This prompted Dr. Netterville to start thinking about sympathetic nerve damage and a link to carotid body tumor resections, in which all the post-ganglionic sympathetic fibers are stripped away.
Explore This IssueMay 2012
In the parotid gland, the sympathetic nerves innervate the myoepithelial muscle, which squeezes out saliva. If this is lost, Dr. Netterville has postulated, the cell undergoes a “post-innervation supersensitivity.”
“My theory is that it’s all the myoepithelial muscles spasming at one time when you eat,” he said. Then the pain subsides as the receptors become saturated. It’s the subject of a paper that has been sitting on his desk for two decades. He has found a lot of skeptics, but no publisher.
His experience with these patients “ended up handing me and putting in my lab tremendous numbers of patients with cranial neuropathies,” Dr. Netterville said.
Dr. Netterville said it’s impossible to know where your medical career will take you. “You can’t sit here and plan, ‘This is what I’m going to be known for. This is what I’m going to accomplish,’” he said. “All you can do is seize opportunity and hang around with smart people. And they’ll open doors for you.”
Robert Ossoff, MD, President of the Triological Society, told the audience after the speech that they’d hope they’d enjoyed the lessons of a storyteller. “Jim has a unique way of teaching,” Dr. Ossoff said. “I think most of us lecture—Jim tells a story, and through the story comes out the teaching, the learning.”