Greetings from the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

As I reflect on the accomplishments of our department in 2020, I struggle to find the appropriate words. With COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic, this past year challenged all of us in so many ways and is likely to be discussed for many years to come. But, surprisingly and thankfully, the year was also one of change and innovation—driving many of our teams to reevaluate how we provide patient care, complete life-altering research, share knowledge and grow our profession.

I cannot say enough about how proud I am of the tireless work and dedication shown by the members of our department. When the virus hit, we mobilized quickly to provide telehealth as an alternative to many outpatient visits, created a safe environment for patients who needed in-person care, and established a priority ranking system for surgical patients. Our faculty also found creative ways to continue offering training opportunities for medical students, residents and fellows during such an unprecedented time. Our entire team pulled together in ways we never had to before and I feel very fortunate to have gone through this experience with my colleagues at Ohio State.

Despite the hardships and restrictions created by COVID-19, I’m pleased to share that the Department of Otolaryngology has had a successful year. The medical center was once again named the “Best Hospital” in central Ohio, while our department was named #5 in the nation and #1 in the state by U.S. News & World Report. This recognition is truly a testament to our team’s dedication to advancing medicine through research, education and patient care and I commend them for their ongoing efforts.

We also recruited many exceptional clinicians during this trying year. Kyle VanKoevering, MD, and Ryan Nesemeier, MD, joined us in Skull Base Surgery and Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, respectively, while nurse practitioners Emily Pisut and Sara Jo Harbison joined us to expand our General ENT efforts. Bryan Martin, DO, and Tiffany Owens, MD, both joined our division of Allergy and Immunology, and we also welcomed Amy Manning, MD, and Prasanth Pattisapu, MD, to our Pediatric Otolaryngology team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

While COVID-19 caused issues in many capacities, it did provide our researchers the time to focus more on grant writing and submissions. Subsequently, our research funding portfolio grew by 38% between FY19 and FY20, which included a $4.16 million U01 grant earned by Oliver Adunka, MD, as well as a $7.5 million grant awarded jointly to Dan Merfeld, PhD, and other institutions by the Department of Defense. These grants will lead projects aimed at preserving natural hearing with less invasive surgical techniques, as well as unlocking the mysteries of spatial disorientation in flight.

I continue to be impressed by the clinical and surgical advancements made by our faculty and staff. Of note, I’d like to congratulate Eugene Chio, MD, who is now the #1 sleep implant surgeon in the world (based on volume of surgeries performed). Dr. Chio’s outstanding efforts (and recent innovative two-incision approach) have led our Sleep Surgery program to receive many accolades, most recently helping us become the #2 Inspire implant facility in the United States. This is a tremendous accomplishment and I thank him for his work.

In addition to clinical responsibilities, our faculty remains committed to embracing new leadership opportunities. We’re extremely proud that Minka Schofield, MD, has been selected to chair the Ambulatory Quality Committee and co-lead the Anti-Racism Planning Committee at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. We also commend Leslie Kim, MD, who was nominated as the vice chair and chair-elect for the Women in Facial Plastic Surgery Committee for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

I’d also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Ricardo Carrau, MD, who generously stepped up after I was asked to serve as interim dean for The Ohio State University College of Medicine last year. Dr. Carrau filled in where I could not, working diligently with our executive team on day-to-day department operations to ensure that our initiatives continued to progress. Furthermore, he skillfully navigated us through an unprecedented time in our medical center and nation’s history. I thank Dr. Carrau for his commitment and willingness to serve our team in this capacity and look forward to his contributions as our new vice chair of diversity.

The past year was remarkable and I hope that 2021 will be a year of happiness and health for us all. I also hope that it will be a year of further growth and success for our department as we continue developing our vestibular center, welcoming new faculty to the department, and adding our second Head and Neck fellow. Further departmental opportunities will arise with the introduction and evolution of several medical center ventures, including the addition of two new outpatient care facilities in Columbus; the opening of a new surgical skills lab; the construction of a new Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Center; and a new biomedical research facility.

While 2020 was challenging for us all, our department continues to flourish. My optimism for the future is only further buoyed by the arrival of the vaccine – an unparalleled achievement and the beginning of the end of the pandemic. I am honored to serve our department and look forward to guiding us in our advancement of the academic mission. On behalf of the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, I hope you enjoy our annual report. 


James W. Rocco, MD, PhD
Professor and Chair, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery 
The Mary E. and John W. Alford Cancer Research Chair in Head and Neck Cancer 
Director, Head and Neck Disease Specific Research Group