Published: September 30, 2021

You've Got a Friend

As we embark on this journey over the next year together, I hope that all members will have the confidence and trust to reach out to me and the Academy as their friends and partners.

Ken Yanagisawa, MD AAO-HNS/F PresidentKen Yanagisawa, MD
AAO-HNS/F President
“Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
You've got a friend”

 -James Taylor/Carole King 

COVID-19 presented the world with an unexpected, unprecedented, and catastrophic global healthcare crisis. As incoming President of our AAO-HNS/F, I extend congratulations and utmost appreciation for the leadership of our two “COVID-19 Presidents” to date—Dr. Duane Taylor and Dr. Carol Bradford—as well as the vision and proactive actions taken by our incredible Academy team of Dr. James Denneny III and our dedicated Academy staff. This has been a perilous pandemic, and sadly, the end is not yet in sight. I am prepared to continue the battle to protect our providers, our patients, and our offices and staff.

In many ways, the Academy was our lifeline in the spring of 2020—a true friend to all members—whom we could trust and turn to in our moment of dire need. There were terrifying unknowns and fears of this organism’s behavior, transmission, and potential for grave illness, not to mention the financial turmoil it produced with so many office shutdowns and serious jeopardy to practice viability. The numerous webcasts, podcasts, and publications were informative, timely, and valuable.

My mother used to say, “War unites a nation and its communities”—I always found it a bit peculiar to view war as anything but terrible. Yet, in many ways, we waged a war against this virus, and the unity that ensued early in the pandemic among our numerous otolaryngologic subspecialties, as well as colleagues from many medical communities, was remarkable, demonstrating a singular purpose to defeat the enemy. We all wanted to stay safe and healthy, protect one another and our families from infection, and ultimately take necessary measures to overcome the enemy and its multiple iterations, yet continue our mission of medical care. Healthcare workers were celebrated as brave heroes. 

My original best friend and ally (before I met my wife, Julia) is my father, Dr. Eiji Yanagisawa, a pioneering otolaryngologist who immersed himself and his photographic/videographic talents toward advancing and benefitting his patients and our Academy. As he often stated, “In my unbiased opinion, otolaryngology is the best specialty.” Turns out he was correct…as was so often the case. 

During residency, I befriended many full-time academic and academically oriented private practitioners to create clinical projects, and submit them for presentation at local, regional, or if worthy enough, AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting submission and pray for acceptance. It was thrilling to attend all the meetings and to learn and crystalize new ideas and thoughts about shaping my evolving practice. It was exciting and inspirational to meet great leaders and revered colleagues in our field and to have the opportunity to shake their hands and chat. My father would always capture the obligatory picture (with perfect lighting and composition, of course), which chronicled so many cherished memories! Many of these individuals remain my most valued friends.

As we navigate through the upcoming year, I believe it is vital to communicate with each other about what is working in our practices and what obstacles confront us in maintaining practice success and solvency. COVID-19 and its multiple variants will undoubtedly continue to influence providers’ lives, as well as our ability to provide safe and effective healthcare to our patients. There are also impending issues with reduced reimbursements due to governmental mandates and regulations and payer issues. I will dedicate my presidency to confronting these vital practice management concerns, seeking solutions and resolutions. 

Many other topics of concern to our membership are on my radar and will be addressed in my upcoming Bulletin articles addressing wellness, priorities, advocacy, unity, and mentorship. I am very excited about the new Business of Medicine element of our AAO-HNS/F Strategic Plan that will assist ALL otolaryngologists, as well as the Private Practice Study Group, which will provide a voice for many practitioners on the front lines to share successes, challenges, and most importantly, directions and approaches to address the multitude of problems in our current healthcare quagmire. 

The Academy has developed and honed a plethora of activities to benefit its members. As we embark on this journey over the next year together, I hope that all members will have the confidence and trust to reach out to me and the Academy as their friends and partners. We are genuinely interested in members’ concerns and will listen intently to understand and hopefully resolve issues as a team. Reach out … “You’ve got a friend.” 

More from October 2021 — Vol. 40, No. 9