I was a nerdy straight-A kid who always liked working with her hands, from building an AM radio at the age of 8 and installing her own car stereo system in college. There wasn't a challenge I couldn't tackle. My father thought he could stump me and bought me a unicycle, challenging me to ride it. So just like a budding circus clown, I did.
I was born to a family of non-physicians in the border town of El Paso, Texas. My parents were the greatest influences in my life and career path. My dad, a licensed welder and Army veteran, taught me that with hard work, anything is possible. He spent his youth working farmland owned by his parents, picking cotton at the crack of dawn before school, only to head back to the same grueling labor after school. His example has been fundamental in shaping my character – from his laser-focused discipline, to his impeccable work ethic, to setting the standard as to how a woman should be treated and revered.
My mother personifies the patience and perseverance it takes to fulfill a dream. Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, she came to the United States at the age of five with her family with very little money and knowing no English. After marrying my father and then raising my sisters and me, she decided to go back to college to pursue a degree in education. She graduated with her Bachelor’s degree my sophomore year in high school and subsequently enjoyed a career as an educator with a specialty in English as a Second Language. My mom’s humility, compassion, and selflessness are traits I have inherited which allow me to better care for and empathize with my patients.
Heading off to Stanford University was a dream come true for me. I battled homesickness and initially struggled academically because I wasn’t prepared for the volume and pace of such a prestigious institution, where many of its entering students came from private, college preparatory schools. I studied long and hard to maintain my GPA. I volunteered at a perinatal resource program where we solicited donations (baby clothes, car seats, etc.) for underprivileged East Palo Alto new moms. A memory that is ingrained in me and that ignited my desire to become a physician was being able to help and communicate with a 19 yr old immigrant female who did not speak English, had just given birth to twins, and had no one for support. I knew I had found my calling in life.
I fell in love with Obstetrics and Gynecology after watching my first delivery during my clinical rotations in medical school. My residency was a high volume, county hospital training program where patients often crossed the US-Mexico border to receive care or deliver their babies, usually without any antecedent care. I learned more from my patients than books. They often presented with diseases that were so advanced and pathology so severe because they could not afford or did not have access to adequate healthcare. Shortly into my residency training, I realized how much I enjoyed surgery. I thrived in the operating room where I could use my hands to problem solve and heal. I was hungry for more. After residency, I pursued fellowship training in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery. I was fortunate to train under two Seattle gynecologic oncologists who taught me a good admixture of laparoscopic, robotic, open and vaginal surgery. I spent every single day in the operating room, and my evenings and weekends were spent rounding on critical patients with complex conditions. The work was arduous, but the experience, skill and knowledge I gained in that year were beyond measure and worth every misery I endured.
For the 6 years following my fellowship, I wanted to give back to the community that had raised me and taught me how to be a good physician. I enjoyed a rewarding career in academia, followed by three years in private practice in El Paso. In the summer of 2015, California again beckoned for me. I was offered an opportunity to start a Gynecology practice in Beverly Hills. I took a leap of faith and started over from scratch. Over the next two years, I worked diligently to build my practice in Southern California. It was a slow start, which I expected. But, just as I was beginning to question how long I could sustain solo practice in such an expensive market by myself, I ran across a job posting online that I was pretty certain was speaking directly to me. “Who is this Dr. H. Elena Rodriguez with this bizarre ad? Surely, she can’t be serious. And if she is, she’s hilarious!” I thought to myself. I sent her my CV, and somehow convinced her that I met all of her unconventional prerequisites. About an hour later we were chatting on the phone like old friends. The next day I interviewed with Dr. Rodriguez and met her staff and felt like I was finally where I needed to be. And, indeed, here I am.
There are many instances throughout my life that stand out as pivotal moments that have helped mold me personally and professionally. Joining forces with Dr. Elena Rodriguez and her incredible team has undoubtedly been one of those life-changing moments for me. I am beyond fortunate and grateful to be a part of her team. I would entrust my own health and that of my family with any one of them.
Being a doctor is an honor and a privilege. It is a role I do not take lightly. To put your health in my hands at a time when you are feeling most vulnerable is something that I, too, as a woman, can relate to and understand wholeheartedly. I will always do my best to make you feel comfortable, secure, informed and at ease during your visits or when facing surgery. I thank you in advance for entrusting me with your care. –Sonia Rebeles
Copyright 2015. H. Elena Rodriguez. MD, Inc.. All rights reserved.