I sincerely enjoy writing these monthly articles about different areas of my specialty of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat). I try to educate and inform especially regarding any new therapies.
On a personal note, I am frequently asked why I chose this specialty. In medical school, I knew that I wanted to be in a surgical field. I enjoy being able to “fix things with my hands”, rather than prescribing medications. In 1977, during my third year of med school I spent month training in ENT. Not only did I find the field fascinating but also all of the physicians who were in the area really seemed to be enjoying themselves.
My formal specialty training, or residency, was done at Bethesda Navy Hospital just outside of Washington, DC from 1979 through 1983. Since that time obviously I have seen multiple advances.
For example when I trained, all nasal and sinus surgical procedures involved the surgeon wearing a headlight to see inside the nasal passages. Instruments were very similar to dental tools for removing diseased tissue from the bony walls of the nose and sinuses. Visualization was extremely difficult and because of the location of the sinuses near the eye and brain could often be very dangerous. Since the late 1980’s, nearly all sinus surgery has been done using small pencil thin fiber-optic scopes attached to a video camera. Following that came powered shaving-like instruments to remove diseased tissue such as polyps in a much safer manner. Then in the last 12 or so years sinus balloon treatments became available.
I feel that my early training, done under precise “old school” professors using techniques we might consider now to be ancient or primitive, gave me a very strong foundation and confidence. The new endoscopic techniques that I now use are far superior and safer. My nature is definitely an eagerness to try new things in the field of surgery and medicine. One advantage of being in my field for nearly 40 years is that I have learned that just because something is new does not necessarily mean it is better. And also some “new” developments are just variations of old techniques. My favorite uncle was also Tom Stark, MD. He practiced general medicine and surgery in Beeville, Texas. I try to incorporate his small town doc values in my practice using both very new and some “older, seasoned” techniques together.