Brian Nussenbaum, MD, has assumed the role of executive director of the American Board of Otolaryngology (ABOto), replacing Robert H. Miller, MD. Previously, Dr. Nussenbaum served as division chief of head and neck surgical oncology at Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis.
ENTtoday physician editor Alex Chiu, MD, sat down with Dr. Nussenbaum to talk about his new role.
Alex Chiu: This was a big departure for you. You were a head and neck reconstructive surgeon, a very successful academician, and now you’re an administrator. What was your motivation to come to this job?
Brian Nussenbaum: That’s a complex answer. I started out after fellowship like most in a busy full-time clinical practice, and also doing a significant amount of research along with being heavily involved in resident/fellow training. After six years in my job at Washington University, I started progressively getting involved in more administrative roles. Those roles expanded during the next nine years to becoming the division chief of head and neck surgery, the vice chair for clinical affairs, and the patient safety officer. Another major administrative role I had, but with the institution, was being the chair of the Conflicts of Interest in Research Committee.
Although I loved all aspects of clinical care and teaching, whether it was in the clinic or in the OR, I was increasingly enjoying the administrative roles. As such, I asked for advice from several mentors and the consistent message was to pursue a Master’s degree to further explore my interests in leadership and administration, and acquire new skills. This led me to enroll in the Harvard School of Public Health Masters of Healthcare Management Program, a part-time Master’s program designed toward development of physician leaders. This program further validated my thoughts on the career direction I was looking for. For the board position, as soon as I saw the advertisement I thought, “This is a job I would truly love to do.”
My leadership aspirations have always been externally motivated, being the altruistic person that I am, and I thought there could be no better opportunity than to serve otolaryngology as a specialty. I had done many activities with the ABOto since 2006 and found myself to have a deep passion in the mission of the organization, which I truly believe is a noble one. Everything was great with my position in St. Louis , but this position was so completely aligned with the evolution of my professional interests in too many ways to not consider the position. Very fortunately, everything turned out great. I will always feel truly humbled to have this opportunity.
AC: Tell us a little fun fact about yourself, or what you like to do in your free time.
BN: In the past, I went through several rounds of burnout. It was very real for me several years ago at a time when there was virtually no attention to this, or sympathy from others around you about it. I realized that I needed to take ownership of this problem and find solutions rather than wait for someone else to fix it.
I actually learned a lot about burnout prevention from a program I completed based on techniques used to prepare Navy SEAL candidates for BUD/S. What I learned about resilience from this program was remarkable and ultimately helped me refocus the activities in my free time outside of work on things I enjoy doing. One of those things is taking care of myself as best as I can, in terms of fitness. Those endogenous endorphins really go far with wellness.
I have also always had a passion for all types of music. Residents always talked about how they loved the playlists I would play during cases. I was one of those music guys in the operating room.
Dr. Nussenbaum will begin an “Office Hours with the Executive Director” program at the ABOto in January. He welcomes questions, suggestions, and feedback. Contact 713/850-0399 to arrange a time.