Message From the Chair

Noting Our Accomplishments

I am pleased to report some recent high-impact accomplishments among the outstanding faculty in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. Jennifer Grandis and her team have shown that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) given to patients with head and neck cancer who have a PIK3CA mutation have improved survival. They published a paper in the January 25, 2019 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine that says the survival improvement is substantial: Regular NSAID use increased survival from 25 to 78 percent. Precision medicine is a compelling strategy for future practice, and UCSF is dedicated to elucidating these types of meaningful improvements in treatment through molecular biology-based treatment techniques, human biome research, and tumor sequencing.

In neuroscience, UCSF Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery is also having great impact. “How Does Music Affect Your Brain? Every Imaginable Way” is the title of an article in the March 16, 2019 issue of Wired. The article features Charles Limb and describes his work on musical improvisation and how that is reflected during active functional MRI.

David Conrad has developed a wireless tracheostomy alarm and respiratory monitoring system, which has great potential for improving pediatric patient care. His efforts were recognized when he won one of five top prizes in the UCSF Stanford Pediatric Device Consortium (PDC) pitch competition.

Meanwhile, Dylan Chan has been honing his approach to studying cochlear physiology, Omar Akil has been continuing his work on using an adenovirus to deliver genetic therapies to treat deafness, and Andrea Hasenstaub and Christoph Schreiner are studying central auditory pathways in the brain.

All of this work takes diligence, insight…and funding. For 2018, the Department of Otolaryngology was again number one in NIH funding for departments of OHNS in the US, and UCSF Medical School was number one in NIH funding among medical schools. Our research can be translated into advancements in clinical care, and the clinical care that our department provides is also rapidly advancing.

UCSF Health is heavily investing in its health network, and OHNS has been highly active in improving access and providing outreach to our region. June, 2019 will mark the one-year anniversary since our thriving Berkeley location opened at 3100 San Pablo Avenue. If you have a patient who lives in the East Bay and needs our help but does not want to cross a bridge, our Berkeley location is a convenient alternative.

Much other meaningful work is in progress, and we will report on that in future issues of Head’sUp! Meanwhile, in the pages of this issue I invite you to read about Marika Russell’s work at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG). Dr. Russell, chief of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and medical director for surgical specialties at ZSFG, has a strong focus on addressing outcomes and health disparities in the unique patient population seen there. Unlike patients seen at other UCSF locations, the patients at ZSFG often have a whole set of needs that need to be addressed. As you’ll read, that presents an entirely different set of challenges when developing surgical plans, for example.

An article about José Gurrola II, our John A. Watson Faculty Scholar, also addresses a desire to focus on the diversity of people as he works in both the clinical and research sides of otolaryngology. Dr. Gurrola’s current research involves chronic sinusitis, which is leading him to work with other departments and teams at UCSF and allows him to collaborate with top scientists beyond OHNS to gain the outcomes he needs for his research.

In this issue, you’ll also learn more about our stellar Voice and Swallowing Center, which provides state-of-the-art care to address a range of voice and swallowing problems including swallowing, breathing and voice conditions, neurologically-based vocal problems as well as conditions caused by cancer treatment. The center is even stronger now that Sarah Schneider is serving as co-director alongside Clark Rosen.

Finally, I hope to see you at one or more of the many exciting events coming up this spring and fall, including the Lewis Francis Morrison Endowed Lectureship on May 23, which will feature Milan Amin, MD, our esteemed colleague from New York University, speaking on “Laryngopharyngeal Reflux – Update and Perspectives”. We are also honored to have Neal D. Futran, MD, from the University of Washington, presenting the Francis A. Sooy, MD Lecture on June 8. Dr. Futran will give two presentations: “Advances in Midface Reconstruction” and “Patients are First: One Surgeon’s Journey in the New World of Health Care Measures and Service.”


Andrew H. Murr, MD, FACS
Professor and Chair
UCSF Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery