In Memoriam: Eiji Yanagisawa, MD
Dr. Yanagisawa led an extraordinary otolaryngological career and life.
Eiji Yanagisawa, MD, of Woodbridge, Connecticut, passed away peacefully on February 1, 2024, at the age of 93. Born in Yokohama, Japan, he came to the United States in 1956, and embarked on his remarkable journey fueled by inspiration and determination, positively influencing myriad patients, physicians, and friends around the globe.
He was predeceased by his loving wife and eternal companion, June, whom he married in 1960. A devoted father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he is survived by his four children and their families: AAO-HNS/F Past President Ken Yanagisawa [and Dr. Julia Shi, grandchildren Dr. Katie (and Dr. Ben Slocum), Michael (and Kristen), Mark (and Shauna Strubinger), Jonathan, Kevin, and great-grandchildren Fallon and Quinn]; Kay Yanagisawa [and Richard Evanko, grandchild Matthew]; Amy Yanagisawa [and Rob Wilkins, grandchild Robert]; and Ray Yanagisawa.
Dr. Yanagisawa was an avid lifelong New York Mets fan and UConn basketball fan. He loved basking in the tranquility and serenity of his backyard Japanese garden that he designed and built in 1973, capturing beautiful nature photographs, especially of his water lilies. He always had his 35mm camera strapped around his neck, ready to capture life’s moments and memories, actively participating in the New Haven Camera Club for many years.
His extraordinary otolaryngological career began at the Nihon University School of Medicine in Japan, followed by acceptance by John A. Kirchner, MD, to the Yale Otolaryngology residency on a Fulbright Scholarship, graduating in 1959. He immediately began practicing medicine in the Greater New Haven area following residency in 1960 with the Southern New England Ear Nose Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Group and continued practicing until the age of 83. He had a profound influence on the training and development of over 100 Yale residents from the 1960s to 2010s, promoting clinical research and medical publications, and he gained national and international recognition for his clinical work.
Dr. Yanagisawa had a tremendous impact on so many patients in the Greater New Haven area who loved him. Many patients still recollect his intense dedication and caring, epitomized by his not uncommon postoperative hospital rounds at two o’clock the morning.
In a conversation between AAO-HNS/F Past President Eugene N. Myers, MD, FRCS Edin (Hon), and AAO-HNS/F Executive Vice President and CEO James C. Denneny III, MD, they recounted the wonderful, long-lasting contributions of Dr. Yanagisawa to the specialty. Dr. Myers recalled telling Dr. Yanagisawa that he was “the best new photolaryngologist,” as a pioneering otolaryngologist who immersed himself and his photographic/videographic talents toward advancing and benefitting his patients and the Academy. The OTO Media Gallery, which provides Academy members with free access to a searchable gallery of otolaryngology images and surgical video procedures, includes gracious donations from both Dr. Yanagisawa and Dr. Myers.
Dr. Yanagisawa pioneered many medical techniques and was renowned internationally for his documentation of disease states and videographic techniques in otolaryngology, lectured frequently on these subjects, and won many awards for teaching videotapes. He authored or coauthored 356 original articles, 80 book chapters, and five books (including his pictorial autobiography), presented 19 scientific exhibits nationally and abroad, and created 77 teaching videotapes.
Dr. Yanagisawa was clinical professor of otolaryngology at Yale University School of Medicine and received numerous honors including President of the American Broncho-Esophagological Association, Vice President of the Eastern Section of the Triological Society, President of the New England Otolaryngological Society, Chevelier Jackson Award from the ABEA, Presidential Citations from the American Otological Society, American Laryngological Association (twice), Triological Society, and American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS). He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from AAO-HNS and the Politzer Society. Due to his excellence in nearly all facets of otolaryngology, many referred to him as a “Renaissance Man.”
Two endowment funds honor and celebrate his contributions to otolaryngology: The Dr. Eiji Yanagisawa Lectureship and Resident Travel Fund at Yale University School of Medicine, and the AAO-HNSF Eiji Yanagisawa, MD International Visting Scholar (IVS) Endowment, which promotes collaboration with international colleagues.
Dr. Yanagisawa was kind, gentle, and compassionate to every person he interacted with, and served as a masterful mentor and brilliant instructor teaching the intricacies and nuances of effective medical and surgical care of patients.
A memorial service will be held at a later date to celebrate his amazing life.