Sunday 24 September 2023

Dra. Daniela Ruiz, the pediatrician and dermatologist who breaks paradigms

This doctor has opened a path never before traveled in our country: she is one of the few people who has combined dermatology with pediatrics, she has been in charge of democratizing skincare on social networks and has brought down all the stereotypes of transsexual people

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23 September 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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TODAY COSTA RICA – Despite the fact that she does not consider herself an influencer, Dr. Daniela Ruiz Guzmán has grown by leaps and bounds in the social network of the moment: Instagram.

Dr. Daniela Ruiz

Last January she had just 2,000 followers and now she has amassed an audience of almost 30,000. Everyone is watching what she has to say.

Her popularity is not of knowledge of her. Her followers have become fond of her thanks to her charm and her genuineness in social networks. She shares everything from details of her relationship with her husband to her experience as a transgender woman in the medical field and in the public eye.

Path to dermatology

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Dr. Ruiz inherited her passion for medicine from her mother. “My mother loves health, medicine and she is an extremely intelligent woman.” However, her mother could not fulfill her dream, because she was born in an unflattering economic environment. In addition, in her day, women were not used to studying medicine unless they could afford a career abroad.

“When I was one year old, they threw a party for me in kindergarten and I was dressed as a doctor. The gabacha (smock) said ‘Dra.’ And my mother’s last name: Daniela Ruiz. So, it’s very funny, because since I can remember, my destiny was to be a doctor”.

From the moment she entered medical school at the University of Costa Rica, she was determined to become a plastic surgeon. “My goal in life was to help people to be their best version, to reach their full potential without their physique being an anchor to stop them.” In addition, her teachers emphasize that she had good manual skills, which are essential for this area.

However, her future was going to unfold in a different way than she expected. In the course of her first year of internship, she encountered a new love: pediatrics. “I never in my life thought of being a pediatrician, but in boarding school working with children was like a revelation. The world opened up to me”.

She comments that, from her perspective, there is no more beautiful, grateful, and honest patient than a child.

She had applied to intern at Harvard on a scholarship. She was approved while she was interning and she chose pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital. Working there she felt like her in her puddle. “It was the first time that I felt valued by what was inside of me and not by my exterior.” At the residency she had to rotate in pediatric dermatology and there her passion for skin health was awakened.

Dr. Skin and the rise to fame

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On Instagram, everyone knows her as Dr. Skin. During the interview, she revealed a secret to us: she actually chose “DR” because of the initials of her name: Daniela Ruiz, but people assumed her as a “doctor” (in English) and in fact, ite fits perfectly both ways.

In 2019, she started broadcasting live on Facebook together with a friend who had a small audiovisual production company. The show was very well received. With more than 2,000 people listening to them at the same time, they talked about all skin-related topics: botox, hyaluronic acid, peels, blemishes, acne, etc.

Eventually, the pandemic arrived and the doctor was forced to continue recording and transmitting by herself, so as not to be in contact with people outside of her bubble.

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“It was like a mini live broadcast, because they were not edited or programmed, but were born from questions that people asked me and I answered them.” Thus began to grow her relationship with her followers.

She comments that her page also took a leap as she began to share more of her personal life and her wedding with her husband. The civil union took place on May 26, 2020 – in an intimate wedding, respecting sanitary protocols – the day that equality marriage came into effect in Costa Rica, says Daniela Ruiz, who is also the first Costa Rican transsexual operated on.

Trans experience

Around the eighties, with a much more conservative culture than the current one, Dr. Ruiz had the opportunity to discover a new reality without limits. She could be whoever she wanted to be.

“I feel like it was the education my mom gave me. My mom is the equivalent of today’s society, but in the old days. She was more about letting be and living. She does not influence whether you go here or there, and whatever you decide, she supports you. My mom was like that in a time when moms weren’t like that. She was not the norm.”

She was able to build her way of being in the way that she felt most comfortable with. That environment of security and support showed him that for her family she was a “being”, a person. She grew up adding layers to that person, knowing herself and the complexities of her, until she discovered sexuality. “I never had a closet. My house was not heteronormative and I could always be what I wanted to be”.

So she started exploring a new world and talking to her therapist about it. “I told him that I believed that I identified more with the female gender, that I felt more of a woman and that my story demonstrated that.” And when it came time to tell her family, as always, she was met with the same support that she had kept her afloat since she was little.

“My grandmother even asked me what I wanted, to have surgery or to get me clothes so that I could dress as a woman.”

This became the base to be able to face the new direction that her life was taking. “It was a strong support network, without a doubt. I couldn’t have done this without my family. It’s special, this wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the wonderful and incredible mother I had. She was always a support and the wind behind my wings that allowed me to fly”.

She emphasizes that it was not easy at all. She has been a path of many lawyers and therapists who have advanced alongside her, but she comments that she knows many stories of close friends who were kicked out of their homes in their teens for coming out of the closet. Therefore, she firmly believes that the support network she had was part of the difference in her story.

She adds that it was not only her family that gave her that support. “I would not have been able to succeed or grow if it weren’t for the country I’m in. It may have a thousand defects, but I came from a very low socioeconomic stratum and it was thanks to public education that I managed to climb the social and economic ranks. And that might not have been the same elsewhere”.

All of this allowed her to transition, but with it came challenges and teachings. She says that she saw many people leave her life, so her transition marked a before and after. It involved having to step out of her comfort zone and accept to grieve for losses that came along the way.

However, facing these social, emotional, and family losses did not stop her, as she knew that she was staying true to herself. She knew that she was betting on her happiness.

Integrating and accepting

For Dr. Ruiz, Costa Rica is on the right track. She comments that she likes to see the trajectories more than the specific events of a line. “What matters is that we are heading towards a good port.” Of course, she adds that the country lacks, regarding LGBTIQ + issues, something similar to what we see with the feminist struggle.

She firmly believes that the struggle to make visible, integrate and accept must also be directed at indigenous populations, people with diverse motor skills, all those whom society tends to alienate and exclude. She believes that this is fought from decision-making in public policies and hopes that Costa Rica will continue taking historic steps towards a diverse and inclusive reality.

In the same way, she adds that she has two pieces of advice for those who are part of the trans and LGBTIQ+ community in general and are facing a society that is still predisposed in many ways to rejection. The first of these is to find your support networks and if you don’t have them, build them.

“One chooses the family. For example, my dad is not my sperm donor. My dad is my dad and we chose each other. We decided to be family and he adopted me. I have siblings that I call brothers and I feel them as such, but we do not share DNA. I have uncles and aunts with whom I do not share DNA and I have uncles with whom I share DNA who are not considered my family”.

She claims that those support networks are the people who accept, who support, and who sustain when no one else does. “They give us a hand, advice, a hug, a shoulder to cry on … and if they don’t have it well defined yet, look for it, train it, build it, encourage it.”

She emphasizes that they should not fight alone, not intend to change the world all at once, but with support, they will see how they go further and faster.

Translated and adapted from La Nacion interview by Adriana Villalobos. Read the original here.

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