Our narrative is non-linear – yet rich – in character.

The modern version of Vanderbilt Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery began in 1986 and has experienced a phenomenally successful trajectory for treatment, education, research and outreach – and the dream continues to expand rapidly. Yet to create our current family, several MDs and institutions were woven together.

Historical Division Origins

Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt originally started as a division in 1938 under the leadership of Guy M. Maness, MD, a private practitioner in Nashville, consistent with the practice model at that time. Dr Maness was succeeded in 1964 by Paul Ward, MD who became full-time Head of the Division for four years.

Subsequently, there was an 18-year gap without Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt.

New Start as a Department

In 1986, Robert H. Ossoff, DMD, MD became as the founding chair and established the department with fellow otolaryngologists James Duncavage, MD; James Netterville, MD; and David Zealear, PhD; and very shortly thereafter, Wm. Russell Ries, MD. The department started with two services, Rhinology and Head & Neck Surgery, joined the next year by Otology. Additional sub-specialty services were added over the years: Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 1988, Pediatric Otolaryngology in 1989, the Vanderbilt Voice Center in 1991, and General Otolaryngology in 2017. A five-year residency training program was established in 1987 with two residents per year; the program has grown now to five residents per year and enjoys a top-tier reputation among Otolaryngology residency programs. The Fellowship programs started in 1990 with a Head and Neck fellow; since then fellowships have been established for Laryngology and the Professional Voice, Rhinology, Neurotology, Pediatric Otolaryngology, and Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. As the department has matured, more clinics have been developed, several research labs added, and endowments for lectureships, fellowships and named chairs. Our geographic reach has expanded to all 50 states and many foreign countries.

Merger with a World-renowned Center

In 1997, the Vanderbilt Department of Otolaryngology merged with The Bill Wilkerson Hearing and Speech Center, an independent, world-renowned and respected hearing and speech-language center in Nashville that had been created in the early 1950s by local otolaryngologist, Dr. Wesley Wilkerson. Dr. Wilkerson’s mission was to teach children with hearing loss how to communicate verbally. To center was named to honor William Wesley Wilkerson, III – the Wilkerson family son who had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. The Bill Wilkerson Center historically had been operated by Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology professionals. The 1997 merger created the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, which today is home to nearly 600 faculty members, staff and trainees in splendid facilities. The Center Director is the Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery; the Associate Director is the Chair of the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences.

Extraordinary Fusion

In 2004, Vanderbilt acquired the world renowned neurotology practice started by Dr Michael E. Glasscock, III. Dr Glasscock started and edited the American Journal of Otology, edited the premiere text, Surgery of the Ear, developed a voluminous practice of complex otologic surgery, and created an enormous outcomes database which still expands daily.

Roland D. Eavey, MD, SM, served as the Bill Wilkerson Center Director and Guy M. Maness Professor and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Department Chair from 2009-2021 and was succeeded as Chair by Eben Rosenthal.

The department has clinician depth, research richness, educational style and size, and outreach opportunities that have expanded in multiples with no sign of slowdown in an exciting trajectory.