The Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Illinois is the longest continuously operating ENT department in the United States; UIC Otolaryngology has been in operation for more than 150 consecutive years.
Located in the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary (EEI) in the Illinois Medical District since its opening in 1963 (the Department and EEI were housed in other locations throughout Chicago since the EEI’s founding in 1858), the Department is nationally recognized for its outstanding care and leading-edge residency training program. It offers comprehensive care in seven specialty areas: Audiology and Neurotology; Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery; Speech and Voice Care; Sinus and Nasal Allergy; Otology and Neurotology; Head and neck Cancer; and General Otolaryngology.
While the Department existed for the better part of a century before 1933, in that year it became a freestanding Department for the first time, headed initially by Joseph C. Beck, MD. In 1934 Francis Lederer, MD became head and led the Department for 33 years. Dr. Beck had been Dr. Lederer’s childhood physician and continued to serve as his mentor in clinical and administrative matters. Dr. Lederer joined the Department in 1922, served as its acting head in 1925, and became board-certified in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in 1926. He contributed greatly to the institution and to the field during World War II. Dr. Lederer was a captain in the U.S. Navy Corps, among the many honors he earned was the Navy Commendation for establishing a rehabilitation program for blinded and hearing-impaired patients at Philadelphia’s Naval Hospital. He also helped secure the EEI’s training relationship with the U.S. Veterans Administration, a relationship that continues today.
Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Lederer personally recruited and mentored another of the Department’s historic figures, M. Eugene Tardy, MD. Preparing to enter residency training at the University of Iowa, Dr. Tardy was serving in the U.S. Air Force when he came across Dr. Lederer’s book, Diseases of the Ear, Nose and Throat, and decided he wanted to meet the author. When he finally did meet Dr. Lederer, their three-hour discussion resulted in Dr. Tardy’s decision to come to UI; he joined as a resident in 1964, the year after the current EEI opened. Dr. Tardy, a brilliant and pioneering facial plastic surgeon, inspired many patients and residents alike. The Department conducts an annual lecture in facial plastic surgery and the humanities named for Dr. Tardy.
Albert H. Andrews Jr., MD, succeeded Dr. Lederer after his retirement in 1967, serving until 1975. Burton J. Soboroff, MD then served as interim head of the Department 1975-76 and 1977-79, when he was succeeded by Edward Applebaum, MD. Dr. Soboroff was an esteemed head and neck cancer surgeon who was widely admired as a clinician and teacher. He took pride in supporting resident research activities, and after his retirement established a lectureship in Otolaryngology that continues to this day.
Dr. Applebaum retired in 1999, as was replaced by J. Regan Thomas, a world-recognized facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Dr. Thomas served until his retirement in 2017; he shepherded the Division of Audiology into the Department in 2008. In 2017, Barry Wenig, MD, MPH, FACS was named interim department head.
Dr. Wenig returned to UI Otolaryngology in 2012, after spending 11 years at UI in the 1980s and 1990s. He is also residency program director and director of the head and neck surgery and robotic surgery programs.