The story of how I found my career starts with my mother and her career. I am the daughter of an OBGYN mother. And not just any OBGYN. My mom is a solo practitioner and delivers over 650 babies annually. That’s 1.78 babies delivered per day. As far back as I can remember, she was always extremely busy, never sitting in one spot for more than a few seconds. She survived on coffee and cat naps which punctuated her otherwise whirling dirvish lifestyle. Her pager went off at the absolute worst times, mostly right before I was about to pour out my heart to her about some adolescent existential crisis. At my wedding, she left for the hospital before the end of the reception to deliver twins.
Growing up, naturally I harbored a lot of resentment for that dreaded pager, but eventually I grew accustomed to it, and later on I learned to appreciate it. I could see that she truly loved her job, loved bringing babies into this world. I saw how much her patients appreciated her hard and tireless work, with all of the flowers, gifts, and cards she brought home from the office. I also appreciated how she always came to the rescue when I or one of my siblings was sick, and she always knew exactly what to do. I could see that her passion for her work carried her through all of her stress and sleep deprivation. She had these magical medical superpowers, and I was intrigued. I wanted to find that passion in something.
So naturally, I thought I would just follow in her footsteps and become an OBGYN. That aspiration lasted until college, when life got real, I got married, and I just didn’t want to have her crazy lifestyle. I realized that I lacked her unwavering drive to wake up in the middle of the night and leave my warm cozy bed to deliver a baby. She had dreamed of delivering babies since she was six years old. I most certainly had not. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew that I wanted to take care of patients, in some capacity. I wanted to understand the body and its workings better, so that I could help people, as I had seen my mother do for so many people.
It was actually my mother who suggested, and then encouraged, my application to dental school. She thought it would satisfy my desire to take care of patients, but would provide a more flexible lifestyle than a career in medicine. We did not have any dentists in the family, on either side, and I knew nothing about the field. But I had to move toward some career path, and so I applied and was accepted.
I enjoyed the first couple of years of dental school. It was fun working with the different materials, sculpting teeth out of wax, making dentures and crowns. But it felt lacking to me; I didn’t feel excited about it. Then came my third year of dental school, and I was exposed to the oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS) specialty for the first time. It was like meeting my soulmate. I just felt something I couldn’t describe, drawing me in. I loved the vast scope of the specialty: Extracting teeth, bone grafting, dental implants, repairing cleft palates, corrective jaw surgery for skeletal deformities, TMJ, sleep apnea, facial trauma, and jaw pathology. I absolutely loved that the field involved and required a knowledge of medicine, and even incorporated a medical school education into the residency. I was inspired. I was in love!
I am now in a group oral and maxillofacial surgery practice, and I couldn’t be happier. I repair complex facial injuries, and correct skeletal deformities of the face. I participate in a cleft and craniofacial team and an obstructive sleep apnea team. I perform temporomandibular joint open arthroplasty and total joint replacements. I perform excisions of jaw pathology. I maintain hospital privileges and take emergency trauma call at four local hospitals. I lecture and teach students, residents, as well as to other departments in the hospitals.
When I step back and look at the path I chose, I smile at the irony. I applied to dental school in order to avoid the demanding career my mother had. And now, I have a similarly demanding job, but one I am excited about. When I get that phone call in the middle of the night for a gunshot wound to the face, I don’t mind leaving my cozy bed.
Ellie Rosenfeld, DDS, MD, FACS, is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon on Long Island and NYC. She is also a devoted mother to three sons. Her website is https://myeliteface.com/
She can be followed on Instagram at @dr.ellie.rosenfeld