Message From the Chairman

Chairman’s Address: 50 Years

The Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery is 50 years old as a separate department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery (rather than a division of general surgery) this year, 2017. This amazing 50 year stretch of time has seen leadership from 5 department chairs and steady and consistent growth in our clinical, education, and research missions. The department has 43 full time faculty members, 20 residents, 3 Fellows, and is currently ranked #1 in the nation in NIH funding. On the clinical side, US News currently has the department ranked #10 in the nation and the medical center ranked #5 (which is best in the West). UCSF is amazingly cutting-edge with its spectacular laboratory partnerships to accomplish translational research, bringing the latest technology and personalized medicine to the forefront of patient centered problems. We try to bring that powerful collaboration to every patient visit- and we have a spectacular faculty carrying out all of our missions.

But how exactly did Francis A. Sooy, MD influence the change from division to department? 1967 was the “Summer of Love”, a new “spacious” 12 bed intensive care unit opened at Moffitt Hospital fully equipped with Venetian blinds, and the old medical school underwent demolition. The Chancellor was newly appointed: Willard Corwin Fleming, DDS who had been the Dean of the dental school and then the Vice Provost. Dr. Fleming began his career at UC in 1918. The November, 1967 UCSF Campus Bulletin reported that “UC’s Acting President Harry R. Wellman has approved departmental status for the Division of Otolaryngology, formerly in the Department of Surgery”. To answer how that request landed on Harry Wellman’s desk I did some research. To check the research, I spoke with Herb Dedo, MD who helped to fill in some gaps. For one thing, Frank Sooy was on the search committee that appointed J. Englebert Dunphy Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1964. The Chancellor at the time was John B. DE C.M. Saunders who was the first Chancellor of UCSF from 1964-1966. Dr. Saunders had a 60 year career as a UCSF anatomy professor and was the Dean of the School of Medicine from 1956-1963. The Dean appointed in 1963 to replace Dr. Saunders was William O. Reinhardt, MD also of the Department of Anatomy and also a long time UCSF professor who began his tenure in 1939. By 1966, the Dean of the School of Medicine was Stuart C. Cullen, MD who was an anesthesiologist from Iowa who came to UCSF in 1958 to be Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. There is no doubt that Dr. Saunders, Dr. Fleming, Dr. Reinhardt, Dr. Cullen and Frank Sooy were well acquainted. Dr. Dunphy was an external candidate for the chair position at UCSF to replace Leon Goldman. After he took the helm of the department of surgery he was responsible for separating several specialties from general surgery as divisions including vascular surgery and pediatric surgery because he thought that specialties were being blighted by conservative viewpoints, according to one historical account. Perhaps it was this characteristic that was attractive, unique, and distinguishing to the search committee on which Frank Sooy served when they put forward Dr. Dunphy’s name during the search process. Therefore, all of the pieces were in place: trust, solid relationships, and a new perspective. However, to consummate the organizational change required diplomacy, charisma, and persistence. Dr. Sooy’s reputation for insightful advice and integrity combined with his legendary political skill and astuteness were likely the key factors that led to agreement and acceptance of a new organizational construct for the department. As Herb opined, having the department change from divisional to departmental status instantly elevated it to a major force on the national scene thus setting the foundation for the department’s successful position today.

The department was known as the “Department of Otolaryngology” until 2006. David W. Eisele, MD persevered to officially change the name to the “Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery” to more accurately reflect the scope of work done in the department. This change was ultimately approved by the Office of the President, the Chancellor, and the Academic Senate and was effective on March 20, 2007.

Please join me in remembering how others enabled the department to succeed over the last 50 years during this major milestone birthday. To all who have contributed to the department as students, residents, faculty, and staff, congratulations on your 50th anniversary!


Andrew H. Murr, MD
Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery