Elizabeth Renza-Stingone, MD, FACS, is a board-certified surgeon and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. She specializes in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery and also performs general surgery operations.
How long have you been a surgeon at Drexel?
I came to Drexel in June 2015, so I have been here a little over three years.
What advice would you give to other women entering the field of surgery?
Part of the reason that I came to Drexel was to be a role model to the women residents. I hope that I show them that it is possible to do your work, have a family and be a functioning member of society. It is a balance.
When did you know you wanted to become a doctor?
My family had always wanted me to be a doctor. However, it was an idea that I didn't buy into until I was about 20 or 21 years old and spending time with my cousin who is a researcher and physician at Johns Hopkins. I spent the summer with her in the lab doing bench genetics research and attended her office hours where she treated patients with rare genetic diseases. After that summer, I realized that this was the job for me, so I went to medical school at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, where I graduated in 2000.
When did you begin your military service?
I did ROTC to pay for school. At the end of college, I applied for a delay from my active duty service so that I could go to medical school. I was granted that delay. Then, when medical school was over, I requested another delay to do a civilian residency, and they granted that. After I completed my residency, I went on active duty.
What was it like serving on active duty?
It was both fun and difficult. As a physician, you have a lot of freedom to make your own path and choose how things are going to go. However, when you're working in the army, it's very regimented and you're told what to do. Minus that and not being able to wear earrings with my dress uniform and waking up at 5 a.m. to run around outside, I did really like it and I made some good friends. Deploying and being in a combat zone was life changing. It was also great for career purposes.
You touch on three areas in surgery: general, bariatrics and trauma. How did you get your start in each area?
When I finished with the army in 2010, I did a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery and bariatric surgery so that I could be a general surgeon with a focus on small incisions. My fellowship was about 60 to 65 percent bariatric cases. I hadn't known much about bariatrics as a field since I had been in the army. I enjoy doing general surgery because I've always liked having a variety of cases during the day, and I've always done trauma since graduating from my residency. I was in a program that was very good at trauma and, as you can imagine, being deployed was the ultimate training for this field.
Out of all three service lines, which is your favorite?
It's a tie between bariatrics and general surgery. Bariatrics has become about 50 percent of my cases and I really like that. I enjoy doing minimally invasive surgery. It is challenging, cases can be very difficult, and they require a lot of concentration. In the end, I know the patients benefit from the small incisions, they have less pain and get back to work faster. I think being able to do minimally invasive surgery is my favorite thing.
Can you think of a time that you had a great outcome and what it means to you?
Doing bariatrics in general is meaningful when you meet patients who have lost 100 pounds or who have cut their weight in half. One patient was 340 pounds, and now they are 170 pounds. I also have another patient who was 500 pounds and is now 250 pounds. It's amazing to see how life changing this is for them. They stick with it and they're happy because their lives are so different. It is awesome, and I love that.
Do you enjoy being in an academic setting and teaching residents?
I love teaching residents. They make my day. They keep things fresh, keep you on your toes and they ask questions. Because I teach them how to operate, it makes it interesting and I enjoy the interaction with the residents. It's a different kind of challenge because you're watching someone and teaching them how to do things and that's gratifying.
What is your favorite part about working at Drexel?
I love working at Drexel. My favorite part about Drexel is my wonderful surgical colleagues and residents. Here, I know that I can pick up the phone and ask for assistance, or I can talk to a surgical colleague directly, and it's never a concern. We all work together and we bring that feeling to the residents. It's like being in a family and I love it. I am happy that I am a part of this team.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of working and operating?
I do a lot of stuff with my kids, which is a great joy to me. I also love gardening. My current gardening project is building my backyard. Gardening is probably my main activity right now outside of work, but I also love to cook for my family.