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HeadLines - Decades of Change

HeadLines Spring 2014

Decades of Change

Date: May 1, 2014

David Kennedy, now at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, spent 17 years practicing in Johns Hopkins’ Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery.
David Kennedy, now at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, spent 17 years practicing in Johns Hopkins’ Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery.

David Kennedy spent 18 years at Johns Hopkins, starting as a general surgery resident in 1973. He stayed on as a faculty member in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery and, later, as director of the residency training program before leaving to lead the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center’s Department of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery in 1991. But he almost didn’t make it to Johns Hopkins at all.

When Kennedy was first offered a residency position at Hopkins, the young doctor was a rotating intern at St. Laurence’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. His girlfriend at the time was offered a position at National Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. “We saw that Baltimore and D.C. were about an inch away from each other on the map, so we thought we could do it,” he remembers.

But a month later, they broke up, and Kennedy had no interest in traveling an ocean away for a job. “I actually tried to get out of it,” he says with a laugh.

If he had, Kennedy would have missed a momentous chapter in Johns Hopkins’ history: working with two different department directors, an exponential expansion in the department and dramatic changes in patient care.

Instead, after finishing his otolaryngology residency in 1978, he accepted an assistant professorship at Hopkins in his chosen specialty.

He worked closely with then-department director George Nager. Together, the two otologists forged a miniature otology practice within the department. “He was an incredibly dedicated, patient-oriented and meticulous surgeon, and a true gentleman,” Kennedy remembers.

During that time period, Kennedy met Michael M.E. Johns at a Society of University Otolaryngologists meeting, where Johns had arranged a workshop on what was then an extremely novel device—a word processor.

When Johns later became director of Hopkins’ Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, he brought the same interest in technology with him, ushering in a new era of novel tools, including computers to publish papers and microscopes for more complex operations. It was this support for technology that allowed Kennedy to continue to develop his interest in performing sinus surgery with an endoscope, a device that allowed surgeons to see deep inside the nasal cavities to do minimally invasive procedures.

Kennedy was the first otolaryngologist in the United States to adopt the endoscope for intranasal surgery, an advance that took some time to catch on with others in his field. “When we first introduced it,” he says, “there was an enormous amount of opposition.” Now the endoscope is the preferred tool for many operations in otolaryngology departments across the country.

Today, Kennedy says, change is the name of the game for most fields of medicine, including his own.

“There’s really not much I do today that I learned during my residency, because it’s already changed so much,” he says. With the department celebrating its centennial this year, Kennedy says the future holds even more promise. “I can’t even imagine what the next 100 years will bring.” 

Information: 443-287-2124.

Articles in this Issue

Director's Column

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Cochlear Implantation


Department History


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