Dr. Lisa Chapa  

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Dr. Lisa Chapa’s story is one of resilience, sacrifice, and achievement. Dr. Chapa is the only Latina breast surgical oncologist in the Rio Grande Valley at DHR Health. Her journey, marked by challenges and triumphs, serves as an inspiration that proves barriers are but stepping stones on the path to success.

Born and raised in McAllen from an early age, Dr. Chapa was drawn to the intricacies of the human body and the complexities of medical science. Her academic journey began at Texas A&M College, where she pursued her undergraduate studies with a fervor for knowledge and a dream to make a difference.

“Growing up, I was always told by my parents that I could either be a doctor or a lawyer,” she said. “I had no context for what you know a doctor or a lawyer was. I didn’t have those people in my family.”

“I always really liked science, and I loved learning, so I became a biology major in college.”

She realized that biology might not be for her when it was consuming a lot of her time and taking away from her passion, participating in performance groups. The university choir required her to focus and dedicate much of her time so that she couldn’t juggle the demands of her biology major and choir.

“So, I ended up becoming a psychology major with a minor in genetics and neuroscience.”

It wasn’t until her friend realized they both had the prerequisites for medical school that the idea of medical school became a reality.

She applied and was accepted, setting her on a path that would lead her to break barriers in the medical field.

Traditionally dominated by men, the world of surgery presented its share of obstacles. Women make up about 20% of the surgeons.

“If you look at that breakdown for Latinas, we only make up 1.3% of surgeons,” she said. “We are very, very underrepresented, just as Hispanics in general.”

Dr. Chapa is excited that she got over those hurdles and proud that she has had the opportunity to operate alongside surgeons who inspired her.

She took her journey from Texas A&M to the prestigious Baylor Scott & White Hospital for her General Surgery residency. Her quest for knowledge and expertise in her field did not stop there. She further honed her skills in Breast Surgical Oncology during a surgical fellowship within the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, an experience that equipped her with the latest techniques and evidence-based practices to provide the highest standard of care to her patients.

Returning to the Rio Grande Valley was driven by love and commitment. Dr. Chapa’s dedication to her family and friends underscores her deep-rooted values and belief in giving back to the community. As the Director of the Breast Center of Excellence at DHR Health, she offers hope and healing to those facing breast cancer and other conditions.

Her expertise extends to performing oncoplastic breast-conserving surgeries, mastectomies, and sentinel lymph node biopsies, continuously with a focus on the needs and best outcomes of her patients.

Dr. Chapa admits that life can be a balancing act. Still, without the support of her parents, family, and loving husband, she would not be able to achieve her long workdays and commitment to the work she does.

“If I’m being honest, I struggle with and mourn the loss of the person I was before,” she said. “There’s a lot you have to give up of yourself to become a surgeon.”

She shared that she works long days that add up to 80 to 100-hour weeks, working herself to the bone.

“I live in this kind of in-between where I am grateful for the opportunities I was given and the fact that I’ve become a surgeon, and what that means for me. It has made me the person I am and given me the confidence I’ve acquired and the impact I get to make on my community.”

Dr. Chapa added that she is working on reconnecting with the person she was before and learning to discover her passion and joy in music.

“The advice I would give someone would be to just go into it with eyes wide open. This profession will take a lot from you, and you will not come out the same on the other end.”

“You have to be OK with the losing of yourself, even some of the most precious parts of yourself, so that you can evolve and be molded into this new version. It is as if you’re blooming.”

 

Selene Guerrero