Cory Colombini plans on becoming a plastic surgeon. Sabrina Novenschi, a family practitioner.
Why this soon-to-be-married couple chose their medical specialties, and why they’re so sure they’ll enjoy them, is at once logical and, well, a tad surprising.
When Colombini was in the process of learning about plastic surgery, it turned out that one of the cases UNLV Medicine plastic surgeons Dr.Joshua Goldman and Dr. Richard Baynosa handled involved a patient who had lost a hand in an accident. Along with a resident physician, Colombini cleaned the severed hand that was on ice, helping prepare it for replantation. He then witnessed his first microsurgical replant case.
“I was energized by the precision and skill it took to meticulously replant the hand,” he recalled. “Over the next two weeks, the patient became someone I got to develop a personal relationship with and watch make astonishing progress. We had managed to save the function of every finger besides the ring finger. I had never felt as much joy as I did when the patient continuously thanked us for saving his hand. His gratitude was enlightening. I was hooked. The high expectations, attention to detail, and craftsmanship that it takes to be a plastic surgeon made me realize I had finally found my home in medicine.”
That Colombini would be tremendously impressed by the effects of a remarkable surgery, one that he saw with his own eyes, is perfectly logical. After all, the patient now has the opportunity to live a largely normal life. It makes sense that Colombini would want a career where he could transform lives in much the same way.
And yet even Novenschi — she and Colombini became a couple while both were undergraduates at UNR — admits her fiance’s decision to choose plastic surgery residency training came as a bit of surprise. “Most people thought it would have something to do with the heart,” she said.
At the age of 3 months, Colombini had life-saving surgery for a congenital heart defect. “From a young age, my surgery has shaped my life in the direction of yearning to impact people’s lives,” Colombini said. “My surgery and everything that has come from it has shaped me into the selfless person I consider myself to be.”
So, yes, it’s a bit of a surprise that Colombini is going into plastic surgery. Yet what he wants to do in plastic and reconstructive surgery can surely change lives for the better, just as cardiology or cardiac surgery can. What is truly surprising, however, is another reason Colombini gives for loving plastic surgery — the creativity that he likens to cooking.
“One of my favorite hobbies is cooking," Novenschi said. "Before cooking, I read multiple recipes and watch countless videos on different techniques. Then, I get to be creative. I use components from the various recipes I learned about, pick which ingredients I want to use, combine the different methods of preparation, and add a few of my own original ideas that allow me to turn it into my own creation. I believe this is what has really made me enjoy plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is unique because there are multiple ways to approach a problem, just like there are multiple ways to cooking a certain dish. It requires surgeons to use their creativity to fix a problem. Also, I love that not only are plastic surgeons treating physical problems of the patient, but they can also help them immensely with their self-image, which I have not seen in other specialties.”
The more you study Novenschi’s life, the more her desire to go into family medicine seems pretty clear-cut. What is surprising about her specialty selection is what she says helped reinforce her choice — the making of YouTube videos, beginning with beauty tips for young girls.
Family medicine first got on her radar during one of the many trips she took to Romania with her parents, who were both born in the Eastern European nation. One summer while in high school, Novenschi followed around a friend of her family who happened to be a Romanian physician. “She treated entire families in a rural area, wanted to help them, really got to know them over the years,” Novenschi said. “That really impressed me. It seemed like the way medicine should be practiced. I wanted to do that.”
As her dream of becoming a physician like the family’s Romanian friend percolated during high school — Novenschi would graduate with honors from Coronado High School in Henderson — she also began to make the YouTube videos that she says helped guide her to family medicine.
“I had been watching YouTube videos about hair, makeup, and fashion from beauty gurus, and I had felt like it was time to share my own advice about these topics. I remember posting that first video and not thinking much of it afterward. Months later, I returned to my YouTube channel and was surprised to find that my video had thousands of views. Not only that, but people were reaching out to me, asking me for my advice on how to do their hair and makeup for different events, and asking me to post more videos about these topics. What started as a hobby, soon became a passion of mine.”
“My love for giving others advice, the relationships I was able to build with my subscribers, and my ability to make an impact on people’s lives seemingly guided me toward the specialty of family medicine.”
Novenschi said that, after her rural family medicine rotation in Winnemucca, she was certain that family medicine was for her. She spent two weeks working alongside and learning from rural family medicine physicians and residents who were taking care of babies, teenagers, seniors, and pregnant women. “They were involved in every moment of their patients’ lives. I cared for a pregnant woman outpatient and then I assisted during her labor and delivery. A week later, I performed the newborn check on the baby and follow-up with the postpartum mother. I actively participated in procedures such as ingrown nail removals and IUD insertions. This rotation fulfilled all my aspirations of what I envision myself doing as a physician. This was unique to family medicine and further confirmed my specialty choice.”
What made the couple’s educational journey through the UNLV School of Medicine far less stressful were full-tuition scholarships. Novenschi was the recipient of the Robert and Paula Mendenhall Scholarship; Colombini, the Children’s Heart Center Nevada Scholarship.
“We can’t thank them enough,” Colombini said.
Today, the couple is looking forward to their June 19 marriage. It will be in the backyard of Colombini’s parents’ home in Reno.
“We’re not having a big wedding because of COVID,” Colombini said. “But we really can’t complain. On Match Day we got what we wanted; we didn’t have to be separated for our residencies.”
Both Colombini and Novenschi see a bright future in their chosen specialties.
“I am thrilled to have found the career I will be proud to spend the rest of my life doing, helping families,” Novenschi said.
Colombini is no less enthusiastic. “One day I hope to apply everything I have learned to make a difference in my patients’ lives.”