Sarah K. Rapoport: Tell me what it’s like to be an otolaryngologist in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Explore This IssueJanuary 2021
Martin Trott: It’s almost like being a family practice doctor in a small town. I’m the only otolaryngologist in the region, and the town of Jackson has a population of around 6,000 people. Living in any small town, you have to get used to the new definitions of proximity. Patients will drive for two and a half hours to come see me.
Also, before moving here, I hadn’t appreciated the challenges presented by small towns: You essentially lose your anonymity. On any given day, many of the people I see and interact with are also my patients. For example, today I went to my dentist for a teeth cleaning, and my dental hygienist is one of my patients. Even my dentist is one of my patients! In big cities, it’s relatively easy to be anonymous. Not so in Jackson.
SR: Was this the type of life you had imagined living when you moved to Jackson?
MT: Not at all. My hope, when I moved to Jackson, was to slow down. But when I arrived, I was shocked to find the practice I had inherited was worse than slow; it was moribund. I was seeing just two or three people a day initially, and I couldn’t stand the slow pace. That was how I learned that no matter where you go, you cannot escape the essence of who you are. I’m someone who enjoys feeling challenged, and I missed being busy.
So, while I steadily grew my new otolaryngology practice, I also enrolled in a master’s program in medical administration. Now, in addition to my active practice, I also run a medical group here in Jackson. I’ve learned how to perform venom immunotherapy for bee stings from my old partners in Ohio who are experts at it. I teach visiting medical students from the University of Washington for 10 weeks each year, and I teach a business of medicine class at their medical school. I also make time to participate in medical service trips to Vietnam together with colleagues from the University of North Carolina’s department of otolaryngology. Recently, I even became certified in hypoglossal nerve stimulator implantation for sleep apnea. Now I’m the only person in Wyoming and Montana who can implant the device!