Perfect Your Person

Elizabeth “Elli” Warner, M.D., served as chief surgical resident for academic year 2011 –2012.

Elizabeth Warner, M.D., better known to her colleagues at UF as “Elli,” left Gainesville this past summer for a new start in Seattle.

Following the completion of her surgical residency at UF, she began a yearlong fellowship program in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery at the University of Washington.

She drove 3,000 miles across the country in a U-Haul with her two cats, Riley and Jeremiah, to begin her new journey.

Warner, who said she’s a big-city girl at heart, admits she fell in love with Gainesville despite its smaller size and with the UF department of surgery training program.

“I want to thank everyone for my time here — it’s been lovely, and Gainesville has really become a home for me,” she said before she left. “Though I am going to a fabulous new city with a lot of exciting adventures and an excellent institution, I feel like I’m leaving an equally excellent institution and I’m proud to be a graduate of this program.”

Warner attended medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She pursued a residency at UF after her brother, a pediatric surgeon at Washington University in St. Louis, spoke highly of pediatric surgery fellows he worked with who had completed their residencies at UF. During her interview visit at UF, she met with Lyle Moldawer, Ph.D., the department’s vice chairman of research and a professor. Warner was impressed.

“When I met him, I just fell in love with his mind, with what he was doing, his insight into medical research,” she explained. “He got it. He was, in large part, a reason why I wanted to come here.”

She spent two years working in the research laboratory with Moldawer and contributed to an article they co-authored that appeared in Nature Medicine.

Other faculty members made their own important impressions on her during the course of her training, she said.

“For lack of going through the entire roster and naming names, everyone has made their own personal mark,” she said. “There are ones who stand out … but I think they all have made lasting contributions to my education.”

A bit of a “health nut,” Warner said her work with bariatric surgery patients at UF helped her develop a personal appreciation for the struggles of those who seek surgery to help them overcome obesity.

“When I got onto the bariatric service, I thought that I really wouldn’t understand it because I had always looked to diet and exercise (to stay healthy),” she said. “But when I started to hear these patients’ stories, I immediately fell in love with them and recognized the difficulty of the plight that they were going through and that they desperately wanted help. I realized that I could be an instrument in improving their quality of life.”

Warner said residency also challenged her own resolve to maintain a healthful, balanced lifestyle.

“Sleep deprivation and constant stress make it easy to become lackluster and a dull version of what you used to be — very proficient and very good at your job — but rounded on the edges,” she said. “I think all residents go through a stage where you allow yourself to be taken over by the job and allow your personality to flatline, secondary to a lack of sleep, exercise, and bad eating habits — not doing all the helpful things that maintain you as a person.”

Overcoming those obstacles while training as a resident requires “working hard to not only perfect your professional skills, but to perfect your person outside of work,” she said.