Published: March 15, 2024

Finding Our “Swing” as an Academy

Together, we can unite through our differences and pull our collective boat in the same direction to find our “swing.” Together we are one.

RowingI view the AAO-HNS/F as the place we come together, from varied backgrounds, life journeys, interests, training, and beliefs, to not only define and protect our specialty, but to change the lives of patients we may never meet. My goal this year remains to create opportunities for all members of the Academy to make contributions and empower innovation and patient care, and to engineer pathways for underserved and underrepresented people to join our ranks. I liken our potential to the story of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The most fascinating component of the story is how coach Al Ulbrickson and nine men leveraged their different skills and attributes to create “swing” in a crew shell to win the gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. I believe the AAO-HNS/F can come together in much the same way.

The newly appointed Environmental Sustainability Task Force met for the first time on February 7, 2024. Amanda E. Dilger, MD, Neelima Tummala, MD, John P. Bent III, MD, Regan W. Bergmark, MD, MPH, M. Lauren Lalakea, MD, Duncan A. Meiklejohn, MD, and Cristen E. Olds, MD, gathered virtually to set an agenda that will engage existing committees and sections to address the Academy’s position on environmental issues and make recommendations to the Board of Directors. These physicians are looking to create awareness of the damaging effects of desflurane in ambulatory surgery centers and to present more viable options for improved patient safety while protecting staff, patients, and the environment. Air quality, device reprocessing, device utilization guidelines, and a standardized curriculum to educate future otolaryngologists on environmental issues and solutions, as well as exploring possible membership in the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, will occupy the task force this year. Quoting George Pocock, the now-famous crew shell builder in The Boys in the Boat, “It isn’t enough for the muscles of a crew to work in unison: their hearts and minds must also be as one.” Indeed, the hearts and minds of the physicians on the Environmental Sustainability Task Force meet this standard. I look forward to their contributions.

Members of the Board of Governors (BOG) have been tasked with increasing engagement in “everything advocacy” for the AAO-HNS. Rebuilding the State Tracker Program has surfaced as a new priority. Groups competing with otolaryngologists are working in several states to create bills and policies to increase their scope of practice at the expense of our members, our specialty, and most importantly, our patients. Our Advocacy team works diligently to build coalitions to prevent such “scope creep” and relies heavily on members living in all 50 states to keep us up to date on new and recurring challenges. If you are interested in supporting these efforts, please contact the Advocacy team via or sign up to join the ENT Advocacy Network. Through the State Trackers program and infrastructure, members can protect the interests of otolaryngologists in their state and provide consistent information for national initiatives. Referring to the 1936 crew team, Pocock says, “Having complete confidence in one another, they would bound on the stroke with one powerful cut.” This is the goal of our BOG—to be the “stroke” that engages many of you in this necessary effort.

We heard from members across the country and in all styles of practice that on-call compensation is nonuniform and on-call burden is contributing to physician stress and burn-out. We tasked the Otolaryngology Private Practice Section (OPPS), the BOG, and Physician Payment Policy (3P) Work Group to update the 2021 Position Statement on Call Compensation. In just two weeks’ time, these three groups solicited input from members and produced an important document. Not only can this Position Statement be used for members to define on-call parameters, but it will be a working document for continuous improvement based on input from all sections in the Academy. Again quoting Pocock, the engaged group showed the “harmony, balance, and rhythm” that can only occur by working in unison on a common goal. Please tune in to the panel presentation on call compensation, which we anticipate will be part of the virtual BOG Spring Meeting.

Finally, the developing Otolaryngology Core Curriculum (OCC) represents the convening power of the AAO-HNSF to unite our committees and otolaryngology program directors to create a standardized, unified curriculum that will ensure the essentials of our specialty are delivered to trainees in usable and relevant formats. Sonya Malekzadeh, MD, representing the Otolaryngology Program Directors Organization, and Jeffrey P. Simons, MD, MMM, representing AAO-HNSF, will work with the OCC Editorial Board and the Education Steering Committee, led by Meredith Merz Lind, MD, AAO-HNSF Coordinator for Education, to ensure that the two-year program delivers the required essentials for trainees. Learners can also level-up their learning by adding FLEX, our flagship education program, for a nominal fee. The potential for the OCC to also reach practicing physicians, advanced practice clinicians, and the global otolaryngology community only adds importance to this orchestrated program development cycle.

“To be of championship caliber, a crew must have total confidence in each other, able to drive with abandon, confident that no man will get the full weight of the pull,” says Pocock. Bringing together the full power of our members to ensure a uniform curriculum to benefit otolaryngologists from around the world is evidence of the confidence we have in each other, the drive to be excellent for our patients, and belief that together we will “get the full pull.”

I believe we can unite through our differences, convene on behalf of each other, and build a specialty that makes us all proud to be otolaryngologists. I truly visualize us all pulling our collective boat in the same direction and finding our “swing.” Together we are one.

More from April 2024 – Vol. 43, No. 4