Published: April 12, 2024

Experiences of the 2023 URM Away Rotation Grant Recipients: Part 2

Four more grant recipients offer highlights from their rewarding away rotations in Michigan, California, Louisiana, and Kansas.

Abdiasis AbdilahiAbdiasis AbdilahiAbdiasis Abdilahi, University of Minnesota

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation for making this away sub-internship financially feasible. The challenge of managing the associated expenses, including travel, housing and more, was one of the most daunting aspects I faced. Since away rotations are not technically mandatory for graduation, I was unable to secure additional FAFSA loans to cover these costs. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been granted the URM Away Rotation Grant, which played a pivotal role in alleviating the financial burden associated with this rotation. I am deeply appreciative of the generous support I've received.

My time spent at the University of Michigan Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery can be best characterized by the word "fellowship." I was warmly embraced by the exceptional residents, fellows, and faculty. They provided me with all the tools I needed to succeed and offered support and encouragement. This environment allowed me to focus on my clinical responsibilities, demonstrate my strong work ethic, and perform at the level of an intern. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know everyone in the department during work hours and further building bonds at social events outside of the hospital.

During my rotation, I spent one week working on various services including pediatrics, head and neck, consults, facial plastics, laryngology, rhinology, and sleep. On each service, I was afforded ample opportunities to work directly with attendings in both the operating room and clinic, with a strong emphasis on teaching and real-time feedback. Notably, my skills in flexible laryngoscopy improved significantly during the clinic. In the operating room, I noticed marked progress in handling delicate tissue during flap harvesting and suturing. This experience not only highlighted my abilities but also reinforced my love and passion for the intricate operations and pathology within otolaryngology.

Overall, I had an outstanding rotation, enriched by the mentorship of residents and faculty, and I am confident that these relationships will endure well beyond the rotation. I am honored and privileged to have received support from the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.

Frances Rodriguez LaraFrances Rodriguez LaraFrances Rodriguez Lara, Boston University

With the generous help of the AAO-HNSF Diversity Endowment URM Away Rotation Grant, I had the opportunity to rotate at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine in October. During this time, I rotated at UC Davis Medical Center with their two primary teams: Head and Neck and General Otolaryngology services.

I chose to pursue otolaryngology in large part because of the perfect balance between detail-oriented surgeries and clinical medicine, with a great emphasis on quality of life and functionality for patients. During my month-long rotation, I was exposed to the full scope of otolaryngology, including head and neck surgery, laryngology, rhinology, otology, facial plastics, and pediatric otolaryngology.

The first half of my rotation I rotated with the inpatient general team and had the opportunity to work with faculty in a variety of clinics, including the Voice and Swallowing Center and craniofacial clinic. This hands-on experience in the clinic honed my physical examination skills, from proficient use of the otoscope to adeptly palpating the neck, all while navigating a diverse array of pathologies. I participated in surgeries, including an ossicular chain reconstruction, pediatric laryngotracheal reconstruction, functional endoscopic sinus surgeries, mandibular fixation, among others. During the second part of the rotation, I rotated on the head and neck service, where I had the opportunity to care for patients in the inpatient floor and scrub in for complex tumor resections and reconstructions.

This rotation gave me the wonderful opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills in otolaryngology. This award also gave me the chance to see the differences in practice at another institution, with different pathologies and patient population. Furthermore, this award provided me with confidence and reassurance.

Thank you for this invaluable opportunity, and I look forward to the continued growth and collaboration with the Academy throughout my career.

Julio Hidalgo LopezJulio Hidalgo LopezJulio Hidalgo Lopez, Emory University

Receiving the AAO-HNSF Away Rotation Grant for URM students allowed me the opportunity to complete a visiting student acting internship at Tulane University School of Medicine in September 2023. During my time in New Orleans, I rotated through the otolaryngology service at Tulane University Medical Center and Ochsner Hospital.

During my month-long rotation, I was exposed to general otolaryngology, neurotology, head and neck surgery, reconstructive facial plastic surgery, laryngology, rhinology, and pediatric otolaryngology. One of the things that drew me to otolaryngology in the first place was the positive quality of life impact that the field offers to patients, and I was able to observe this throughout my experience.

My rotation was very hands-on, and I had the opportunity to scrub into and assist in surgical cases almost every day. Some of the cases I assisted with included total laryngectomy, neck dissection, neck exploration, cochlear implantation, tympanoplasty, suspension direct laryngoscopy with photoablation, functional endoscopic sinus surgery, and adenotonsillectomy. After some time with the residents, fellows, and attending otolaryngologists, I was trusted with more responsibility and had the opportunity to raise an anterior lateral thigh flap with guidance.

In the clinic, I saw patients independently, performed head and neck exams, and devised differential diagnoses and planned next steps. With prompt constructive feedback from attending otolaryngologists, my clinical acumen continued to grow. Additionally, I had the opportunity to practice procedural skills and performed many flexible laryngoscopy exams as well as my first rigid laryngoscopy exam. By the end of my rotation, I felt comfortable performing flexible laryngoscopy exams independently in the office.

Completing this away rotation helped me further increase my skills in otolaryngology. The exposure to a different hospital system, patient population, and practice patterns was a valuable experience that helped expand my knowledge of the field while giving me insight into the day-to-day functions of a residency program different from my home program. I am thankful to the Academy and to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for providing me with this grant. I am excited for my future career as an otolaryngologist and look forward to contributing to the Academy throughout my career.

Abdurrahman Al-Awady (far right)Abdurrahman Al-Awady (far right)Abdurrahman Al-Awady, University of Miami

With the gracious support of an AAO-HNSF Diversity Endowment URM Away Rotation Grant, I had the invaluable opportunity to immerse myself in a visiting student rotation at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) throughout last October. During this period, my focus was on active participation within the otolaryngology service at the University of Kansas Hospital.

What initially drew me to otolaryngology was the death of a father figure of mine to tongue cancer and a desire to help those who come from a similar background as me. Throughout my month-long rotation at KUMC, I explored the various specialties of otolaryngology, ranging from pediatric general otolaryngology, laryngology and voice disorders, general otolaryngology, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery to head and neck surgery, rhinology and skull base surgery, and otology and lateral skull base surgery.

The initial phase of my rotation involved immersive experiences with the head and neck, otology, and facial plastics and reconstructive services. Transitioning to the latter two weeks, I collaborated extensively with the pediatrics, laryngology, rhinology, sinus, and skull base surgery services. This hands-on engagement allowed me to actively contribute to various surgical cases, spanning from large fibula free flaps, paramedian forehead flaps, pectoral flaps, functional endoscopic sinus surgeries from DRAFs 1 through 3 to intricate facial reanimation procedures. I was able to actively participate with retracting and closing, and was given the opportunity to refine my suturing, learning new techniques along the way. 

Within the clinic setting, I assumed the responsibility of independently assessing patients, conducting meticulous otologic, rhinologic, and head and neck exams, formulating differential diagnoses, and crafting treatment plans for prevalent otolaryngological issues including otitis media, TMJ, CRS, and SCC of the nasal ala to name a few. I dedicated focused efforts to refine procedural skills, culminating in my ability to perform flexible laryngoscopy exams, anterior rhinoscopy, and the application of local anesthetic aiding in further diagnostics towards the end of my rotation. 

The significance of this away rotation lies not only in the refinement of my otolaryngology skills but also in the exposure to a distinct hospital environment, featuring diverse faculty and patient demographics. This unique experience provided valuable insights into the operational dynamics of an ENT residency program, something we rarely get to experience as medical students. And I could not be more grateful!

I extend my sincere gratitude to the Academy and Diversity and Inclusion Committee for their support through the travel grant, a pivotal factor in facilitating my exploration of varied interests within otolaryngology. My enthusiasm for the future of the field is unwavering, and I eagerly anticipate contributing to the Academy in the future as an otolaryngologist and to giving back to other underrepresented students as I was.

Thank you all so much again!

More from April 2024 – Vol. 43, No. 4