ENTtoday: With your love of literature, what prompted you to go into medicine and otolaryngology?
AC: I wasn’t pre-med in college, although I’d been tangentially interested in healthcare—I knew a lot of pre-med students and worked in D.C. for a couple of years at a healthcare consulting firm. I’d also taken a few courses in medical ethics, which I really liked, and my research was on genetic testing and the ethics of the Genome Project. After working on two projects at that consulting firm, though, I knew I wanted to be involved directly in patient care. I didn’t want to be writing about physicians in the aggregate; I wanted to be treating people.
I didn’t know what otolaryngology was until I was well into medical school. But I happened to do a week during my general surgery rotation (which, as I was never going to be a surgeon, I did first to get it out of the way) on otolaryngology, and met three of the most amazing female residents who totally took me under their wings. I’m actually amazed at how much they taught me within a week—especially now as I try to train my own medical students. At the end of the week they told me I should really think about doing otolaryngology as a specialty. I really like the technicality of otolaryngology surgery in a way that I didn’t anticipate. So much of our lives are lived above the clavicles and I’ve found that my humanistic bent is actually helpful in this specialty.