Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez gives hope to those in search of a medical miracle. Regardless of your vocation, whether a soldier, teacher, or medical professional, your service and positive contributions to society should be commended. This is why the spotlight is on Plastic Surgeon, Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS, a native Floridian who is the son of Cuban immigrants. Dr. Rodriguez holds a Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology from the University of Florida, a DDS from New York University and an MD from the Medical College of Virginia. He specializes in reconstructive and craniofacial plastic surgery. He is Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU's Langone Medical Center, has authored more than 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and 20 book chapters, won numerous awards, is a founding member of the American Society of Reconstructive Transplantation, and in his honor, the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Education Based Latino Outreach established The Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez Science & Robotics Academy. He's now receiving additional and well-deserved worldwide media attention, this time, for reconstructing the face of gunshot victim, Richard Norris.
Richard Norris was only 22 years old when he accidentally blew his face off with a shotgun shattering his teeth, lips, nose, cheekbones, chin, and jaw. The Norris family were determined to make him whole again. On an internet search, his mother found Dr. Rodriguez, a reconstructive facial surgeon who would not only give Richard, but also medicine a new face filled with hope and countless possibilities. On March 19, 2012, Dr. Rodriguez and his team began the full face transplant that would take 36 hours to complete. Norris's disfigured features were now replaced with that of a recently deceased 21 year old donor, Joshua Aversano. Giving Norris the chance to regain a part of his youth that he once had lost. The first face transplant was conducted in 2005 in France, doctors now were certain that it wasn't only possible, but it could be successful as well. Real life Face-Offs. It may seem like Sci-Fi, but this is the real deal, and Norris lived to tell it.
It's not a happy fairy tale ending. New face. New Life. Normalcy? Not quite. Norris is literally facing new challenges. He must adapt to a face that isn't his, an image that is of someone who had to die for him to obtain it. Then there is the constant drooling. He also has to take five pills a day, every day, for the rest of his life. His body rejects the transplant, the medication helps fight it back. Any signs of debility or minor rashes can lead to death if not attended to immediately. He can't drive in the case he gets a seizure. He will be under experimentation for as long as he lives, he is a human lab rat. Harsh. But this is his reality. These problems he encounters does not include psychological trauma and any methods he uses for coping. The damage is done. The facade? Repaired. The internal conflict? Remains. It's a lifelong battle. But he's stronger than what most people have given him credit for. Optimism is key. Norris is a national spokesman for those suffering a similar situation. He is also bringing awareness on the importance of being an organ donor. He has granted numerous interviews, in his most recent one, he graces the cover of GQ magazine.
In the article for GQ titled, "The New Face of Richard Norris," the reporter attempts to make sense of what she is observing. She asks Dr. Rodriguez how did he make it this far. Surely, who would've thunk that a Neurobiology student who became a dentist and later a plastic surgeon, would need to combine all of this education to help people like Norris. Dr. Rodriguez followed his heart, never knowing he was preparing himself to change the world of medicine. He tells the magazine he made it thanks to pursuit,
"Pursuit of knowledge... Pursuit of being better. Aim for excellence. I think humility is an important factor."
This humbleness and gentle side is what gives Dr. Rodriguez more of a star quality. And it seems, he's not the only one. While one may think a man who has suffered as much as Norris will repudiate any positive beliefs in life, a bright future, or higher being, think again. Norris tells the fashion mag:
"Sometimes God will put you on your back to make you look up. Sometimes you need that nudge... A drop of hope can create an ocean, but a bucket of faith can create an entire world."