Published: April 12, 2024

AAO-HNS 2024 Election: Candidate Statements

Review statements from the 2024 AAO-HNS Annual Election candidates to learn more about each candidate.


Questions posed to the candidates:

  • What is the Academy’s greatest challenge, and how would you address it?
  • What do you view as the most important items for the Academy’s 2025 strategic plan, and why?

Eugene G. Brown, III, MD, RPh Candidate: AAO-HNS/F President-electEugene G. Brown, III, MD, RPh
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F President-elect
Eugene G. Brown, III, MD, RPh

The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery is the home for the specialty of otolaryngology and the voice for otolaryngologists across the world. It is imperative that we stand together and support our Academy through membership and volunteerism. Specialty unity is the most important issue for the Academy today as we are simply too small of a specialty to be splintered into weaker factions.

Numerous threats are present that challenge unity, and the membership dollar for medical societies is more competitive today than ever. Our field is more subspecialty-driven with each graduating residency class; and each subspecialty has its signature organization. Gender, racial, and cultural differences that make our specialty stronger and more reflective of the patient population we treat can at times detract from alignment. Dividing circumstances need to be addressed and stronger bridges built to continue to allow for otolaryngologists to come together under one unified organization.

The Specialty Unity Summit, where subspecialty otolaryngology organizations meet with Academy leadership twice annually, is an excellent model. We need similar dedicated, scheduled outreach with the Academy’s different sections and representatives from current special interest groups, such as DEI and international members, as well as those that will emerge over time. Increased involvement from representative groups will yield an atmosphere of collaborative energy and unity. Specialty unity is our greatest challenge and strengthening member relationships through collaboration should be a cornerstone of future strategic planning.

I have had the honor of being a stakeholder at the last two Academy strategic planning sessions in 2017 and 2021, and these experiences have sharpened my focus on vision and leadership. A plan is vital as we consider strategies to optimally position the Academy and specialty for the future. We must keep abreast of changing healthcare delivery models, monitor our evolving workforce, and ensure that we are delivering quality care, while also meeting the diverse and cultural needs of our communities. I am excited to perhaps again be a member of this task force and to shape the future of otolaryngology with the goal of restoring the joy associated with the practice of medicine.

We entered medicine to care for patients, but along the way have encountered many obstacles that lessen the satisfaction that we experience from this pursuit. These obstacles include administrative burdens and cumbersome electronic health records. Medicare participation now creates philosophical challenges as physicians must start to balance patient access versus financial viability. An increasingly employed workforce requires representation and support so physicians themselves can continue to direct and deliver care. These issues persist while burnout and physician wellness are ever more prescient concerns. We need strongly focused advocacy efforts by our Academy to work to overcome these obstacles and preserve the practice of medicine.

Otolaryngology needs a strong Academy. Medicine continues to be commoditized, more complicated and less doctor-driven. Member collaboration, specialty unity, and forward-thinking strategies will position us best for future success. It is these initiatives that will guide my presidency.

LaKeisha R. Henry, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F President-electLaKeisha R. Henry, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F President-elect
LaKeisha R. Henry, MD

The greatest challenge for the Academy is growing and sustaining membership while providing premier, valuable, and relevant tools and resources to navigate the ever-changing healthcare landscape. A collaborative approach involving all aspects of Academy leadership and membership is vital to engage members and master technology and research, while balancing education and advocacy. We must utilize our collective voices, enact change, expand membership, and embolden healthcare and specialty advocacy. A diversity, equity, and inclusion section within the Academy is crucial for growth and sustainment and overcoming these challenges. As members face challenges in career navigation, work-life balance, student or education debt management, and healthcare policy changes, the Academy must be a beacon of tangible value and a foundation of support. To maintain its relevance, we must unite through participation, action, advocacy, and engagement for better healthcare policies and membership growth. Our union and collective voice will ensure the Academy truly works for and represents each of us. A grassroots effort is needed to advocate for and emphasize specialty and patient needs through leveraged technology, research, and program content excellence. Increased advocacy efforts on all levels within the Academy and outside are necessary to promote healthcare policy change and initiatives in support of the specialty and patients. We must promote the value and relevance to every member and recruit potential members, students, and residents by implementing new policies, investing in staff development, exercising financial and fiduciary responsibility, and further fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

We must continue advocating for the needs of our members and patients, fostering inclusive diversity and education, ensuring a robust and representative workforce, incorporating research, and embracing and adapting to change. We must be proactive, flexible, vigilant, and attentive to overcome challenges and continue the advancement of our specialty and patient-centered care. The Academy's 2025 strategic plan must prioritize the business of medicine, diversity, equity, and inclusion, advocacy, education, and global outreach goals and initiatives. These areas of focus address the key challenges and opportunities in otolaryngology. The business of medicine initiatives and education platforms span professional development and practice management tools and resources essential to maintain viable practices and deliver the best patient care. Diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce, necessary efforts to attract, recruit, and retain underrepresented groups. Further education in cultural competency, humility, implicit bias, and healthcare disparities is necessary to provide the highest quality healthcare to all, but especially underserved and underrepresented communities. Advocating for policies and initiatives to raise public awareness about the importance of ENT health, overcoming barriers to patient-centered and highest-quality care, and sustaining diverse practice environments are underutilized avenues to fight for our specialty and ensure sustained, viable practices.  As the premier source for otolaryngology education, consistent, robust initiatives that support all facets of adult learning and relevant value-added content must be prioritized. Programs need to attract participation and encourage membership, and detailed, insightful plans to ensure the Academy's financial stability and long-term viability are necessary.

At-Large Director (Academic)

Questions posed to the candidates:

  • What unique attributes do you bring to the Board of Directors?
  • How would you unify Academy members around a new strategic plan and address issues of scope of practice, payer and regulatory concerns, and workforce challenges?

R. Peter Manes, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F At-Large Director (Academic)R. Peter Manes, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F At-Large Director (Academic)
R. Peter Manes, MD

For the past seven years, I have had the pleasure of serving as the AAO-HNS Coordinator for Advocacy, which afforded me a nonvoting seat on the Board of Directors. In this role, I have been at the heart of Medicare, private payer, and legislative issues faced by our specialty. This unique perspective allows me to reflect on the Academy’s wins, losses, bad policies we have prevented, and good policies we have championed. I also am keenly aware of the work we have left to do. In a world where our profession is constantly under attack, I would bring to the Board a seasoned ability to advocate for all otolaryngologists and our patients. And when I say all, I mean all. While I am an academic otolaryngologist, my wife is a private practice otolaryngologist. I recognize the interests and challenges of both models and would represent all facets of otolaryngology as a Board member.

In order to unify Academy members around a new strategic plan, we must first ensure that this plan addresses the issues that matter most to our membership. We have considerable data from member surveys delineating these issues: scope-of-practice expansions, restrictive payer policies, regulatory burdens, and workforce challenges are at the forefront. We must continue to invest heavily in advocacy efforts to ensure we remain the center of the healthcare team for all otolaryngology care. We need to empower the Board of Governors (BOG), Otolaryngology Private Practice Section (OPPS), and all members to raise payer concerns. We can only fight against those of which we are aware. I’ve seen how coverage and payment issues creep up like a game of Whac-A-MoleTM, and we need to stamp them out as soon as they emerge. We face many issues and even more opportunities. I would be honored to serve AAO-HNS members on the Board.

Yelizaveta (Lisa) Shnayder, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F At-Large Director (Academic)Yelizaveta (Lisa) Shnayder, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F At-Large Director (Academic)
Yelizaveta (Lisa) Shnayder, MD

My unique attributes, which I believe would be valuable to the AAO-HNS Board of Directors, are a dedication to organizing and advancing the needs of my colleagues and learners. My positions as Executive Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs within our Department of Otolaryngology and Chair of Women in Otolaryngology Section have provided me with many opportunities to hire, nominate, mentor, and sponsor otolaryngologists and help them succeed and advance in their roles. 

The Academy’s strategic plan defines two immediate areas of focus as “business of medicine” and “diversity, equity and inclusion,” while maintaining a pursuit of excellence in providing education opportunities for our members. These goals resonate deeply with me. I have worked on developing and growing our team of advanced practice providers in the inpatient and outpatient aspects of the academic otolaryngology practice and defining their roles and opportunities for growth that align with the needs and mission of our surgeons. From an education standpoint, I have served as a subgroup leader for head and neck oncology education on the Annual Meeting Program Committee. I am passionate about keeping AAO-HNS members abreast of the current developments in our specialty and selecting education opportunities valuable to all otolaryngologists. 

I firmly believe that diverse representation among otolaryngology physicians is important not only to patients but also for our future workforce. Not only have multiple research studies highlighted improved patient outcomes with providers who they culturally identify with, it is the right thing to do. Future prospective faculty and residents pay close attention to the makeup of existing faculty and residency bodies. Having physicians, healthcare workers, and leaders from diverse backgrounds at our institutions and practices speaks volumes to our specialty’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

At-Large Director (Private Practice)

Questions posed to the candidates:

  • What unique attributes do you bring to the Board of Directors?
  • How would you unify Academy members around a new strategic plan and address issues of scope of practice, payer and regulatory concerns, and workforce challenges?

Mary T. Mitskavich, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F At-Large Director (Private Practice)Mary T. Mitskavich, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F At-Large Director (Private Practice)
Mary T. Mitskavich, MD

I am reaching out to respectfully request your support for my candidacy as At-Large Director, Private Practice. I am confident that I possess the necessary qualifications to serve in this role and bring about positive change for our organization. 

As the founder and managing partner of a successful 10-physician private practice, I have encountered and overcome the challenges of being a solo practitioner and managed the growth of the practice. My experience in various leadership positions, including Vice- Chair of the Private Practice Study Group, Treasurer of the Otolaryngology Private Practice Section, many roles within our large hospital system, and as founding partner in two private surgical centers, has equipped me with a well-rounded and capable skill set.

As the At-Large Director, Private Practice, I hope to inspire each private practitioner to volunteer their time and/or make financial donations to the Academy and ENT PAC. These resources will enable us to better advocate for fair reimbursement and tackle regulatory challenges such as Merit-based Incentives Payment System (MIPS), prior authorization, and the lack of electronic medical record (EMR) interoperability.

During these times of inflation, I believe that fair private practice reimbursement can be achieved by advocating for higher Medicare rates, developing clinical integration networks, and offering tactical education of our providers, including our residents and medical students.  Educating residents and medical students on the merits of private practice is a priority on my agenda.

I will work closely with all Academy groups and committees, as collaboration is key. I am eager to put my experience, enthusiasm, fresh perspective, and innovative ideas to work in service of our members.  I am confident that I possess the skills and commitment necessary for the At-Large Director, Private Practice position. 

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Karen A. Rizzo, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F At-Large Director (Private Practice)Karen A. Rizzo, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F At-Large Director (Private Practice)
Karen A. Rizzo, MD

I feel I am uniquely qualified to represent private practice interests and advocate for important issues that impact the viability and success of all otolaryngology practice venues. I have started and run a small private practice successfully for over 20 years and understand the challenges professionally, financially, and personally that are necessary to manage a successful practice and provide high-quality care to patients in an efficient, compassionate, and comprehensive manner. I have held several leadership positions at both the state and national level including President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and Pennsylvania Academy of Otolaryngology, gaining significant advocacy experience engaging with state and federal legislatures on legislative, reimbursement, insurance reforms, and socioeconomic matters.

My recent experience as Chair of the Board of Governors (BOG) has given me insight, knowledge, and experience in utilizing the resources of our Academy to support and advocate for not only private practitioners but all otolaryngologists in various practice settings. The importance of collaboration among various practice venues to amplify concerns and challenges to facilitate change is essential to success. Optimizing collaboration and communication among the various Academy sections to reduce redundancy in efforts and streamline focused efforts to improve practice satisfaction is essential. Incorporating technology, bridging communication gaps between private practice and academic centers, and incorporating proven practice efficiencies to increase access to care and reduce overhead to sustain practice viability are vital. As a Regional Representative for the BOG and Otolaryngology Private Practice Section member, I will continue to work to improve communication between our state and national societies so successful outcomes can be achieved.

Nominating Committee: Academic

Questions posed to the candidates:

  • What experiences have you had that will allow you to identify a diverse set of candidates for Academy leadership?
  • What are the most important attributes you look for when nominating a member for leadership with the Academy? 

Heather A. Edwards, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Academic)Heather A. Edwards, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Academic)
Heather A. Edwards, MD 

A key part of my leadership roles has been identifying and uplifting talented individuals to create diverse leadership teams, both institutionally, as a Division Chief and Chair of Gender Equity, and nationally, with organizations such as the Women’s Head and Neck Reconstructive Surgery Consortium, NRG Oncology, and the American Head and Neck Society (AHNS). Through the networks I have built and my national experience in building strong and representative leadership teams, I feel well positioned to facilitate the identification of a diverse group of highly qualified candidates for Academy leadership.

The most important attributes that an AAO-HNS leader should have include a mission-driven approach and the ability to marry a forward-thinking, innovative mindset with a pragmatic approach to problem-solving and advocacy. Successful Academy leaders must also effectively represent our rich and varied membership, including diverse practice types, geographic areas, subspecialties and backgrounds, and be committed to building and sustaining a thriving, equitable, and inclusive culture in otolaryngology. 

Margo M. McKenna, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Academic)Margo M. McKenna, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Academic)
Margo M. McKenna, MD

I’ve been fortunate to serve in different capacities in the Academy, allowing me to interface with current and future leaders. As Chair of the Board of Governors (BOG) Governance and Society Engagement Committee, I spoke with Regional Representatives and state society leaders from across the country as we sought to reengage members after the pandemic. I am currently a methodologist on the Guidelines Development Task Force, and this has introduced me to a large group of otolaryngologists volunteering their time to ensure the highest standards for our specialty. In my involvement with four other Academy committees, I have worked closely with brilliant, motivated otolaryngologists who are the future of the Academy.

Important attributes include leadership experience locally and nationally, prior service in the Academy, and a willingness to commit time and energy to something beyond our own demanding practices and lives. Most importantly, the ability to see with a broad lens what challenges lie ahead and to develop strategies to work toward that vision.

Stephanie Misono, MD, MPH Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Academic)Stephanie Misono, MD, MPH
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Academic)
Stephanie Misono, MD, MPH  

Through AAO-HNS membership, professional roles on the East and West Coasts and in the South and Midwest, and participation in multiple AAO-HNS/F committees and local medical groups, I have learned from many different leaders, including academic, military, and private practitioners. As a result, I value diversity in leadership, conceptualized broadly to include sociodemographics, geography, practice types, expertise within/beyond otolaryngology, and leadership styles, ideally creating a mix of trusted established leaders and emerging leaders. A diverse set of candidates will facilitate Academy leadership that responds to key challenges and opportunities and effectively represents our membership.

I am energized by the idea of nominating AAO-HNS/F leaders who are open-minded, thoughtful, whole-hearted, reliable, collaborative, inspiring, and quick to amplify and recognize others. Nominees who integrate multiple objectives and points of view and who are willing to take measured risks will have an important impact on AAO-HNS member experiences and future strategic planning. We are fortunate to have many excellent current and future leaders throughout our membership. 

Thank you for considering me for the Nominating Committee, which is a meaningful opportunity to uplift colleagues, contribute to the experience of fellow Academy members, and foster a bright future for our specialty.

Robert P. Zitsch III, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Academic)Robert P. Zitsch III, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Academic)
Robert P. Zitsch III, MD

I am fortunate to have been afforded opportunities to serve in leadership roles as the Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology, Chief of Surgery of our healthcare system, and Chair of Practice Plan Committees within our School of Medicine. These roles, as well as continuous, active connection with various professional organizations including the American Head and Neck Society (AHNS) and our own AAO-HNS have enabled me to clearly recognize the value that strong, committed leadership brings to a professional organization. No doubt, our Academy has historically enjoyed considerable success by satisfying the many and varied needs of our diverse membership through judicious selection of principled and visionary candidates for leadership. As a member of the Nominating Committee, I will embrace the Committee’s charge to identify potential candidates who will bring value to our Academy.

Moreover, given our Academy’s commitment to serve the expansive interests of all otolaryngologists, including resident trainees and those with a subspecialty focus, I would dutifully seek candidates for Academy leadership who are cognizant and respectful of our diverse interests and membership. I am keenly interested in further serving our Academy in a capacity that will maintain its enduring relevance and am appreciative of your consideration for this position.

Nominating Committee: Private Practice

Questions posed to the candidates:

  • What experiences have you had that will allow you to identify a diverse set of candidates for Academy leadership?
  • What are the most important attributes you look for when nominating a member for leadership with the Academy? 

Daniel C. O’Brien, MD, MAS Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Private Practice)Daniel C. O’Brien, MD, MAS
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Private Practice)
Daniel C. O’Brien, MD, MAS

As a resident and then junior member of the Academy, I recall feeling overwhelmed and alone at the bigger meetings. Watching the sea of charcoal and navy suits flow by in the exhibition hall, I am sure my experience is not unique. We are all searching for where we belong in the Academy. Most of us don’t have a large social network, and making everyone feel welcome in the Academy is a herculean task. One of the few ways we can do so is by selecting leadership our members can identify with.  

When nominating a member to leadership, our mandate is twofold: to identify the best candidates and identify who will best represent our membership. There is such incredible diversity within our Academy and multitudes of potential leaders. When assessing a candidate, they first need to be able to complete the assignment from both a skill and availability standpoint. When comparing equivalent candidates, however, it is our duty to select the voice that will bring a unique perspective to leadership. Again, we are all trying to find where we belong. By broadcasting our unique, diverse voices, we make ourselves more approachable and welcoming as an Academy. 

Annette M. Pham, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Private Practice)Annette M. Pham, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Private Practice)
Annette M. Pham, MD

Being actively involved in local and regional medical societies, I have served on nominating committees. Identifying a diverse set of candidates requires one to thoughtfully seek out colleagues with differing perspectives and backgrounds and call them to action. As a woman, wife, dance/hockey/soccer mom, and facial plastic surgeon/otolaryngologist, I wear many hats. I have unique insight and perspective on the qualities and character traits that contribute to a productive team. With these experiences, I am ready to serve the Academy.

BE REAL. Simply put, a fundamental attribute I look for in a leader is someone who is authentic—someone who is real. The letters also stand for important traits. “B” is big picture—a leader sees the big picture, a vision that can become a reality. “E” is empowering; an ideal leader can empower their team to achieve high goals. “R” is for responsible. Another “E” is for engaged. I want a leader who is engaged and invested in the success of the organization. “A” is adaptable. A leader can adapt to challenges and help steer the team through any obstacles. Finally, “L” is for loyal and likeable. These are my criteria for future leadership positions. 

David M. Yen, MD Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Private Practice)David M. Yen, MD
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Nominating Committee (Private Practice)
David M. Yen, MD

Thank you in advance for your support! If you are reading this, you are an active member of our Academy who is likely to vote. And now more than ever, we need the engagement of as many of us as possible!

I recognize the importance of the Nominating Committee in selecting candidates for leadership, and I look forward to this responsibility. I always rely on my breadth of experience and ability to consider the perspective of others in all aspects of my life, personal and professional. I will continue to do so when seeking to identify candidates who best represent the diversity in our specialty, inclusive of background, interests, and practice settings. Our leadership should mirror us.

Regarding leadership, I believe it is critical to have deliberate goals, and even more critical to have a practical pathway to accomplish them. I will seek members to nominate who can clearly define how they intend to meet the strategic needs of our Academy and specialty—our needs. Here’s to our future together!

Audit Committee

Question posed to the candidates:

  • What qualifications or experience allow you to be an effective member of the Audit Committee of the Academy?

Art A. Ambrosio, MD, MBA Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Audit CommitteeArt A. Ambrosio, MD, MBA
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Audit Committee
Art A. Ambrosio, MD, MBA

A core ethos in my career, spanning from active duty to Naval Reserve service and beyond, is “Ship, Shipmate, Self.” I have been an active member and advocate on behalf of AAO-HNS, prioritizing it in my career as my “Ship” since early in my surgical residency, serving on the Board of Governors (BOG) Legislative Affairs and Governance & Society Engagement Committees. This experience has helped me to understand and protect the strategic mission of our Academy on a local, state, and federal level. 

I have served proudly as a Past Chair and am currently an active member on the Audit Committee for the past three years—overseeing the audit process of our Academy’s financial statements, inclusive of assets, expenses, and cash flow. My background includes completing formal business administration training at Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  

I am looking to continue to leverage my strengths, energy, and passion to serve the Audit Committee—ensuring transparency and attention to detail to ensure that our precious resources are properly supporting the mission of the Academy and its members.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my candidacy!

Ashutosh Kacker, MD, MBBS, MS Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Audit CommitteeAshutosh Kacker, MD, MBBS, MS
Candidate: AAO-HNS/F Audit Committee
Ashutosh Kacker, MD, MBBS, MS 

I value financial accountability and transparency and I would be honored by the opportunity to serve on the Audit Committee. This service opportunity both represents a chance to give back to AAO-HNS and aligns well with my own experience, values, and passions.

The Audit Committee plays a critical role in ensuring the financial integrity and accountability of the Academy. By serving on this committee, I can have a direct impact on the Academy’s financial wellbeing and contribute to its long-term stability and success.

I have served a similar role with the American Rhinologic Society (ARS) as a member of the Audit Committee in addition to my experience as both a member and Past President of The American Association of Otolaryngologists of Indian Heritage. I serve as the current representative to the General Faculty Council at my home institution. In this capacity, I represent the department regarding critical budget and strategic planning decisions for the medical school and hospital.

The opportunity to serve on the AAO-HNS Audit Committee provides a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the financial operations of the institution and make a positive impact on the Academy. It would be an honor to serve the Academy in this capacity.

My commitment to the importance of financial accountability and transparency and my serving on the Audit Committee align well with my values and passions. Running again for the Audit Committee is an opportunity to make a positive impact on the institution.

More from April 2024 – Vol. 43, No. 4