Letter from the Chair


Howard W. Francis, MD, MBA
Howard W. Francis, MD, MBA, FACS

Since our establishment as an independent department in 2019, Duke Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences (HNS&CS) has embarked on a determined journey of growth, achievement and impact in the realms of research, education, patient care, and community engagement. Our recent graduation was a special opportunity to celebrate as a learning community that extends well beyond the Gothic walls and terraced gardens at Duke. 

In June 2023, we had the honor of hosting the Alumni Research Symposium, a momentous occasion when we welcomed our department's esteemed alumni and celebrated the graduating class of 2023. The event was filled with captivating presentations from our graduating chief residents and fellows, as well as a selection of presentations by mid-level residents who showcased ongoing projects with the potential for impressive impact and professional development. Additionally, we had the privilege of witnessing the remarkable work of medical students funded by our NIH R25 training grant. Their dedication and contributions to the field were truly inspiring.

During the event, we were fortunate to have Marisa Ryan, MD, an alumnus, share valuable insights on the career journey. Furthermore, Steve Eliades, MD, PhD, delivered an outstanding faculty research talk about his research program which studies speech production in primates. The highlight of the program, however, was the prestigious Dr. William Hudson lecture, which was delivered by Debara Tucci, MD, MBA, a former faculty member and the current Director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Her expertise and insights greatly enriched our vision of how practice is being shaped by research and a diverse workforce, both of which are priorities of the Department.

I am delighted to inform you that we were also joined by the family of the late Dr. Samuel Fisher, who officiated the giving of customized loupes to our PGY-1 residents, a tradition that he enjoyed on his own initiative as a faculty member, and is now made possible through the establishment of the Samuel R. Fisher, MD, Memorial Fund for Resident Education. We extend our deepest gratitude to the Fisher family and all the family friends and Otolaryngology alumni who demonstrated their support and commitment to the education and development of our residents, and the continuation of this tradition by donating to this fund.

As you peruse this edition of our quarterly medical publication, Connections, I hope you feel a sense of pride and inspiration. Our department is committed to nurturing a new generation of Otolaryngology residents who are dedicated to bridging knowledge and service gaps in medical care, including those experienced by marginalized communities. Our efforts extend globally, with ongoing initiatives focused on improving healthcare in places like Alaska, Vietnam and South Africa. Moreover, our research endeavors aim to enhance treatments for patients with hearing loss, advance facial reanimation techniques, and address risk factors for head and neck cancer outcomes and survivorship. These remarkable achievements are just the beginning of our bright and promising future.

With each passing year, we have witnessed the remarkable growth and impact of our department. As we reflect on our journey since becoming the Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Science in 2019, I hope you share in my optimism for the future. The contributions of our alumni, current faculty, residents, and graduating class serve as a testament to our collective vision and dedication to excellence.

I extend my heartfelt appreciation to each and every one of you for your unwavering support and commitment to our department. Together, we will continue to push the boundaries of knowledge, transform patient care, and make a lasting impact on the field of Otolaryngology.

Wishing you all continued success and fulfillment in your endeavors.


Howard W. Francis, MD, MBA, FACS
Richard Hall Chaney, Sr. Distinguished Professor of Otolaryngology
Chair, Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences
Chief of Medical Staff, Duke University Hospital