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Not your parents’ lab coat

October 2014

Published in the October 2014 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

LAWYERS AND INVESTMENT BANKERS tend to acquire status clothes to match. But doctors in standard-issue scrubs and lab coats?

“In medicine, we wear a $10 paper-thin pajama set and a $12 lab coat that flaps in the wind while we walk down the hall,” says Lara Francisco, PA-C, the founder and CEO of Medelita, an upscale medical apparel company based in San Clemente, Calif. “That doesn’t make the best first impression.”

Standard scrubs and lab coats also lack comfort and durability, as Ms. Francisco found out during her 10 years working as a physician assistant in pediatric emergency medicine. Like everyone else in the EDs where she worked, she was issued unisex scrubs that she describes as “shapeless, boxy and flimsy. I’m not at all a fashionista, but I knew I could look more professional than that.”

Ms. Francisco launched Medelita in 2008, figuring that health care professionals “particularly younger ones “were ready for apparel that was much better quality as well as more tailored and flattering. She assumed that women clinicians would be the biggest Medelita customers.

“We started with very subtle changes, shaping the bust and waist and making garments more comfortable in the hip,” says Ms. Francisco, who still heads up design for the company’s clothing lines. She also assumed that Medelita would primarily make scrubs, with some lab coats on the side.

Instead, lab coats are the company’s best-sellers “the slim fit styles are the most popular “and male physicians buy more of them than women.

“Men also buy differently,” Ms. Francisco says. “They will buy four or five lab coats at a time, while women want to try different styles and sizes and buy individual coats more frequently.”

The company typically sells nine different lab coat styles for women and six for men, with prices ranging from $118 to $144. Fabrics, which are 100% cotton, are treated with Teflon to repel stains and fluids, including blood. Medelita also sells custom embroidery, Sanita clogs and Boconi bags.

With its lab coats and scrubs also sold through AllHeart.com, Medelita markets its apparel at about a dozen medical conferences every year. It also made news with its first HERO (Honoring Excellent Resident Observations) award earlier this year, giving a $25,000 honorarium to a pediatric resident in Philadelphia for her efforts to educate physicians about child sex trafficking.

“Our lab coats are designed to give physicians a little mental boost,” says Ms. Francisco. “What you’re wearing has a lot to do with how you present yourself.”

lab coat

More information is online.