An Eye for Surgery
Joining a growing class of female surgeons
Dr. MOLLY ORBAN is a board-certified ophthalmologist and fellowship-trained oculoplastic surgeon at Wilmington Eye. “I love making people happy. Helping them to see better and look better is incredibly rewarding,” says Orban.
Oculoplastic surgery is plastic surgery of the eyelids, lacrimal system, and the orbits – the space behind and around the eyes. Patients of all ages may need or desire oculoplastic surgery which is sometimes due to aging, but congenital, orbital, and cosmetic concerns can necessitate treatment at any age.
Orban completed her oculoplastic surgery fellowship this past August. Only one in every five surgeons is female and the number of female surgeons who are fellowship-trained is even less at about 15%. Orban has joined a growing class of female surgeons who are changing the landscape of medicine and surgery. Orban plans to build out the cosmetic side of the Wilmington Eye practice.
Starting in July 2021 under the direction of DR. ALAN OESTER at Wilmington Eye, Orban spent just over one year in the hands-on fellowship program. “I participated in clinic, seeing patients, performing procedures and assisting with surgeries, learning about aesthetics and cosmetic procedures, and eventually seeing and operating on my own patients. Dr. Oester taught me about the business side of ophthalmology as well,” Orban says. “And other than the fact that he made me an oculoplastic surgeon, the best thing about fellowship with Oester was that he made sure we never missed lunch,” she adds with a smile.
Serving others has always been important to Orban. While attending the University of Florida for her bachelor of science in human nutrition, she spent her first summer break on a medical service trip to Nicaragua. “We had patients lined up and down the entire road. I was so moved that I knew on that first day that I would become a physician. I didn’t realize what a long and tough road it would be, but I can confidently say that it has all been worth it,” she says.
Orban attended the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando for medical school and her internship followed by her ophthalmology residency at the Medical University South Carolina Health Storm Eye Institute in Charleston.
She chose to stay at Wilmington Eye after completing her fellowship because of the people. “The physicians of the practice have treated me like a part of the team since I joined as a fellow. The opportunity to practice alongside my mentors in a town as beautiful as Wilmington was something I couldn’t pass up,” she says.
Orban is equally proud of her other title – mom. “I’m also now mom-squared. I had my first baby during my internship. She was six months old when we relocated for my residency. I had my second daughter during my fellowship. It truly took a village to make my dreams a reality. My mom has taken care of both of my babies so I could go back to work, something I am eternally grateful for,” she says of her mom who she calls the ultimate mentor. “She is the strongest and most selfless person I know. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.”
There are some unique challenges she faced as a female physician. “People often call me a nurse even after I have introduced myself as Dr. Orban and even after I have done procedures on them. I constantly get comments about my age and my appearance. I think it’s hard for people to see a young woman as a physician in the same way they see a man. Most of the time the comments are innocent, but it still demonstrates the bias we must deal with every day,” she notes.
On the flip side, being a woman in medicine offers a unique perspective. “We deal with the same challenges, triumphs, interests, fears, conditions and desires as our female patients. Having common ground goes a long way,” she explains.
In her free time, Orban likes to spend time outdoors with her husband and daughters and with her parents, brother, and sister who live in Florida. “We are a loud family, but the noise is pure joy to me. If I have some free time alone, I like to curl up with a good book. I’m a sucker for fiction thrillers and romance novels.”
Orban concludes, “The road to becoming a doctor is long and stressful. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Never forget that your unique story allows you to help others. Your contribution to society is essential. Take your strengths and interests and use them to better our community.”
To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.
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