Although it sometimes seems like every doctor you meet comes from a long line of medical professionals, that’s not the case with Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery alum John M. DelGaudio, M.D., Professor at Emory Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. However, like many in the medical field, Dr. DelGaudio exhibited a natural aptitude for science and medicine at an early age.
“There was no particular influence [to pursue a career in medicine], other than my interest in science and anatomy,” says Dr. DelGaudio. “No one in my family had ever been in any medical or scientific field.”
From this early interest rose a rewarding and successful career in rhinology and skull base surgery.
Dr. DelGaudio graduated at the top of his class from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where he was encouraged by an intern to look into Otolaryngology as a specialty. At the time, Jefferson Medical College didn’t have requirements to rotate on Otolaryngology, but did offer it as part of a neurosciences block. Dr. DelGaudio took a chance on the specialty, and his decision to stick with Otolaryngology was made quickly after.
“I was amazed by the intricate anatomy. On my first day I scrubbed on a parotidectomy and a neck dissection and I knew that I wanted to pursue Otolaryngology as a career,” says DelGaudio.
Jefferson Medical College’s influence on Dr. DelGaudio’s career wasn’t finished, though. After attending lectures by Jefferson alumni Joe Spiegal, M.D. and Robert Sataloff, M.D., FACS, his decision was reinforced. Discovering that Drs. Spiegal and Sataloff had completed residency at the University of Michigan Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery also meant the University of Michigan was at the top of his list for residency programs. After a visit to campus, his decision was confirmed.
Residency at the University of Michigan gave Dr. DelGaudio many opportunities, including formative training and research opportunities designed to help students exceed the highest standards of patient care and research.
“Because I was chosen for an additional year of research during residency, I began my residency with one group of residents but finished with another. This allowed me to create strong bonds in both years,” says DelGaudio.
Although Dr. DelGaudio juggled his residency education with a growing family, the additional challenges made his successes and free time all the more enjoyable, and he graduated from residency in 1995, with a focus on head and neck surgery, before joining the faculty of the Department of Otolaryngology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.
Shortly thereafter, Dr. DelGaudio’s career took an unexpected turn. Although his primary focus through school was head and neck surgery, the diagnosis of an incurable tumor to a senior faculty member at Emory University, Gerald S. Gussack, M.D., tasked Dr. DelGaudio with the takeover of Gussack’s practice. Dr. DelGaudio’s career track was shifted to accommodate Gussack’s additional focus on laryngology, and rhinology and sinus surgery – a division where he would eventually make a name for himself in the academic world.
“Being thrown into the fire as the primary rhinologist in an academic institution, having not performed a fellowship in rhinology, I had to learn on the job. I learned how to perform advanced sinus surgery and branched out to skull base and orbital surgery. My lack of fellowship training has not hindered me, and has resulted in my having a different outlook and approach to many problems than other rhinologists,” says DelGaudio.
A shifting career focus that resulted in a successful practice seems to have come full circle, too, as Dr. DelGaudio was honored as the first ever Gerald S. Gussack Endowed Professor of Otolaryngology.
“Personally, this is an especially important recognition, since it was the sudden illness of Dr. Gussack that resulted in my career changing direction and leading me to a career in rhinology and skull base surgery,” says DelGaudio.
Additionally, Dr. DelGaudio currently serves as the President of the American Rhinologic Society (2016-2017), a role he calls the greatest honor of his career.
Dr. DelGaudio acknowledges the lasting impact of his University of Michigan education on his career, both academically and clinically. His time here exposed him to renowned Otolaryngologists from whom he has learned, and who shaped his interests in reflux disease – an area of research that has resulted in many publications, culminating in his Triologic thesis on the relationship of reflux to chronic rhinosinusitis.
“My training at U of M has instilled in me the basic knowledge and skills that I needed to take on whatever I encountered in practice. No one learns or sees everything in residency, but what I learned in residency has given me the foundation that I needed to be successful in a tertiary care practice. The quality of training that I received also instilled in me the confidence to go beyond my training and push my boundaries to continue to grow my skill set,“ says DelGaudio.