This presidential year has been special, and I would like to thank several people who have made it especially memorable. First, my wife, Lorraine, and very best friend. This year (and many others) would not have been possible without Lorraine’s intelligence, hard work, and faith.
This presidential year has been special, and I would like to thank several people who have made it especially memorable. First, my wife, Lorraine, and very best friend. This year (and many others) would not have been possible without Lorraine’s intelligence, hard work, and faith. I’d like to also thank Dipti Kamani, MD, for her devotion to our endocrine research. Thanks to AAO-HNS/F EVP/CEO James (Jim) C. Denneny III, MD, for his inspiring leadership extending from Reg-ent to the American Board of Otolaryngology and from advocacy to the American College of Surgeons. From global AAO-HNS/F initiatives in Beijing to the wellness and neural monitoring task forces, it has been an incredible year. Here are some of the lessons I learned from the people around me.
Feed and water the ideas of others
Mentor a person, and more importantly, mentor his or her idea. On rounds many years ago with William Montgomery, MD, a renowned Harvard head/neck surgeon, a quiet junior student commented on a surgical problem we were discussing. Generally, that would be the signal to subsequently crucify that student. Dr. Monty turned and said, “Yes Joe, that’s a great idea. I think we should do that.” I have never forgotten the positive influence a senior person can have if a junior person’s idea is considered, fed, and watered.
“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” — John F. Kennedy
Know yourself, be yourself
While striving for change is tremendously important, it is also important to recognize your own core resources. To identify what you love and to be able to ruthlessly follow, that is a recipe for success. For highly ranked Cornell medical students, otolaryngology was not considered a suitable vocation when I was going through school. Therefore, it wasn’t exactly encouraged. I needed to meet with the dean to discuss my interest in this small satellite field of otolaryngology.
“Be yourself … everyone else is already taken.”— Oscar Wilde
Several years ago when I was stressed because of work, I sought the advice of Jatin P. Shah, MD, PhD, one of my mentors. I was hoping he would give me “permission” to scale back. Unfortunately, he said, “Greg, you need to do more.” We are here on this planet once. If you have something to offer, it is your responsibility to offer it. Do it now. Sleep later.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am; send me!” — Isaiah 6:8
Things that worry us in retrospect are of little consequence. Uncontrollable bleeding and airway obstruction require action—everything else is paperwork. Be brave for your patients, be brave for your family. We all had that feeling on our first day of medical school that the person sitting to our left and the person to our right were the legitimate admissions and we were the unqualified mistake. You are not a mistake! If a dyslexic and very left-handed dude from a home on the other side of the tracks in Flushing Queens, NY, can become president of our Academy, all things are possible. Don’t be scared, step up.
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”— Mother Teresa
Remember your family … always
Family first, always. From when my children were eight years old, they accompanied me on a rotation: Greg Jr. first, then Benjamin, then Madeline, then back to Greg Jr. throughout the U.S. and around the world. They would come with me to the conference to be there in the auditorium for my lecture, and then I would abbreviate the rest of my conference commitments and basically go party with them. They could see what I do, what I am. I spent time with them in beautiful environments and introduced them to my wonderful colleagues all around the world. Be grateful; the past and future are only constructs—only the present is real. It takes just a moment to list the things for which we are grateful and how tender and precious children are, how precious every day is.
“Your children are not your children … You may house their bodies but not their souls … You are the bows from which your children … are sent forth … For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so he also loves the bow that is stable.”— Kahlil Gibran
I wish to thank again the Academy for the most humbling and meaningful honor that I have ever received working as your president this year.