Head & Neck Surgeon
West River Ear, Nose & Throat
Doctor Rob Schleiffarth, his wife Heidi and their two girls, Ella (6) and Blakesley (4) began their summer this year with a family vacation on the shores of Lake Michigan, near Rob’s childhood home of Niles, Mich. He has fond memories of summer weekends spent at his grandparents’ home on the lake and carries that passion into the lives of his young family, spending their free time together outside – in the community park after dinner or out in the hills hiking, skiing, camping or playing on the lake. Passions that make living in the Black Hills nothing short of perfect.
Rob graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs with a degree in Biology before taking a year off in Seattle to work in perhaps his favorite college-kid job – a concessions manager for KeyArena, home of his beloved SuperSonics (in 2008, the pro basketball team relocated and was renamed to the Oklahoma City Thunder). It was a fun year and a fun job, but he’d known before it began that he wanted to go back to school. It was in Med School at the University of Minnesota just a few years later that he fell in love with a Physical Therapy student across a crowded computer lab, turned a love-blinded eye to her allegiance to the Cubs and married her.
Why the unique socks?
Yeah, I often wear funny socks. It’s always a battle to get my girls to wear socks, and sometimes wearing mine inspires them to do the same. It’s a miracle they put them on!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always thought I’d be a doctor. I loved science and interacting with people, so putting the two together just made sense.
Why did you decide to specialize in Ear, Nose and Throat?
I had initially thought I would go into Pediatric Cardiology, but my first rotation was in Ear, Nose and Throat, and it totally changed what I wanted.
What brought you to the Black Hills?
I did my specialty training in Iowa City, so Heidi and I lived there for about seven years. When I completed the program, we wanted to go somewhere that would really support the outdoors lifestyle we love. We’d visited the Black Hills a couple of times, and thought it was a nice area – a nice community, so we packed up and moved out here about two years ago. It’s a good fit for me professionally, too. ENT doctors in larger cities often specialize – they just do cochlear implants or tubes, for instance. Here, at West River ENT, I get to do a lot of different things.
What kind of stuff do you see in your work?
All kinds! Recently I removed a quarter and a penny two children had swallowed, fixed a hole in an eardrum and put in some ear tubes.
What is your most memorable fatherhood moment so far?
Our last night in Iowa City we slept in sleeping bags on the floor and I remember listening to music, the girls were dancing around. The next morning we got up really early and drove to the Black Hills, to this new chapter in our lives.
You prescribe ice cream to your patients. What’s that about?
Tonsillectomies are my most common surgery and it can be kind of a rough recovery. So you think about your classically soft foods, particularly cold foods, for little kids. We partnered up with Silver Lining Creamery and had these fun prescription pads made so when I give the patient (or their parents) their prescriptions, I can show them they get a free scoop of ice cream. It’s just a fun thing for them. Have you been to Silver Lining, by the way? I love it! Superman is my favorite.
What time does your alarm go off?
I usually wake up before it goes off, actually. This morning it went off as I got in my car. Surgery days start earlier than clinic days, and I like to
be an hour early – so today it was set for 5:45 a.m.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Brush my teeth. Then I get dressed, let the dogs out, eat breakfast, let the dogs back in and head out for the day.
What is one word you’d use to describe life as a father of two girls?
Amazing. It’s so incredible to see them grow and learn. For instance, my six-year-old reads to me at night and our four-year-old reads to Heidi. It really feels like just the other day Ella was reading one-sentence-per-page picture books. Now, she’s reading chapter books. She’s this whole little person with intelligent thoughts and ideas.
What are you reading right now?
The Cam Jansen books my six-year-old is reading to me before she goes to bed.
How would your girls describe you?
And they are always telling me I’m ‘crazy’.
What is your number one rule for your girls?
Be kind. Treat people how you would like to be treated. I think it’s a pretty good rule for life. And, don’t put things in your ears or nose. My girls will hand me something, and say “so I don’t put it in my nose.”
What’s the hardest part about being a parent?
Setting boundaries. It’s easier to give in, but I’m not sure that’s the best thing.
How do you balance your life as a father and as a doctor?
It’s tough. I have to make a conscious decision to separate my home time from my work time. That’s one of the reasons I get up early, so I get stuff done while the girls are sleeping and can make them the priority when I get home.