At the Triological Society’s Annual Meeting at Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meeting in April, Jesus Medina, MD, FACS, the Paul and Ruth Jonas Professor of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and formerly the chair of that department for more than 15 years, assumed the presidency of the society. Dr. Medina recently spoke with ENT Today about his goals as president.
Question: Can you tell us a little about your background?
I was born and attended medical school in Peru. Shortly after graduating I came to the United States, where I completed my residency in otolaryngology at Wayne State University in Detroit. Then I did a fellowship in head and neck surgery at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and spent four years there before taking a position at the University of Oklahoma in 1984. I became chair of the department of otolaryngology here in 1991 and held that position for 17 years before stepping down in 2008. Today, I remain on the faculty as a professor.
Q: What drew you to the field of otolaryngology?
I come from a family of otolaryngologists in Peru. My uncle and two cousins were otolaryngologists. So from early on in my medical school days, I would spend time in my uncle’s office and watch him do surgery. He practiced general otolaryngology and had no otology experience. It became my goal to become an otologist and then return to Peru and bring my expertise with me to my hometown.
I was well on my way to becoming an otologist and had actually been accepted to a fellowship in otology with Dr. Michael Glasscock, founder of The Otology Group and now an adjunct professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University, when I got sidetracked during my last year of residency: I became fascinated with head and neck surgery. I had two mentors at the Veterans Administration hospital where I worked during that year, and they were just masterful surgeons. They let me do all sorts of procedures, and I liked it much better than ear surgery.
Q: Why did you decide not to return to Peru?
In Peru, head and neck surgery is pretty well centralized in the National Cancer Institute. In 1981, during my fellowship, I went home and talked to the two leading head and neck surgeons there. They were very gracious, but they didn’t have any positions open. They said that I could come and work with them for a few years as a resident, but by that time I had had enough of residency!
Q: How did you become involved in the Triological Society?
I have been involved with the Triological Society since my first year of residency. The chair of the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Wayne State, Dr. Robert Mathog, spoke very highly of the society and encouraged us to attend meetings. In fact, my first two published papers were presented at the Middle Section meetings and appeared in The Laryngoscope. When I was proposed for membership later on in my career and my thesis was accepted, I was delighted. I think I’ve only missed one or two meetings of the Middle Section of the Triological Society in all my years as a member.
—Jesus Medina, MD
Q: What led to your interest in becoming president of the society?
When I think of the presidency of the Triological Society, I do not think of it as a position that one aspires to attain and “campaigns” for. Rather, since I’ve been involved, I’ve seen that becoming president of the society has been a recognition given to individuals who were willing to work and lead through service and accountability—that is, individuals who accept responsibilities and discharge them to the best of their ability—not for their own good but for the good of the society. I am deeply humbled by the honor of joining my predecessors in this role.
Q: What changes has the society undergone in the last few years? What is the significance of these changes for members?
A: The society has long been known as a professional society that is the premier promoter of a high level of information exchange in all areas of otolaryngology and a promoter of professional camaraderie. In the last 10 years or so, it has evolved to also become a society that actively promotes the development of new knowledge in all areas of the specialty by providing unprecedented financial resources in the form of grants to support research by residents, fellows and young faculty. This has attracted young and up-and-coming otolaryngologists in all areas of the specialty, which is why it remains a very vibrant and vital organization.
Q: What goals do you plan to focus on during your tenure?
I don’t presume to think that one can change the direction of an organization such as the Triological Society in one year as president. This year, however, is an opportunity to bring to the fore issues that the president thinks are important and perhaps point the way for the future.
With that being said, my modest intention is to focus on the role of clinicians as educators. Let’s face it: Clinicians, not only in academic otolaryngology but also in private practice, are constantly educating medical students, residents, fellows, nurses, midlevel clinicians and, not least of all, our patients. I believe that part of our calling as physicians is to be educators, and that is a role for which we receive little if any initial or ongoing training. I would like to emphasize, during this year, the importance of educating ourselves as educators.
I think of a favorite quote of mine from historian and educator Daniel Boorstin: “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” There is a great deal we clinicians don’t know about education, and it will serve us and our trainees well to learn about it.
Q: What are your strategies for achieving this goal?
I believe that the Triological Society is ideally suited to provide an appropriate forum tailored to clinicians, where clinicians young and old can learn the basics as well as the most recent developments in medical and adult education. I intend to take a broad strategy toward this goal, but specifics could include workshops during the annual meeting, keynote lectures on education, webinars and a number of other activities to allow us as educators at all levels to stay current with what’s going on in education.
Q: What unique qualifications do you bring?
In my second year of medical school, I was invited to be an instructor for the physiology course. Ever since then, education has been a passion of my career. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in resident education every step of the way: I directed our residency and fellowship programs for many years and chaired a vibrant department of otolaryngology that takes pride in its educational program. I also served on the Residency Review Committee for otolaryngology and as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology. So I’ve had the opportunity to learn a little bit about education in otolaryngology from the perspective of all of its constituents.