Dr. Julie Ellner
Julie Ellner MD FACS
laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery
Changemaker: Julie Ellner, MD, FACS
Changemaker: Julie Ellner, MD, FACS
Julie Ellner, MD, FACS, is living the dream.
is living two dreams: helping others through life-saving bariatric surgery, and being "a surfer chick."
Those were dreams that did not come easily for the San Diego bariatric surgeon, and member of the Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc.
Achieving them required going against the grain, fending for herself, hard work, skill, determination, and never letting anything stand in her
gives thanks every day that she
was able to make those dreams come true.
An unabashed Anglophile, Dr. Ellner
has never forgotten from whence she
Growing up in Funk, Nebraska, a two-street town, she
was the only girl in a class of four from kindergarten through eighth grade.
"So I learned early to be comfortable being the only female in the room," she
loved sports, "from an early age, I wanted to get as far away from small town Nebraska as possible," she
wanted to be a physician, but she
faced overwhelming discouragement from family and townspeople, and she
had limited funds for school.
Even still, Dr. Ellner attended Hastings College on a volleyball scholarship and discovered a wider world when she participated in the school's London study-abroad program.
quickly fell in love with all things English and decided to stay.
mother came to London and literally dragged her
crying onto the plane to return home.
Because of a knee injury, Dr. Ellner
volleyball scholarship and had to find a new school, which turned out to be Immaculata University
She sold everything except her car to pay medical school application fees, and earned a medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston in 1993.
Dr. Ellner was not thrilled when her residency match brought her back to the Midwest to the University of Iowa; but once there, Professor Dr. Edward Mason, the first to perform gastric bypass surgery, deeply inspired her.
second dream in learning to surf during a 30th birthday adventure to Santa Cruz.
"I caught the first wave and by the time I hit the beach, I knew where I would practice medicine."
Dr. Ellner is a solo practice bariatric surgeon at Ellner Bariatric, Inc. in San Diego.
She is also medical director of the bariatric surgery program at Alvarado Hospital, and she performs surgery at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.
In 2000, she
became the first woman to perform laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery.
In addition to surfing several times a week, Dr. Ellner
does medical outreach work in Fiji.
Each year, she
takes clothing, shoes, and makeup donated by her
patients to distribute to women in Fiji.
also volunteers with the Windansea Surf Club for "A Day at the Beach," which introduces surfing to children who are homeless, in foster care, or are mentally challenged.
Dr. Ellner is a frequent guest expert on local news programs and nationwide television shows such as The Doctors and 48 Hours.
Media appearances are the way she
educates people about obesity, although she
says such appearances are still a challenge for her
surrounds herself with all things English: history, antiques, and her
She loves doing home repairs and plumbing, and she spends a lot of time working in her English garden.
is in need of "therapy," she
sneaks away to a cove with a jar of peanuts and feeds the squirrels out of her
hand, like her
grandmother taught her
was a child.
Although her dual roles are the way she stays passionate about working and playing hard, she says her surfer friends are surprised when they find out she is a physician, and her medical associates are surprised when they find out she is "a surfer chick.
feels lucky every day to be able to do both.
Feature photo: Dr. Ellner
Photo credit: http://adaywithba.com