“I thought I would get my degree in dentistry, go home to Florida, and practice,” says Eduardo Rodriguez, whose switchback journey has led him far afield from traditional dentistry. Rodriguez is a celebrated trauma surgeon at NYU Langone, where his work has given hope to thousands of people with disfiguring injuries. Even more astounding, Rodriguez has become one of the world’s foremost experts in facial transplantation surgery.
“I was pushed throughout my career,” he says, “by people who saw more in me than I saw in myself.” That’s how Dr. Rodriguez ended up pursuing a medical degree, and ultimately developing a specialty in microsurgery. But his real watershed moment came while treating soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe disfigurements. “I wanted to know how to solve the problems I was seeing.”
Dr. Rodriguez’s first face transplant operation took 36 hours; his second took 24. Both patients have made remarkable recoveries, and are experiencing second lives. These are paradigm-shifting surgeries that Dr. Rodriguez compares to the moonshot. “I wanted to do something big,” he says. “And I believe I am practicing the most sacred profession on earth.”