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Dr. Mica Bergman: High-Flying Oculoplastic Surgeon

Mar 12, 2019, 12:26 PM by Nicole Young
When Sansum Clinic’s newly-hired oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Mica Bergman needs to blow off some steam, you may find her sailing above the ground at a San Fernando Valley professional trapeze facility run by a fourth-generation circus performer.
Dr. Mica Bergman 2018

A gymnast since her childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the 36-year-old now calls flying trapeze “her passion and obsession.” She first experienced the sport as a teenager during a family vacation and then learned more about the unusual sport by spending a few weeks at the Toronto School of Circus Arts. “I fell in love with it, to put it bluntly,” she admits. “It feels so great to fly through the air. It’s a thrill to be moving like that. I also like the fact that there is always room for growth. You can add another flip, add another twist.” Strength, good timing, coordination and a willingness to receive feedback and correction is the secret sauce for the art of trapeze performance, according to Dr. Bergman. Those same positive qualities are also what helped to launch her medical career with flying colors.

Dr. Bergman left her home on the east coast to attend Stanford University where she received a biological sciences degree. Her father, Ira, a pediatric neurologist, joked at the time that she had more training ahead of her than behind her.

“He anticipated that I was that kind of person and we all laughed. And then it was exactly right,” Dr. Bergman recalls. She pursued not one but two degrees, an MD and a PhD from Vanderbilt University Medical School by enrolling in its MSTP or Medical Scientist Training Program. Students complete the first two years of medical school, transitioning afterward to PhD graduate studies.

They then return for two more years of med school that includes clinical study. The school only accepts about 14 students every year for this track which aims to produce biomedical investigators. “I like interacting with patients, taking care of them. But I also like helping the field of medicine, not only on an individual level, but an umbrella level,” she says. Dr. Bergman’s PhD research focused on when and where in the brain genes turn on and off to control development, normal or abnormal. The process of untangling complicated subjects greatly appeals to her. “I like to think of creative approaches to things. I am not going to give up at the outset. I am not content to take answers at face value. I always want to search a little deeper,” she explains. 

Dr. Bergman’s affection for ophthalmology developed in her third year of medical school when students are introduced to many different specialties. “I love the clinical problems being addressed and I love the surgeries,” she effuses. “Taking a patient through what is often a transformative experience is a gift to me and hopefully a gift to the patient as well.” After completing an internship in general surgery at Vanderbilt, Dr. Bergman chose USC’s Roski Eye Institute for her residency training in ophthalmology and she remained at USC for a fellowship in oculoplastic surgery. Fellows in oculoplastic surgery learn to treat functional and cosmetic concerns regarding the eyelids, the tear drainage system and the orbit or bony socket that surrounds the eye. Often patients will approach their family doctor, their dermatologist or a general plastic surgeon with these issues but ophthalmologists who have oculoplastics training may be the best equipped to solve them. While some fellowships last 12 months, Dr. Bergman’s included one year in academic training at USC and another year at a Los Angeles-based private practice, a program accredited by the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Upon completion of her fellowship, she became the second female doctor in her family. The first was her paternal grandmother Sabina, who fled to the United States from Poland during the Holocaust and became an anesthesiologist.

Before arriving in Santa Barbara to begin her position as Sansum Clinic’s only oculoplastic surgeon, Dr. Bergman decided she needed a short respite from the breakneck pace of pursuing her doctoral dreams. She visited family members near Los Angeles, doted on her new baby niece and then hiked, biked and hand-standed on mountaintops around Europe for a full month. Her first few weeks on the job confirmed her belief that continuing her career at Sansum Clinic was the right decision. “Everyone here is focused on a constant evolution to make things better with the goal of excellent patient care,” she remarks. “That is the type of place I want to be part of.”