Dr. Cat is a surgeon, publisher, business woman, fitness inspiration, wife, and mother who has shattered stereotypes of what it means to be a modern professional woman.
Story By Mike Carlson
Photos by Binais Begovic
In 2013, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg published her best-selling book Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead and ignited a national dialogue about the experience of ambitious professional women in the workplace. Editorial tempers flared as pundits from both sides of the issue debated if the modern woman could truly simultaneously manage a high-level profession, motherhood, and a lifestyle that is fulfilling to a myriad of creative or political ambitions.
It’s safe to assume what side of that debate Dr. Catherine Begovic falls on.
Affectionately known as “Dr. Cat” to her 1.1 million Instagram followers, Begovic is a double-board-certified plastic surgeon. Outside of her successful Beverly Hills medical practice, she has recently launched a line of anti-aging beauty products called MD GLAM, is the co-publisher of Iron Man Magazine, mother to a young daughter, and a prolific model and television personality. Just one of her avocations would be enough to fill up an entire work week for most people, but Begovic not only manages her medical/business/media/family empire, she also maintains the workout regimen of a serious fitness model or competitor.
Hard work and dedication are nothing new to Begovic, who excelled in school and grew up with parents who both had PhDs in the sciences. (Her younger brother is also an MD.) After graduating with honors from Harvard with a degree in molecular and cellular biology, she received her medical doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles. She completed a residency also at UCLA in head and neck cancer and reconstructive surgery and then returned to UCLA for a second residency, this time in plastic surgery.
Why did she change her field? “Working with cancer patients was too difficult emotionally. A lot of time these patients succumbed to their disease and they really suffered,” Begovic says. “I am the kind of person who gets very emotionally involved with my patients. I have a hard time separating myself from the people I take care of.”
Plastic surgery is a natural fit for Begovic, a perfectionist by nature. By performing surgery on patients who aren’t in a disease state, she can focus on precise surgical technique and perfecting aesthetics.
“I try to contribute and help people change their lives,” she says. “Maybe it isn’t life-saving but it adds to their quality of life and their overall happiness.”
Begovic’s journey has been series of beautiful contradictions and shattered stereotypes. She’s an academic with a deep love for fitness. She’s a scientist as well as a model. And she is a minority female who has broken into the ranks of the male-dominated world of plastic surgery. Smashing assumptions and surmounting societal barriers is hard work, but in that work lies a lesson she is determined to share with all women, whether that is her daughter, her patient, or someone at the gym.
“One of the things I am really passionate about is the message that you can be interested in anything you want and pursue whatever path you want,” she says. “You do not have to choose. You can have everything.”
Mike Carlson: Surgeon, businesswoman, media maven, and mother—how are you able to do it all?
Dr. Cat Begovic: First of all, I have an amazing partner. My husband [Iron Man owner/publisher Binais Begovic] is very supportive and he works just as hard if not harder than I do. The second thing is, everything I do, I really believe in and love. I don’t think you can spend so much time and energy on something unless you are really passionate about it and you really love it. I like to work. When it come to my medical practice, which is my main priority, I look forward to going into work and operating, and I love the experiences I share with my patients.
MC: What’s something most people don’t understand about plastic surgery?
CB: I know people think that plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery may be this superficial thing, but the surgeries I perform are really life-changing. For example, most of the surgeries I perform are women post-pregnancy, or people who have lost a significant amount of weight—50, 60, 80 pounds—and they have a lot of extra skin. Post-pregnancy, women lose volume in their breasts, they have loosening of their stomach muscles, or have extra skin, and there is no amount of diet or exercise that can fix those things. I always tell people not to judge because these patients are not lazy. They diet and exercise, but there are some things that only surgery can fix.
I also do a lot of revision surgeries for people who have had really bad breast implants or horrible liposuction. I’ve had young girls in their 20s with irregularities and dents that you can even see in clothing. They can never go out in a bathing suit.
MC: How are you trying to change the outlook that plastic surgery is a superficial endeavor?
CB: Part of what I do on my social media platforms is share stories about patients. I try to explain what their motivation is and how the surgery changed their lives for the better. People are able to better understand that it isn’t superficial and it is something that is life-changing and affects their quality of life every single day. I feel like I help erase that stigma that some people have about plastic surgery.
MC: You are remarkably open and candid on your social media, giving your followers a very clear view into your life. Have you ever had a bad experience?
CB: I don’t get a lot of negative feedback on social media. I believe that being honest and transparent and always putting my patients first is what has allowed me to get very positive feedback. I put everything out there: my career, fitness, and my life. I show all of my surgeries, and on Snapchat it is real live surgery so people have a very real understanding of what the procedures are like and what I’m doing. I try to explain the different technical details, and I think for a lot of people it helps them understand the surgeries better.
And for some people who are considering procedures, it helps relieve their anxiety because they see that it can be clean and meticulous, and not bloody.
MC: You are now branching out into skin care with your new line, MD GLAM. How did that come about?
CB: For years, patients have asked me what to use for skin care. I have always been looking for perfect products to use. When I was at UCLA in the plastic surgery department I did a lot of scientific research on skin and anti-aging products, and I published a paper in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, titled “The Truth About Over-The-Counter Topical Anti-Aging Ingredients: A Comprehensive Review” and also gave many presentations on the subject. I am a scientist. I don’t care about marketing. Just show me the research. I want to know about the quality of the ingredients and the scientific data that stands behind it.
I finally decided to create something that had all of the ingredients I wanted, based on scientific data. And I wanted something very simple. I created a line that every woman can use: a day and a night moisturizer, a cleanser, and a scrub. It took me over a year to develop with many adjustments until I got it exactly right. I was involved in the whole formulation and the testing, and I wanted to make sure the consistency was quick-absorbing and not sticky, and that it smelled and felt fresh. All of the things I cared about as a super picky consumer have been addressed in my products.
MC: How do consumers find MD Glam?
CB: I offer my skin care line exclusively online through mdglam.com. For me, I believe in investing in the quality of ingredients. The ingredients and the mixture matter most. I see other products where all the money is in the marketing. I wanted to put it all into the products themselves. My skincare line evolved out of my passion for skin and a lot of scientific research, and because I think that everyone needs to have daily skin care maintenance. And it is also a way I can reach women across the globe and give them something that can help them. Not everyone can have plastic surgery, but this can help them look younger and more beautiful, and it allows me to reach more people out there.
MC: Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
CB: I never aspired to be an entrepreneur, it just evolved out of doing what I love. Everything I do stems from passion and love. For me, the most fun part is creating something that I believe in 100 percent that I know really helps people. Creating my skin care line has been amazing because I have gotten so much feedback from women all over the world. They have told me how amazing my products make them feel and how much it helps them. People tell me they look forward to going home and using the products and taking the time to pamper themselves. That makes me really happy.
MC: Here is a question for busy working moms: How do you find time to work out with your schedule?
CB: Being fit helps me perform as a surgeon. I need to work out to keep my body strong to be able to operate as much as I do and not hurt myself. The days I’m not operating, I’ll usually go into the gym in the morning before my office hours at around 5:30 a.m. If my surgery days don’t go too long, I’ll go straight to the gym after work. The weekends are usually when I catch up and can do my longer workouts. When I do go to the gym, I’m efficient. I don’t spend a lot of time on my phone or chitchatting. I go in, crank it out, and work super hard. I think it is important to make working out a priority no matter how busy you are. Once you do that, there is always a way to find 30 to 45 minutes to do a workout.
MC: Do you train yourself?
CB: Binais trains me, and since we have been working out together for years, I know how to train myself. There is no better trainer than my husband. He has incredible knowledge when it comes to diet and training. Before I met my husband, I was afraid of weights. I started modeling when I was 12 and I was doing mostly fashion. Back then, being super skinny was trendy, so I just did cardio all the time. Now the trend is for women to have muscles and be strong. When I met my husband, he taught me to eat more consistently instead of just dieting all the time, and he got me to lift weights. Lifting weights made a huge difference in terms of my physique.
MC: Do all of your workouts include weights?
CB: I do a mix. When I can make it to the gym I train with weights. Sometimes I don’t have enough time, so I’ll do bodyweight exercises at home. Or I’ll do exercise with resistance bands. On average, I train five or six days a week. I also consider a surgery a workout because I am literally on my feet and using both of my arms for 10 hours, sometimes longer.
MC: How was preparing for and shooting the May cover and feature? We know that you shot on one of the rainiest days in LA!
CB: Preparing for my shoot was challenging but a lot of fun. I had a busy surgery schedule operating three to four days a week the months leading up to it and still working six to seven days a week, but I enjoy the process and discipline that comes with preparing for a fitness shoot. I increased my workout schedule and tightened up more on my diet, but I always try to stay about a month or two from shooting shape. I don’t really have an off-season and am always consistent with diet and exercise even without a shoot. It’s my lifestyle! Yes, I did shoot on one of the coldest and rainiest days in LA! It was around 30 degrees, and being outdoors with two fans blowing was super cold! I had to hug a space heater between the sets. Due to my scheduling constraints and also the fact that we filmed my shoot and the behind-the-scenes for my reality TV show, we had to stay on schedule and we couldn’t pick a different day. I think the weather and lighting created some incredible shots—despite all the shivering—so it was worth it! I always take everything in stride and make the best of the situation, but I definitely hopped in a hot bath to defrost when I finished shooting.
MC: Do you think about setting a healthy example for your daughter?
CB: I definitely do a lot of athletic activities with my daughter and educate her about eating healthy foods. She is really into tennis and dance and likes to have Binais “train us together.” As for foods, I have her eat the same healthy foods that we do. I don’t just automatically give her “kid-friendly foods,” which on most menus is fried, breaded, or fatty items like chicken fingers, mac and cheese, and french fries. She likes eating vegetables and salads and food that we would normally eat ourselves. As for a career, my daughter tells me she wants to be a plastic surgeon and a businesswoman! Whatever she wants to do in life, as long as she loves what she does, I will support 100 percent. I’m happy she wants to be like me, especially since I think that for all women and young girls out there in this society, it is really difficult to find role models. There are so many women who are famous for purely entertainment reasons. Part of my message in social media is about empowering women as an academic or about science or education. You can still have a balance and enjoy being girlie and glam and being fit. There is no stereotype.
MC: Did you run into obstacles trying to find that balance yourself?
CB: That has been the story of most of my early life. I have always been very much into beauty and fashion and fitness. I remember being in middle school and high school and telling people I wanted to be a doctor, and people saying, “Girls like you don’t become doctors.” Even in academic places like Harvard, where I worked very hard and I had good scores to get into that school, students would be critical the other way. They would say, “This is an academic place. We are here to learn. Why do you work out so much?”
MC: Have you ever experience gender bias in your medical career?
CB: I had a male surgeon once say that women had no place in the operating room. I have heard several inappropriate or condescending comments made by male doctors with other people present in an attempt to belittle me as a woman. It’s been challenging. Surgery is a very male-dominated profession; plastic surgery is even more male-dominated. It is still an “old boys’ club.” I think around only 10 percent of board-certified plastic surgeons are women. But even if you are not interested in medicine, I think a lot of girls face stereotypes of what they are supposed to do, what they are supposed to look like, and how are they are supposed to act. I enjoy telling women not be afraid to be themselves and pursue whatever they love and are passionate about. And to never get discouraged when people tell them otherwise. If it’s challenging or hard, it’s still worth it to keep trying.
MC: Through your medical practice and dissemination of information on social media, you have made a lasting impression on so many women. What do you hope your legacy will be in the fitness world?
CB: When it comes to information and supplements and any sort of fitness-related products, credibility and accountability are very important. I think it is very difficult for consumers to know what they should believe in. The public has lost a lot of confidence in the fitness world because anyone can create a website and call themselves a “fitness expert,” and there isn’t a lot of quality control when it comes to fitness information on the internet. At Iron Man, we want to be a reliable source of information and also be a resource for consumers. Our writers and editorial staff base their articles on scientific research and also expert experience to provide the best source of information for our readers. We are also developing an online store that carries products that have undergone rigorous third-party testing. Everything on the label will be in the product. That way Iron Man will be a destination for people to go to for information and they can purchase products they can trust. Protecting the consumers is something we care very much about.
MC: What is the future of Iron Man?
CB: The mission statement for Iron Man has always been Inspiration, Information, and Transformation. We want to uphold the tradition of Iron Man but move it into this modern era and use a different platform. Iron Man has also expanded into a production agency where we can produce video and tell stories of inspirational characters. Instead of just a magazine, it is a media center and a source of reliable information in print, online, and in video. We are a place people can go to for information they can trust. IM
Dr. Cat Quick Facts
Lives: Los Angeles, CA
Profession: Plastic surgeon, entrepreneur, influencer, publisher, wife, mom
Likes: Optimism, hard work, positive energy
Dislikes: Haters and judgmental people
Favorite drink: Coffee—lots of it
Favorite Movie: Legally Blonde
Ultimate Vacation: Anywhere in the world where I don’t have to check my email or phone
Who Would You Cast To Play Yourself In A Movie: Chrissy Teigen
Desert Island Exercises: Walking lunges, burpees, sit-ups/crunches