Smashing The Patriarchy, Embracing Wealth, And Authentic Style With Dr. Bonnie Koo
The Fabled blog brings together diverse women in medicine to inspire uplifting conversations about life as a medical practitioner. We want to create an empowered community through open discussions about traditionally off-limits topics such as self-care and non-linear career paths. We hope that by participating in these conversations, our readers will go on to live more fulfilling lives. Our new interview series shines a light on the power of personal style, mindfulness, and more.
This month’s Women in Medicine series features Dr. Bonnie Koo, a dermatologist and former systems administrator at Morgan Stanley based in New York City. In 2017, after paying off a six-figure debt, Dr. Koo launched Wealthy Mom MD to share the finance strategies she developed to transform her own life. Today, she teaches female physicians how to master their personal finances and make their money work for them. Read on to find out more about Dr. Koo’s creative hero, and why she thinks women need to embrace creating wealth.
Why did you become a doctor? We want to hear it all: The good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly.
I’ve always loved science and the human body, and I knew I’d end up in a career related to both of those subjects. But it wasn’t until college when I started to explore whether I wanted to become a doctor or a scientist. Medicine won, obviously—and mainly because I really liked interacting with patients.
What have been some of the most exciting moments or proudest achievements of your career?
I actually enjoyed most of my medical training. I think my third-year clinical rotations were most exciting because that was the last time I had exposure to all the different specialties in medicine. It was truly a privilege to see what so many specialists do and how they do it. As for my proudest moment, that was becoming the first Director of Hospital Dermatology at Northwell Health in New York.
What inspired your decision to start Wealthy Mom MD?
My first attending job was a new role in a new department. Because I wasn’t fully booked with patients, I educated myself about finances in my spare time. I scrolled through a lot of Facebook groups! Eventually, I ended up answering everyone’s financial questions in a group specifically for women doctors. Soon, female physicians I didn’t know were tagging me and asking me for help. A friend suggested I start a blog, and the rest is history!
How do you think the skills required to run your own business helps make you a better doctor?
Although I no longer see patients, sometimes I wish I still did. I think there’s a huge need for business-minded physicians. Specifically, I mean the patient experience, and being able to practice medicine the way we want to. I believe it’s us doctors that will need to lead the way on this.
Can you tell us if your Korean heritage influences your work, and if so, how?
Women who identify with me—whether it’s because I’m Korean, or non-white, or from an immigrant family—are able to see someone like them doing things outside of the box. That’s important.
Women supporting women is a big theme in your work. How did this become a defining element for Wealthy Mom MD?
One of the biggest things I learned on my journey as a money coach for women is how patriarchy has affected all women, including our relationships with money. Women not supporting women is due to the patriarchy. In fact, this is one of the smartest things the patriarchy has done—recruiting women to carry out their message. That’s why it’s so important for women to embrace money and create wealth. This is the only way we can change the pervasive message that women can’t be rich.
Talk us through your favorite self-care ritual. Beauty regimens, affirmations, and date-nights are all fair game!
Number one is getting lots of sleep. There’s a reason I didn’t become a surgeon! I also love baths, luxury resorts in tropical destinations, and spas. But when I’m at home, cooking and baking are the perfect way for me to unwind.
What do you love to do outside of work, and how does your favorite hobby help you be more present or confident at work?
I love traveling to tropical destinations like Hawaii, as well as Italy and France. Preparing and eating great food is another favorite hobby. During the pandemic, I started baking a lot, and really enjoyed learning how to bake bread and flatbreads, including corn tortillas. It’s important to enjoy activities outside of work, and let my brain rest. That way I know I can keep thinking at a high level to grow my business.
Can you describe one of your creative heroes?
I really admire Madonna. She’s an example of a woman owning who she is unapologetically. She’s also always experimenting and reinventing herself.
What does the idea of personal style mean to you, and how do you think your sense of style empowers you?
Personal style is a reflection of who you are. It’s a mix of one’s values, positioning, and message. Everyone’s style evolves as they evolve, and my own personal style has definitely changed over time. I used to be into indie and punk rock style in high school—dyed hair included! Now, I like a mix of casual and polished clothes with a bit of an edge. As I’ve become more comfortable with myself, I find that my style falls into place pretty easily. It’s all about allowing yourself to be authentic and letting that shine through.
Fill in the blank: Women physicians are:
What’s the #1 item in your self-care toolkit?
My amazing Tempur-Pedic bed!
Morning person or a night owl?
Neither! I’m a late morning person.
What TV show are you currently binging?
I just finished the last two seasons of Homeland—so good!
What skill do you most want to master?
What song can you not stop listening to right now?
“Alive” by Sia.
What are three things that you can’t live without?
Mascara, sunscreen, and my iPhone.