Published: December 16, 2015

In Memoriam: Robert A. Sofferman, MD

Robert A. Sofferman, MD, passed away October 14, 2015, after fighting a valiant battle against multiple myeloma for nearly a decade. Most would have never known anything was wrong. He would always greet you with his contagious smile and direct the conversation to something other than himself.

Robert A. Sofferman, MDRobert A. Sofferman, MD

Robert A. Sofferman, MD, passed away October 14, 2015, after fighting a valiant battle against multiple myeloma for nearly a decade. Most would have never known anything was wrong. He would always greet you with his contagious smile and direct the conversation to something other than himself.

Dr. Sofferman was born and raised in New Jersey. He went to Lehigh University for his undergraduate studies and the University of Maryland for medical school. His residency was divided between the University of Colorado and the Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary.  He broke residency, serving three years in the U.S. Army in Berlin, Germany. Upon graduating from the Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary, he went to the University of Vermont where he spent his entire career. After being on faculty for two years, he was appointed division chief of otolaryngology, a position that he held for nearly three decades.

Most of us know him best for his expertise in endocrine surgery and head and neck ultrasound, but this man could do it all Dr. Sofferman could perform with proficiency a thyroidectomy, a laryngectomy, an optic nerve decompression, and resection an acoustic neuroma in the same week. He was a jack of all trades and excellent in everything he did.

Dedication to otolaryngology was constant throughout Dr. Sofferman’s career. He contributed to 67 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters. He was an active member in not only the Academy, but also was a major contributor to The Triological Society, the American Head and Neck Society, the American Laryngological Association, and the American Neurotology Society.  He also was a Board Examiner for the American Board of Otolaryngology.

Dr. Sofferman was one of the most progressive thinkers when it came to the importance of ultrasound to our specialty. He realized the value it added to our patient care, especially when done as surgeon-performed point-of-care-ultrasound. With that being said, he did not want to be a dabbler in the technology. He wanted to make sure that his ultrasound exam was of as high a quality as that of any radiologist. To accomplish this goal, he reached out to Anil Ahuja, MD, (radiologist with expertise in head and neck ultrasound) in Hong Kong and spent significant time learning the nuances of performing and interpreting head and neck ultrasound from him. All of us are the benefactors of this dedication and passion as Dr. Sofferman was the driving force behind quality educational opportunities and the accreditation process that exist for head and neck surgeons today.

He was a renaissance man. He pursued a variety of interests outside of medicine with the same exacting approach. He was an avid angler, golfer, and photographer. He treasured the times he spent with his friends in these activities. Dr. Sofferman cherished his family life too as husband to Barb and parent to Rebecca and Brooke.

Otolaryngology-head and neck surgery was fortunate to have him as one of our own.


More from December 2015/ January 2016 - Vol. 34, No. 11

BOG will ‘bring home the Academy’ to you
By David Edelstein, MD, BOG Chair Hockey fans know that each year the winners of the Stanley Cup get a chance to touch the Cup when the winning team gets to “Bring Home the Cup.” This is an exciting moment for local fans, and I remember being taken by my dad many years ago to see the Cup firsthand when the Bruins won it. Seeing the Cup makes the win tangible and the moment memorable. Just as the Bruins brought home the Stanley Cup to the Boston of my youth, the Academy’s Board of Governors (BOG) can help “bring home the Academy” to you. Some people have the mistaken idea that the Academy’s and Foundation’s only function is to run the Annual Meeting once a year. Although the recent meeting in Dallas was a success, it represents only a small part of what the AAO-HNS/F does for you every day. A lot goes on at the Academy during the year about which you need to be informed. Hence, one of the major goals of the BOG this year is to “bring home the Academy” by helping Academy Members and local BOG governors stay up to date on what the Academy is doing by providing handouts and slide shows on a quarterly basis highlighting topics of interest to local societies. The BOG serves an important role in ensuring that the day-to-day issues you face in your practice remain front and center on the Academy’s agenda. For example, this past year the BOG’s Legislative Affairs Committee collated reports on issues of local concern from 110 otolaryngologists in 42 states and organized 40 local In-district Grassroots Outreach (I-GO) meetings with federal lawmakers. Similarly, the Socioeconomic and Grassroots (SEGR) Committee heard presentations on socioeconomic issues affecting our specialty from all 10 regions of the country. Appropriately, part of SEGR stands for “grassroots” (GR), and the Committee will be conducting two polls for 2015-2016 regarding feedback on the Affordable Care Act (polling in December 2015) and ICD-10 (polling in March 2016). The BOG’s Rules and Regulations committee was recently renamed Governance and Society Engagement in keeping with its new mission to help energize local societies and build a framework to develop new state societies where none exist. Did you know that there are five states with no local societies? The newly named committee will help to build virtual societies with Internet-based platforms for these states so that otolaryngologists can talk about local problems, especially in those geographic areas where in-person meetings are not easily accomplished. Spring Leadership Meeting  The BOG also helps organize the Academy’s annual conference on leadership, scheduled for March 18-21, 2016, in Alexandria, VA. The AAO-HNS/F 2016 Leadership Forum & BOG Spring Meeting is open to any Academy Member, in addition to BOG governors and local society representatives. The conference program includes exciting luncheon speakers on such topics as where medicine is going, how to be a leader in medicine, and the current political environment on medical issues in Washington, DC. In addition, there will be many interesting panels on building leadership skills; on how to write a business plan; how to write a letter to insurance companies; RegentSM, the Academy’s new ENT clinical data registry; and how to set your career pathway. We hope that your local BOG governors help you to reconnect with the AAO-HNS and that the “bring home the Academy” project enables you to find ways in which the Academy can be useful to you every day. See you in March!