Ready for a serious case of life-envy? Then meet Dr. Yael Varnado, an anesthesiologist and wellness advocate who also happens to be one of the most stylish gals in town. With a closet packed full of Suno, Céline, and Valentino, and a passion for helping individuals take control of their health, Varnado combines beauty and brains like none other. We spent a day with this statuesque stunner — seriously, this girl's got it going on — and took a personal tour of her favorite D.C. hangouts, from shopping havens to brunch meccas. Read on to meet Dr. V, scope her to-die-for wardrobe, and snag the one piece of advice every woman needs to hear.
Photographed by Abby Jiu
How did you get your start in medicine?
"I've always had a passion for and commitment to women's health. From my sophomore year of college until my third year of medical school, at Cornell Medical College, I wanted to be a breast cancer surgeon like my mentors Susan Dawson and Rachel Simmons. I took a turn and fell in love with anesthesiology during the middle of my third year of medical school.
I had many sleepless nights as an intern taking care of patients who came to the emergency room for common, everyday medical issues because they had no primary care physician. It baffled me how people could have no primary care physician, no one to coordinate their medical care, no medical 'home.' From that point on, I have been committed to advocating the importance of health care maintenance and prevention, and championing the underserved. That
passion is what led me to where I am today."
MSGM jacket, Alexander Wang top, rag & bone jeans, Givenchy bag, Dior heels.
Busboys and Poets, 1025 5th Street NW; 202-789-2227.
How did you get to this point in your career, where you're making TV appearances and advocating for
"First, I started a non-profit organization, Get Checked 4 Life, Inc., which focused on providing at-risk populations with access to medical resources and services, and then founded the Real Men Get Checked yearly health fair, which provided men with free head-to-toe health screenings.
This came on the heels of co-hosting a live medical health segment with Rev. Al Sharpton on his national syndicated radio show. Every week for more than two years, Rev. Sharpton and I would hop on the airwaves and give callers sound information about medical issues that affected their community, and I would answer their medical questions. Now, instead of a radio show, I’m able to bring people fresh, relevant, straight talk on health issues that matter to them via on-air health segments, my website
, and social media. If people won’t come to (or don’t know where to get) the medical information that matters to them, I intend to bring [it to them], and the Internet makes it easier than ever these days!"
What's your favorite thing to order at Busboys and Poets?
"The poached pear salad...but hold the onions and the goat cheese. The flavor and texture of the pecans and pear is perfection. It tastes like a little bit of candy on my salad."
What does your average work day look like?
"I'm up most days at 5:30 am, if I don't work out in the morning before work— if I do, then I’m up 4:30 a.m. Then, I'm off to work and in the operating room ready to put my first patient to sleep at 7 a.m. It's a rare day that I get a long lunch (or one at all, at times) and sometimes it's while standing and only for about five minutes. That
said, I try to grab a healthy salad or something good for me, then head back into work. I’m usually finished in the OR and heading home to kick off my shoes and take off my pager by 6 p.m. Then, it’s time for some 'me time,' perhaps a workout, reading a little, and then bedtime — because before long, it starts all over again the next day."
Where do you do most of your shopping?
"I love exploring shops big and small in D.C., because I love somewhere I can see several big-name designers at once just as much as I love discovering smaller labels that are just as fabulous in the boutiques in Georgetown. Outside of D.C., I’d have to say I love shopping in New York. I lived in NYC for medical school and residency so it is very much a second home to me. I love shopping there, whether it's at Bergdorf or with a street vendor in SoHo. I don’t do much online shopping — because I’m an emotional shopper, I really do enjoy the high of trying on clothes, shoes, or a new bag. I will admit I’m definitely a girl who [believes that] shopping fixes (nearly) everything."
How would you describe your own sense of style?
"At work, I live in scrubs. Every day, I put on a unisex boxy top and drawstring pants that are terribly unflattering to anyone’s figure. Therefore, I like to have a lot of fun with my off-the-clock wardrobe. I love items that are comfortable, yet girly and sexy without trying too hard. I love a dress that hugs the curves in the right places and a heel that catches your own eye as you stand in front of a mirror. I don’t ever think twice about wearing heels — people ask me all the time why I wear heels, because I’m already so tall (5’11”). My response is, 'Why not? They come in my size.'”
What do you like about spending time in Dupont Circle?
"It reminds me of Washington Square Park in New York, and really features the diversity and energy of D.C. You see all kinds of people simply hanging out together. It’s beautiful and full of character and lets me just breathe and chill for a while."
Any signature items that are very "Dr. V"?
seem to have a big handbag with me. Coworkers tease me and ask 'What is in there?' And others shout out 'Everything!
' I do have a little black bag inside my shoulder bag where I keep any items you may need, whether it’s a Band-Aid, protein bar, Benadryl, floss, or a nail file."
Prada sunglasses, SUNO jacket, Vince top, Lizzie Fortunato bracelet, Helmut Lang pants, Dior boots.
Tell us about some of your favorite brands, and why you love
"I don’t buy based on brand names. When I buy an item, I look at it as an investment and addition to my wardrobe and collection, not as a piece that is disposable. At the same time, I consider the practicality. I also buy based on how an item makes me feel: Does it makes me feel good, confident, slim, or sexy? If I try on a pair of shoes and just absolutely have to have them because they feel like everything and more in life, then I’m going to go ahead and buy them."
"One of my favorite brands is Céline – because I adore the color-blocking [Phoebe Philo] does. Also, as a woman, I admire her confidence and the power move she made as a designer, woman, and mother when she resigned to spend more time with her family. She has shown you really can do it all.
Saint Laurent — I mean, hello? Can you find a more comfortable platform stiletto pump?
I fell in love with Jimmy Choo back in the Carrie and Sex and the City
days, when I had my Kirby back-zipper pointy toe boots.
Vince, because I’m originally from Seattle, so I love the fall and rain and a great sweater. Also, I love the simple sexiness and comfort of the blouses.
Rick Owens, for the comfortable, very wearable clothing with
asymmetric lines. And I adore the fact that the sleeves to his clothes are long!
Helmut Lang — I mean, what girl doesn’t love a flirty dress cut on the bias? I love the minimalism and flirty aspect of his clothes. I wear a lot of black, so I’m very taken by the darker patterns with gray, black, and white. His pants are lovely and long for tall girls like me."
Varnado gets friendly with some adorable pups in Dupont Circle.
What's your favorite thing to do at the W Hotel?
"I love the view on the rooftop. It’s great to look out onto the city and see the lights and enjoy a cocktail. What’s even better is to hang out at POV in the summer when the balcony is open to the air and take in the scent of summer in the city."
W Washington D.C. Hotel, 515 15th Street NW, 202-661-2400.
Do you have a trademark beauty look?
"I always wear nail polish — I’m never without a manicure, and it’s never chipped because I can’t wear chipped polish in the hospital. I started getting the typical $10 NYC mani in medical school while I was taking anatomy, because I smelled like formaldehyde. I’m happy to say the smell has left, but I’ve kept up the weekly manis."
Alexander McQueen clutch.
Describe your ideal 24 hours in D.C. — time and space limitations do not apply!
"D.C. is very much a city that has a lot going on beneath the surface. I’m reminded about this every time I watch my new guilty pleasure, Scandal. With that in mind, I would love to see the real D.C. — tour the tunnels under the White House; ride in a helicopter over the entire area; have an informal, 'let’s kick it on the couch and talk about what’s really going on' with Barack and Michelle; hang out with a real spy; see who is
looking at those cameras all over the streets..."
One thing you wish you could change about the city?
"Can we have representation? I mean, we do have taxation...I’m just saying. It’s interesting to be in the nation’s capital, in the epicenter of where legislature occurs, and see and experience D.C. growing and changing, yet still have no voice."
A closer look at those to-die-for booties. Slick!
If you could give young women one piece of health advice, what
would it be?
"Prevention really is the key to longevity. Find a doctor — someone who can be your medical 'home,' who listens to you. And together, you work as a team to manage and address any health issues you may have."
Why is Wink one of your must-visit boutiques in D.C.?
"I’m a loyal shopper and believe in customer service. The service at Wink is always outstanding, and the ladies who work there so very sweet and helpful. Couple outstanding service and great fashion pieces, and you can’t help but want to shop there over and over again."
Wink, 3109 M St NW; 202-338-9465.
If you weren't working in the health care field, what would be your dream job?
"That's a tough question...I've never wanted to do or be anything else besides a doctor. My parents never forced me into medicine; it’s just something I've always loved. Even before I watched Bill Cosby 'deliver babies' on TV, I knew I was going to be a physician. As early as four years old, my mom tells me I used to tell my own pediatrician I would be a doctor one day, and ask if I could give myself my own shots."
"I will admit, however — believe it or not — that a job I sometimes regret never experiencing was a position as a United Airlines flight attendant. I passed the entry exams and interviews to become one, but as I was heading off to my onsite training, I was still interviewing for medical schools. I was so excited about entering training to become a flight attendant, but I cancelled my spot in order to travel to my medical school interview. Not following through to become a flight attendant is one thing I wonder about to this day. I desperately wanted the cute blue uniform and luggage tag that said 'crew,' not to mention the opportunity to travel all over!"
SUNO dress, Lizzie Fortunato bracelet.
A peek at Wink's array of zodiac necklaces.
Okay, so explain this awesome SUNO/Lizzie Fortunato cuff!
"One of my dearest friends, Nadiyah Spencer, is the head of production and sourcing for SUNO. One night out a couple years ago, she had on a similar killer cuff. I complimented it, and she told me it was a limited edition Lizzie Fortunato/SUNO piece from that season — fall 2011. And, like any best friend would do, Nadiyah commissioned Elizabeth to make this gorgeous cuff and necklace for my birthday. I love the pieces, and what’s even more special to me is that Nadiyah had [them] make the pieces in colors that were just for me! I know Elizabeth has a twin sister, Kathryn, and together
they run the business — so this piece is very dear to me because it was from someone I hold dear in my heart like a sister."
Alexander McQueen bag, Valentino heels.
We can't enough of Varnado's effortlessly glam sense of style, especially this perfect-for-spring look.