Published: June 29, 2022

The Magic You Possess

The good news is that every otolaryngologist possesses their own magic and their own magical toolkits. We offer hope and promise to our patients as well as to our mentees.

Ken Yanagisawa, MD AAO-HNS/F PresidentKen Yanagisawa, MD
AAO-HNS/F President
You can do magic
You can have anything that you desire
Magic, and you know
You’re the one who can put out the fire

I vividly recall visiting each of my five children’s kindergarten classes from the late 1990s to the early 2000s to perform a magic show. For one hour, the students would delight in the impossible and simply enjoy the moment. With each of the Yanagisawa kids, the magic show tradition was continued. There was glee and disbelief, surprise and joy. Even for the naysayers, a pessimistic attitude could be turned positive after a few tricks, and the magic became infectious. They became believers.

Fast forward to my attending years giving medical lectures. I often start a lecture by performing a quick trick to break the ice, give a moment of enjoyment, and stoke audience participation. This usually promotes an interactive lecture.

The beauty of magic is that many “new” tricks are actually based on older established concepts. I enjoy the refreshing updates and wrinkles as well as learning from the new and upcoming magicians who bring a fresh and novel approach to the field. I delight in listening to the audience explanations of the illusions that often surpass the reality of the magic. People’s imaginations run free and the creative explanations are fascinating. At least for a moment, people can be liberated from a day’s dread or turmoil. As Harry Houdini said, “There is nothing more contagious than exuberant enthusiasm.”

Inherent to the art of magic is the power of misdirection. Look here while the manipulation is performed there, unseen and undetected. When used for positive purposes, misdirection is such a powerful and beneficial tool. Now you see it. Now you don’t.

The good news is that every otolaryngologist possesses their own magic and their own magical toolkits. We offer hope and promise to our patients as well as to our mentees. The elements of our personalized magic include:

Magic of education. As scientists, we digest research studies. We are looked to by our patients, our staff, and our trainees as the messengers of truth and medical wisdom. Medical providers are trusted sources. The public often relies on word of mouth, or worse, the unpredictable data and tales of social media and inaccurate websites. Just look at the still ever-changing information surrounding COVID-19, which has created uncertainty confounded by emotional and political overtones. Our duty as physicians and caregivers is to present and convey the most up-to-date, proven information to help guide our patients who are confused, scared, and even angry as they try to protect themselves and their loved ones. 

Magic of surgery and healing. The miracles of otolaryngology include resurrecting “lost” senses like hearing, voice, and even at times anosmia, through various medical or surgical interventions. We can cure “deafness” through simple cerumen impaction removal. We aid our patients who carry angst and fear with the unknowns of their mass or tumor, and offer understanding and coping as diagnoses and treatment options are identified, explored, and explained. Bringing back hope to the hopeless is powerful medicine. 

Magic of expression. What we say matters. How we say it matters. And when we say it matters. As medical professionals our words inherently carry validity and powerful persuasive elements. Our nonverbal communication is often as important as the spoken word. Our patients view us as reliable, trustworthy sources of information, and it is vital for us to deliver our thoughts and expressions carefully and accurately. 

Medicine remains in a difficult place. We have a plethora of challenges with diminishing satisfaction and burnout, intermixed with social, national, and global turbulence, not to mention the ever-blossoming advocacy and regulatory concerns confronting physicians on a daily basis. 

With so many abounding stressors, we must all identify an element of our lives that brings us personal happiness. For me, magic fits this bill—both prestidigitation as well as the gift of human interaction—as a way to bring happiness and a moment of levity to people’s lives as well as my own. 

I utilize “magic dust,” aka “fairy dust,” in many of my magic tricks but do admit to sneaking a pinch for myself for any of my daily hardships and extreme challenges, as well as to aid my family’s health and life challenges. Share your magic with those around you. Abracadabra! 

More from July 2022 - Vol. 41, No. 6