Eavey to step down from Otolaryngology leadership rolesNov. 12, 2020, 1:00 PM
by John Howser
Roland “Ron” Eavey, MD, SM, Guy M. Maness Professor and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (O-HNS), will be stepping down from his position as the department’s leader at the end of the academic year.
Eavey, who is also director of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, is proud of the department’s accomplishments during his decade-plus tenure as chair.
Recruited from Harvard’s ENT Pediatric Services at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Eavey joined VUMC in 2009 as the leader of a flourishing department that had an established national reputation for clinical and research excellence.
After tripling in size during the past decade, the department offers a comprehensive array of highly specialized adult and pediatric diagnostic and clinical services. During fiscal year 2019, the last full year before COVID-19, O-HNS accounted for 17% of all adult and pediatric surgical cases at VUMC. The Bill Wilkerson Center grew from approximately 500 faculty, trainees and staff to more than 600.
Eavey characterizes the department’s accomplishments as both tangible and intangible, with, he said, the intangibles being more significant.
“Within the department we value the intangible yet palpable importance of culture and spirit. Aligned with the Medical Center’s Statement of Purpose, our staff invented and drove the ‘Taking Care of You’ philosophy which has been adopted in areas throughout the Medical Center. This patient-focused effort included creating the position of coordinators to assist patients suffering from destination conditions that required appointments across many other departments,” he said.
The department’s emphasis on leadership and professional development has inspired nearly 30 full-time surgeons and staff members to matriculate for Master of Management in Healthcare, Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Health, and other degree programs over the past 10 years. For trainees, the department created a nationally recognized four-year leadership training program noted for its uniqueness by both the New England Journal of Medicine and Harvard Business Review.
“We are also proud that despite rapid growth throughout the department, we still feel like a family,” said Eavey, acknowledging the department’s academic spirit that leads most trainees to seek positions in academic health care.
O-HNS is ranked among the nation’s top 10 for programs of its kind. Along with this ranking is a strong reputational score that is based on survey results from physicians located throughout the nation.
This position of clinical leadership is combined with a recognized excellence in training opportunities. Doximity’s Residency Navigator, an indicator for the popularity of the nation’s residency training programs, ranks O-HNS No. 4, while some of the department’s fellowship opportunities rank at or near No. 1. The Bill Wilkerson Center’s Audiology and Speech Language Pathology programs continue to hold the No. 1 ranking among peer programs as measured by U.S. News and World Report among Best Graduate Schools for medical specialties.
Vanderbilt O-HNS and the Bill Wilkerson Center are recognized as international leaders in research for new treatments and cures for hearing and speech disorders and diseases of the head and neck.
As a result, the department is currently ranked No. 5 in the nation in total NIH funding among departments of otolaryngology.
“Dr. Eavey’s approach to the growth and development of his department, which has been centered around providing outstanding patient care while advancing research that has driven clinical innovation, has helped burnish VUMC’s reputation as an international leader in this discipline,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer for VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “I want to thank Ron for his many contributions and express my appreciation for his service to the Medical Center. His guidance has been an essential ingredient to the department’s success.”
During the past decade the department has created four endowed directorships and four endowed fellowships, played a strong role in the development and launch of the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE), invented the Music Cognition Lab located on Music Row, and started other labs that are widely recognized for their role in innovation at Vanderbilt and beyond.
“The Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery attracts patients from across the nation due to the innovative care provided by its physicians, nurses and staff. Some of the department’s offerings, such as same-day cochlear implants, demonstrate an exceptional commitment to service and convenience that is not available anywhere else in the world. Dr. Eavey’s support of such advancements has enabled the Medical Center to benefit the patients we serve,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer.
Eavey has also led VUMC as executive director of the Vanderbilt Employee Health Plan and will continue serving for the remainder of the academic year. He has helped VUMC focus on employee health care value, increasing quality and lowering costs, with a population health and prevention focus.
“We are here to help our employees and their families and do a better job because we are aligned both as the payer and the provider. We are a laboratory to create health care for the future,” he said.
“I want to deeply thank VUMC leadership and fellow colleagues for such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All these accomplishments are due to the world-class faculty, trainees and staff whom I am privileged to serve in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the Bill Wilkerson Center, our Health Plan colleagues, and our employees. This team — with special spirit, grit and culture — has generated massive past successes and will move our vital missions forward into the future. My future self cannot wait to learn about the new achievements waiting to be accomplished by the Vanderbilt team.
“I am especially and profoundly grateful to my partner, Dr. Sheila Desmond, clinical professor of Pediatrics, our three children and our grandchildren for being the real secret behind all of my personal success. I couldn’t be better,” Eavey said.
A committee led by Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, G.W. Hale Professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, director of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute and Chief Medical Officer of the Vanderbilt Medical Group, will conduct a national search to identify Eavey’s successor.