and empowering other women to live healthy lives.

Today she lives out her calling as a general surgeon, but Dr. Elizabeth Papaila’s path into medicine took a few twists and turns along the way.

“I worked hard for a long time to be able to help those around me,” she said. “When somebody needs help, I can be there. That’s what I tell my kids, and I know they’re proud of that.”

A week before her 20th birthday, she graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in economics. At such a young age, she knew that she didn’t quite know what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, but she was certain she wanted to make the world and her community a better place.

She pursued opportunities in public policy research, education and public relations — but nothing seemed to fit. Eventually, a conversation with a friend reignited her interest in medicine. She never looked back.

Now as a general surgeon at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano, she’s privileged to help critically ill patients get well and get back to their lives.

“Surgery is just the best thing out there,” she said. “You get to take something that’s wrong and fix it. It is really satisfying work.”

Related: Fighting burnout and empowering female physicians

Dr. Papaila not only exhibits her passion for medicine through her daily work, but she also shares that passion as a mentor to students interested in pursuing medicine.

“Explore."

“I find it rewarding to guide them and fuel their passion by giving them a glimpse of my life as a surgeon,” she said.

Looking back on her own winding career path, she knows firsthand the challenge of determining your future at such a young age. Through giving back to the education system that molded her own passion for learning, she hopes to lead her young mentees to discover not only what they’re good at, but also what matches their personality and values.

As a mentor, Dr. Papaila emphasizes the broad perspective of her career — the often long hours, the triumphs and demands, the highs and lows. To her, helping shape the next generation (whether they pursue medicine or not) is a fulfilling way to give back to the North Texas community that helped shape her own life.

“I find it rewarding to guide them and fuel their passion by giving them a glimpse of my life as a surgeon,” she said.

How does she balance it all, you might ask? Especially as a mother of two young boys, she admits it can be a challenge. But Dr. Papaila knows her sons are proud of their surgeon mom, and she hopes to inspire them just like the students she mentors.

“I worked hard for a long time to be able to help those around me,” she said. “When somebody needs help, I can be there. That’s what I tell my kids, and I know they’re proud of that.”

For Dr. Papaila, this life is the perfect fulfillment of her dream to help the world around her. As a surgeon, mother and mentor, she really is making the world a better place at work and at home.

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About the author

Sara Zuniga
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Sara Zuniga is a marketing communications intern with Baylor Scott and White Health. A Texas native and graduate of Southern Methodist University, she is passionate about all things wellness and strives to contribute impactful stories that reach our community and beyond.

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Women in Medicine: How this surgeon is inspiring the next generation of doctors