Of gavels and goals
When Gayle E. Woodson, MD, passed me the gavel at the Annual Meeting Opening Ceremony in Dallas last month, she was symbolically putting our Academy into my hands, which is a solemn trust. The Academy’s many strengths include the strategic plan, responsiveness to external forces affecting otolaryngologists, staff support, and finances.
By Sujana S. Chandrasekhar, MD, AAO-HNS/F President
When Gayle E. Woodson, MD, passed me the gavel at the Annual Meeting Opening Ceremony in Dallas last month, she was symbolically putting our Academy into my hands, which is a solemn trust. The Academy’s many strengths include the strategic plan, responsiveness to external forces affecting otolaryngologists, staff support, and finances. The obvious role of the president is to ensure, along with our EVP/CEO James C. Denneny III, MD, that actions of the Executive Committee and Boards of Directors remain true to our vision—empowering otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons to deliver the best patient care. The other, more personal, roles of the president involve functioning as the Academy’s face to Members, the greater House of Medicine, legislators and regulators, and the public, and also as a mentor and advisor to, and advocate for, other otolaryngologists.
I have reflected this year on how I got here. It’s a lifelong path with three essentials: showing up and working hard, persevering, and being supported by family and colleagues. My family came to the United States from India in 1969. My otolaryngology residency at NYU was an experience made even richer because one of my professors was Hosakere K. Chandrasekhar, MD, my father. During my fellowship in otology/neurotology at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles, I had the great fortune to work with my friends and mentors Karen Jo Doyle Enright, MD, PhD, the late Antonio De La Cruz, MD, Derald E. Brackmann, MD, M. Jennifer Dereberry, MD, and John W. House, MD. After two full-time faculty appointments in New Jersey and New York from 1994 through 2004, I entered solo private practice in New York City, to which I have now added part-time positions at the VA and the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Along the way, I have been fortunate in having a loving and supportive family: my husband and four children ages 19, 18, 16, and 10. Experiencing healthcare in various types of practices and a growing family has helped me understand the changes, challenges, and opportunities for otolaryngologists.
I began serving on Academy and BOG committees very early in my career. Woody Allen said that 80 percent of life is showing up. I did. The other 20 percent takes a bit more effort, and it is worth it. As BOG Chair, I held a three-year seat on the Academy’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors and one year on the Nominating Committee. There, our Academy’s breadth and depth shines, and is evident in the dedication of the physician volunteers and our outstanding staff, including prior EVP/CEO David R. Nielsen, MD, another mentor of mine.
I lost an election or two as I won some, but I never regretted putting myself “out there.” As a working mother of young(ish) children, adding Academy service to the juggling act is perhaps a bit more challenging. I have made it to as many games, competitions, recitals, and plays as possible, but my family understands my passion for my work. That support has been essential.
I heard this year that a dream told to others becomes a goal, and I believe it. Two years ago, I whispered to Nominating Committee Members Lauren S. Zaretsky, MD, and the late Linda Brodsky, MD, that I wanted to be Academy president. My AAO-HNS involvement and the experience of working with other dedicated physicians gave me confidence that I could make a difference. My goal this year is to further understand the shifting sands in healthcare delivery and physician assessment to help fellow otolaryngologists continue to succeed academically, clinically, financially, ethically, and with peace of mind. As such, I will work with the Registry Task Force to ensure that our new clinical data registry is user-friendly and clear; advocate for otolaryngologists; maintain and strengthen the relationship of the AAO-HNS with our subspecialty society siblings and our international corresponding societies; and champion diversity of all types.
I am the third doctor in my family, I was the third female House Ear Clinic fellow, and I am the third female AAO-HNS president. It is wonderful to have such role models. In the course of this year and onward, I hope to help other otolaryngologists articulate their dreams and reach their goals. I am humbled and proud to hold this gavel with its awesome responsibility to our Members. Throughout my presidency year, I look forward to hearing from you and working with you to keep otolaryngology-head and neck surgery the wonderful field that it is.