Meet Ellen Bendel-Stenzel, MD, a neonatologist with Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and another staff member who helps make The Mother Baby Center a great place to have a baby and a great place to be a baby.
Dr. Bendel-Stenzel is the co-director of clinical research on the Minneapolis Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for Minnesota Neonatal Physicians, a professional association dedicated to improving newborn outcomes. She took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions:
The name of The Mother Baby Center’s blog is “Great Beginnings” because the center will be a place where so many families will begin life together. How did you begin your professional journey as a neonatologist? My father was one of the first board-certified perinatologists in Minnesota, and worked at Abbott Northwestern Hospital as a member of the Minnesota Perinatal Physician group until January, when he retired at age 78. When I showed an interest in neonatology, he strongly encouraged me to consider working at Children’s and specifically with Minnesota Neonatal Physicians. He believed there was no better place to deliver.
What type of work have you done throughout your career with Children’s? My first exposure to Children’s was as a resident and fellow following medical school. I participated in my first multicenter research trial as a fellow working with Dr. Bob Couser. After joining the Children’s staff in 1998, I first served on the pharmacy and therapeutics committee, and then became the vice-chief of critical care for four years, serving on the physicians’ executive committee. I am currently the co-director of clinical research on the Children’s NICU for Minnesota Neonatal Physicians. Throughout my career at Children’s, I have worked closely with the Foundation to support philanthropy, providing tours, talks and overall support for its mission. My other great passion is the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC), and I am the Children’s Hospital representative on its board of directors. I have also been actively involved in the Arts & Healing Program through Children’s, which promotes music therapy for our patients and brings performers from CTC to the Star Studio at the Hospital.
What does the inception of the new Center mean for you as a neonatologist? What makes medicine such an exciting, intellectually stimulating and rewarding profession is that the therapies you provide your patients improve throughout your entire career. You cannot become stagnant and simultaneously provide optimal care, yet to move forward, you need a system that supports the rapidly advancing technologies and services that emerge over time. The Center is proof to me that the administration at Children’s and Abbot Northwestern Hospital understand the importance of healthy mothers and healthy children in Minnesota. I am passionate about providing the best possible outcomes for neonates, and the opening of our new facility energizes me to keep moving forward while looking for new and better ways to promote healthy outcomes.
What is your favorite part about working with mothers and babies? My favorite part about working with mothers and babies is hard to say—I love it all. I love the intellectual challenge of the profession, but the reward is in sending home happy, healthy babies with their parents. We build incredibly close and intense relationships with our families, and many send us cards or visit the hospital to “show off” their children as they grow up. It is immensely satisfying. At the end of the day, I hope I can say that I’ve made the world better for at least one child—and hopefully for many.