Published: June 10, 2022

Graduation Joys and Wishes

Thank you to all our residents and healthcare providers who have given so much during a time of such dire need.

Ken Yanagisawa, MD AAO-HNS/F PresidentKen Yanagisawa, MD
AAO-HNS/F President

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
- Confucius

Graduation celebrations abound in this spring of 2022! There is certainly much to be grateful for as we see our graduates complete their studies, enduring and overcoming incredible challenges and restrictions due to the pandemic with so many difficult modifications to their educations and experiences.

Our family recently celebrated our youngest son’s college graduation where hope and excitement filled the air. The magnitude of this achievement was matched by the relief that they had successfully navigated through these turbulent COVID-19 times. Most importantly, they rejoiced in celebrating in person filled with congratulatory hugs, with loved ones in attendance, and with physically receiving their well-earned diplomas from their dean and educators. 

Similar sentiments are occurring with the graduation of our otolaryngology residents. As we congratulate them and wish for their success, we should reflect and appreciate their incredible work over the past two years. Our residents tackled the initially unknown perils and behavior of COVID-19, front-line workers who bravely and courageously cared for our patients armed often only with personal protective equipment and caution. They had to manage their own personal emotions and health as they were exposed, and at times infected, as well as to grapple with how to keep their own loved ones and families safe as they proceeded to fight the battle to help others in need. Thank you to all our residents and healthcare providers who have given so much during a time of such dire need. 

Individually, we have each had to reflect on our own expectations and values in this profession that had previously brought so much fulfillment and satisfaction in light of health concerns and exposures. This balancing act has created turmoil and has certainly challenged each one of our states of wellness and work/life balance. Fortunately, for most, we have reaffirmed the reasons we entered our noble profession to provide care and solace for our patients, doing so with utmost maintenance of safety and precautions to protect our patients, staffs, and providers. 

We must consider what impact this has on the vital next generation of physicians. I was stunned by a recent conversation with a medical student who informed me that more than a few of his classmates, as they neared graduation, had opted to not continue on to residency. After all the time, cost, and commitment that had been sacrificed to get to this point, they made the difficult decision to pursue other careers. 

Our mission is to help educate students in college and medical school alike the values and benefits of a career in medicine, and to set realistic and honest expectations. It is incumbent on us to explore, nurture, and develop opportunities for outreach, exposure, and education about otolaryngology. 

Dr. Albert Merati channeled interest and resources during his AAO-HNS presidency toward educating and exposing medical students to our world of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. Opportunities for students to understand life as an otolaryngologist have included well attended webinars, support at meeting attendance, and shadowing and mentorship opportunities. Our specialty has so much to offer, and we must continue to ensure that undergraduate and medical students alike recognize these offerings and opportunities. 

A critical piece of recruiting students to our specialty is to gain an accurate and up-to-date understanding of our own workforce in 2022, specifically demographic and socioeconomic information. To that end, please participate and complete the Workforce and Socioeconomic survey which will be distributed this summer. Armed with such information, we can understand the current climate, and develop plans for identified areas of improvement which may include provider, diversity and inclusivity, and regional needs. With numerous studies citing upcoming physician shortages, it is important for us to seek and mentor students who have interest in our field.

There is no question that medicine faces hurdles on many fronts, including regulatory oversight, payment models and quality expectations, and finding acceptable work/life balances, yet the underlying tenets of our profession in caring for and treating our patients remain so rewarding. We must identify and support students in understanding the values, rewards, and benefits of a career in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and help them navigate a successful course.

Congratulations to all our graduates and their families and for the wonderful challenges and successes that lie ahead. Your achievements and perseverance are admirable and truly appreciated. And we eagerly look forward to promoting our next generation of providers and leaders.

More from June 2022 - Vol. 41, No. 5