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Pushing the limits of discovery

The culture of research is rich and runs deep in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. With two basic science labs focusing on head and neck cancer, and auditory biophysics and a number of other research programs exploring health economics, patient safety, quality improvement, big data, simulation and competency based education, the Department is invested in the future of health care and medical education through discovery.

Dr. Sumit Agrawal who serves as the Research Director credits Dr. John Yoo for this research focus. The Chair/Chief of the Department for 10 years, Dr. Yoo implemented a strategic plan to aggressively recruit new faculty members with research expertise and interests.

Part of this recruitment included two surgeon scientists – Dr. Anthony Nichols and Dr. Agrawal, who in turn partnered with basic science researchers, established two full basic science labs, and quickly began attracting graduate trainees, while receiving significant funding – including grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“John’s vision was to have basic scientists collaborating with clinicians and for the Department to look at every opportunity to do collaborative work with basic science departments,” said Dr. Agrawal.

In addition to this, Yoo recruited other young faculty members with complementary interests including education, policy, health administration, epidemiology, technology.

Of course the recruitment was the first step in Dr. Yoo’s plan. He encouraged greater involvement by faculty to engage with students through the School’s well established summer research training programs.

He was also quick to establish stretch goals including number of publications, peer review grants and internal funding – all with a goal to achieve the Department’s overall growth plans.

While some may have considered this a risk, it has paid off and then some.

And the numbers tell the story.

In the past year, the Department published 46 unique journal articles, two case reports and three book chapters. They also attracted 10 grants totaling more than $1.3 million. 

Although a small Department, the output and accomplishments have been extraordinary.

“It’s common knowledge that our Department is small but mighty,” said Dr. Kevin Fung, Chair/Chief. “Our per capita research output is the envy of other departments.”

The research vision established more than 10 years ago hasn’t changed and will continue under Dr. Fung’s leadership.

He believes part of the Department’s research success is their dedication and their commitment to collaboration, as well as their willingness to take risks.

“As the world around us continues to change in the next decade, I envision that our highly nimble department will continue to evolve to push the limits of discovery and lead the cutting edge in all areas of our specialty,” said Dr. Fung.