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How My Field Has Changed During My Career

How My Field Has Changed During My Career

How My Field Has Changed During My Career

I thought it might be interesting to document some of the changes I have seen in my specialty since 1979. Additionally, many of the physicians that I trained under also witnessed many changes in their careers.

In the past, the most common type of ear infection, with fluid behind the eardrum, could lead to a severe and dangerous condition known as mastoiditis. Surgery was often an emergency procedure to remove disease and infected bone from the area of the skull behind the ear. In the 1980s, I performed quite a few mastoidectomy surgeries. However, in the last 20 years, almost no ENT doctors have had this type of surgery present to us. Appropriate use of antibiotics and ventilation tubes in children has helped that.

During my training and until around 1990, almost all nasal and sinus surgeries were done with the surgeon only able to see using a headlamp (like a cave explorer). Instruments were needed to hold the nasal passages open. The introduction of video scopes to better view all of the structures has made these procedures safer. 

Similarly, small flexible video scopes allow doctors in my field to fully examine a voice box and vocal cords in the office. Physicians trained in my generation and prior had to learn how to put a warmed mirror gently into a patient’s throat while the tongue is held forward, trying to look around the corner behind the tongue. Even with numbing spray, it could be quite an ordeal for both doctor and patient.

In the 1970s, hearing aids were mostly just amplifiers. Many of us remember the pink plastic plugs that maybe our father or grandfather wore. These devices made everything louder, including low pitches that were already well-heard and did not need to be amplified.

I enjoy learning medical history. And much of what has happened over the last 40 years, I have had the privilege of living through firsthand. I have also had the privilege of providing care to this part of the world for over 35 years. I always hope that I have made a difference.

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