Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery

Dr. Jeffrey B. Matthews

Nishant Agrawal, MD
Professor of Surgery
Chief, Section of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery
Director of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology
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Two men sitting at an outdoor sidewalk patio table, looking at the camera

Kokonas and Achatz at their new restaurant, the St. Clair Supper Club.

Returning a Sense of Taste to a World-renowned Chef

In 2007, chef and restaurateur Grant Achatz was 33 and a rising star. Alinea, his imaginative and multisensory restaurant in Lincoln Park, was receiving rave reviews within two years of its opening, including being named best restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine.

He was lauded as a pioneer in molecular gastronomy.

Then, Achatz learned that a painful spot on his tongue was stage 4 cancer. The diagnosis threatened his sense of taste, his livelihood and his life.

“I was determined to find the best possible treatment. But I never expected to find it in my own backyard.”

Grant Achatz

He and his close friend and business partner, Nick Kokonas, consulted several cancer centers across the country.

“We did a rigorous investigation of treatments,” Achatz said. “But at every turn, I was met with what I thought was a very antiquated approach. The treatments didn’t seem creative or thoughtful.”

At each of the hospitals, doctors recommended invasive surgery for the cancerous tumor. The procedure involved removal and reconstruction of 70 percent of his tongue. He’d lose his ability to taste. If he chose not to have the surgery, doctors told him, the advanced cancer could take his life within six months.

Reason for optimism

Back home, Kokonas urged his friend to go to the University of Chicago Medicine for yet another consultation. Achatz refused. He was emotionally and psychologically tired of having heard the same grim news over and over.

Kokonas didn’t give up.

“I literally went over to Grant’s house, beat on the door, and said, ‘I’m going to kick it in, so you might as well come with me,’” Kokonas said. “And then when we sat down with the team at UChicago Medicine, what we heard was completely different.”

The head and neck cancer team of medical oncologist Everett Vokes, MD, radiation oncologist Daniel Haraf, MD, and surgeon Elizabeth Blair, MD, proposed an alternative strategy to the young chef.

“We offered Grant the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial,” Vokes said. “Treatment would start with chemotherapy to tame the tumor—taking the inflammation and the size down—followed by chemotherapy and radiation. If needed, the radical surgery could come later.”

Achatz signed on immediately.

“Everything I had been told up to this point was flipped upside down,” he said. “The surgery became ‘only if necessary’. And there was talk of new technologies and creative medicine.”

He finally had a reason to be optimistic.

Achatz’s care team, from left to right: radiation oncologist Daniel Haraf, MD, medical oncologist Everett Vokes, MD, and head and neck surgeon Elizabeth Blair, MD.

A unified goal

Achatz underwent eight weeks of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. The treatments were grueling, but effective in first shrinking the tumor and then destroying it.

To ensure there was no microscopic disease left, Blair then performed surgery to remove the lymph nodes in his neck.

Achatz lost his ability to taste during treatment and for several months afterward. But he remained committed to his work, continuing to put in long hours at Alinea.

“We all had this unified goal of being the best restaurant in America,” he said. “It felt like I had to show up every day and prove to the staff that we were going to continue on the path of being the best. Otherwise, I would have let them down.”

During this time, he learned some valuable lessons about the importance of teamwork. “As the effects of cancer treatment took hold, I realized I couldn’t do it all myself,” he said. “Rather than making every decision in Alinea’s kitchen, I began to trust more in my staff. I learned you have to work as a team to succeed.”

Achatz appreciated that his doctors functioned the same way.

“My illness required a lot of creative people working together to solve the problem. My three doctors—each in their own specialty—offered me a very individualized, yet team approach. I felt confident in them and in myself that I made the right decision.”

Grant Achatz

Pushing boundaries in dining and in medicine

Just a few months after the medical team told Achatz he was cancer free, the James Beard Foundation named him the best chef in America. Alinea has won many more national and international accolades, including a Michelin three-star rating—the only restaurant in Chicago with the honor.

Achatz and Kokonas continue to reimagine fine dining and drinking through concepts such as Next, the Aviary and the St. Clair Supper Club.

The motto of their restaurant group is constant evolution. “We break down normal protocols and reformulate them in a way that’s more meaningful and more powerful,” Achatz said.

“My doctors at UChicago Medicine did the same thing. It felt comforting and it resonated with me.”

Update: Achatz is doing well and continues to be extremely supportive of UChicago Medicine. He remains a master of his craft, as his restaurant Alinea continues to be a permanent fixture in Chicago’s premier dining scene.

faculty listing

Professor of Surgery
Nishant Agrawal, MD, Professor of Surgery; Chief, Section of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery; Director, Head and Neck Surgical Oncology
Fuad Baroody, MD, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics; Director, Pediatric Otolaryngology
Elizabeth Blair, MD, Professor of Surgery; Director, Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Wellness
Michael B. Gluth, MD, Professor of Surgery; Director, Comprehensive Ear and Hearing Center
Jayant Pinto, MD, Professor of Surgery; Director, Rhinology and Allergy; Director, Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Research; Committee on Molecular Medicine
Louis de Guzman Portugal, MD, Professor of Surgery; Director, Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery in Greater Chicago
Dana L. Suskind, MD, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics; Director, Pediatric Cochlear Implantation Program; Co-Director, TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health

Assistant Professor of Surgery
Brandon Baird, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery; Director, Voice Center
Zhen Gooi, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery; Director, Head and Neck Robotic Surgery
Terence Imbery, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery; Director, Adult Cochlear Implant Program
Christopher Roxbury, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery; Director, Endoscopic Skull Base Surgery
Andrea Shogan, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery

Clinical Professor of Surgery
Anthony J. Geroulis, MD, Clinical Professor of Surgery; Medical Director, North Shore Center for Facial Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery

Clinical Associate of Surgery
Anil R. Shah, MD, Clinical Associate of Surgery

faculty honors

Nishant Agrawal, MD, received funding for an oral cancer study in India. He organized the International Conference on Oral Cancer and Reconstruction at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, India. He delivered a lecture, “The Genetic Hallmarks of Head and Neck Cancers,” at the Third International Head and Neck Cancer Symposium in Guangzhou, China. He led the Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Tumor Board, “Bread-and-Butter Cases Made Challenging by the New Staging System,” at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.

Fuad Baroody, MD, participated in the annual Centralized Otolaryngology Research Efforts study section. He preserved the integrity of the grant review process and ensured due diligence for about 170 grants. He was selected for induction into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society as an alumni honoree. He presented a course on pediatric rhinosinusitis in the Expert Series at the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation annual meeting.

Fuad Baroody, MD, and Elizabeth Blair, MD, were named2020 Top Doctors by Chicago magazine.

Elizabeth Blair, MD, was appointed President of the Metropolitan Chicago Chapter of the American College of Surgeons. She was invited to present “It’s 3 AM, Do I Really Need to Call My Attending?” for the National Otolaryngology Boot Camp, and was featured on the cover of Medicine on the Midway, the magazine of the University of Chicago Medical & Biological Sciences Alumni Association.

Michael B. Gluth, MD, gave a distinguished invited keynote lecture at the Southeast Asian Otolaryngology Society meeting in Singapore.

Zhen Gooi, MD, and Nishant Agrawal, MD, edited Difficult Decisions in Head and Neck Surgical Oncology.

Jayant Pinto, MD, was awarded a five-year, $844,909 grant from the National Institute on Aging to support research titled “Air Pollution and Alzheimer’s Dementia: Neuropathologic and Olfactory Mechanisms in Multi-Ethnic Longitudinal Cohorts.” He was named Dean of Faculty Affairs for the Biological Sciences Division. He was featured on ABC, WBBM, Tribune and Good Day Chicago, and was interviewed by an Indian news agency on COVID-19 research. He gave an invited talk, “Olfaction as a Window into the Brain,” to the National Otolaryngology Conference, Chinese Otolaryngology Society, Guangzhou, China. His article published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “Olfactory Dysfunction Predicts Subsequent Dementia in Older U.S. Adults,” was one of the journal’s top downloaded recent papers.

Christopher Roxbury, MD, developed a eustachian tube balloon course for residents. He participated in the skull base surgery journal club series.

Andrea Shogan, MD, was accepted to the Medical Education Research, Innovation, Teaching and Scholarship (MERITS) Faculty Fellowship for the 2019–20 academic year.

Dana L. Suskind, MD, published the research article “Parent‐directed Intervention in Promoting Knowledge of Pediatric Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle among Low‐SES Families with Toddlers: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”

select publications

Baird BJ, Mokhtari TE, Sung CK, Erickson-DiRenzo E. A Preliminary Study of Vocal Health Among Collegiate A Cappella Singers. J Voice. 2020 May;34(3):486.e1-486.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2018.10.003. Epub 2018 Nov 12.

Cappello ZJ, Tang DM, Roxbury CR, et al. Utility of the Nasoseptal “Rescue” Flap Approach: Analysis of 125 Consecutive Patients and Implications for Routine Transsphenoidal Surgery. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2020; 34(2):269-275. doi:10.1177/1945892419892164.

Christov F, Gluth MB, Hans S, Lang S, Arweiler-Harbeck D. Impact of cochlear tonotopy on electrical compound action potential thresholds for perimodiolar and straight electrode arrays. Acta Otolaryngol. 139(1):22-26.

Christov F, Gluth MB, Nelson EG. Histopathology of giant cell tumor of the pinna. Otol Neurotol. 40(7): 758-760, 2019.

Christov F, Nelson EG, Xu L, Lopez I, Ishiyama A, Gluth MB. Histology of human outer sulcus cells in normal ears, presbycusis, and Meniere’s disease. Otol Neurotol. 41(1): 507-515, 2020.

Fokkens WJ, Lund VJ, Hopkins C, Hellings PW, Kern R, Reitsma S, Toppila-Salmi S, Bernal-Sprekelsen M, Mullol J, Alobid I, Terezinha Anselmo-Lima W, Bachert C, Baroody F, et al. European Position Paper on Rhinosinusitis and Nasal Polyps 2020. Rhinology. 2020 Feb 20;58(Suppl S29):1-464. doi: 10.4193/Rhin20.600.

Foster CC, Seiwert TY, MacCracken E, Blair EA, Agrawal N, Melotek JM, Portugal L, Brisson RJ, Gooi Z. Dose and Volume De-Escalation for Human Papillomavirus-Positive Oropharyngeal Cancer Is Associated With Favorable Posttreatment Functional Outcomes. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2020 Apr 18;S0360-3016(20)31032-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2020.04.014.

Ginat DT, Collins J, Christov F, Nelson EG, Gluth MB. Delineation of the intratemporal facial nerve via diffusion tensor imaging using 9.4 T MRI: feasibility and utility in temporal fixed temporal bone specimens. Rad Phys Tech. 12(3): 357-361, 2019.

Gluth MB. On the relationship between Meniere’s disease and endolymphatic hydrops. Otol Neurotol 41(2):242-249, 2020.

Gooi Z, Agrawal N. Difficult Decisions in Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery. 33 Chapters, 387 pages Springer Nature 2019.

Gooi Z, Agrawal N. Tonsil Cancer N Engl J Med. 2019 Jul 25;381(4):e8. doi: 10.1056/NEJMicm1814882. PMID: 31340096.

Gooi Z. Relevant Anatomy for the Transoral Vestibular Approach to the Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands. Current Otorhinolaryngology Reports, Springer Sep 2019 7(3)201–203.

Gooi Z, Vokes EE. Prolonging Life, but at What Price? JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Oct 10. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2019.2855.

Gupta A, Arora V, Nair D, Agrawal N, Su YX, Holsinger FC, Chan JYK. Status and Strategies for the Management of Head and Neck Cancer During COVID-19 Pandemic: Indian Scenario Head Neck. 2020 May 1;10.1002/hed.26227. doi: 10.1002/hed.26227. Online ahead of print.

Hirsch AG, Nordberg C, Bandeen-Roche K, Tan BK, Schleimer RP, Kern RC, Sundaresan A, Pinto JM, Kennedy TL, Greene JS, Kuiper JR, Schwartz BS. Radiologic sinus inflammation and symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis in a population-based sample. Allergy. 2019 Nov 11. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 31713250.

Ho AS, Ochoa A, Jayakumaran G, Zehir A, Valero Mayor C, Tepe J, Makarov V, Dalin Mg, He J, Bailey M, Montesion M, Ross JS, Miller VA, Chan L, Ganly I, Dogan S, Katabi N, Tsipouras P, Ha P, Agrawal N, Solit. Genetic Hallmarks of Recurrent/Metastatic Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. J Clin Invest. 2019 Oct 1;129(10):4276-4289. doi: 10.1172/JCI128227.

Howard A, Gooi Z. Surgical or Non-surgical Treatment for Advanced Oral Cavity Cancer. Difficult Decisions in Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery. Springer 2019.

Imbery TE, Gray L, Champaloux E, Kesser BW. Long-term Audiometric Outcomes After Atresiaplasty for Congenital Aural Atresia. Otol Neurotol. 2020 Mar; 41(3): 371-378.

Imbery TE, Kesser BW. Abnormal Enchantment of the Internal Auditory Canal and Petrous Apex: Possible Implication of Polysorbate 80 and Immunoglobulin-Related Hypertrophic Pachymeningitis. Otol Neurotol. 2019 Sep; 40(8): e852-e853.

Imbery TE, Maldonado M, Mukherjee S, Kesser BW. Relationship between Middle Ear Volume and Long-Term Audiological Outcomes in Congenital Aural Atresia. Otol Neurotol. 2019 Jul; 40(6): 782-788.

Naclerio R, Baroody F, Bachert C, Bleier B, Borish L, Brittain E, Chupp G, Fisher A, Fokkens W, Gevaert P, Kennedy D, Kim J, Laidlaw TM, Lee JJ, Piccirillo JF, Pinto JM, Roland LT, Schleimer RP, Schlosser RJ, Schwaninger JM, Smith TL, Tan BK, Tan M, Toskala E, Wenzel S, Togias A. Clinical Research Needs for the Management of Chronic Rhinosinusitis with Nasal Polyps in the New Era of Biologics. A National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Workshop. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2020 Mar 3:S2213-2198(20)30183-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2020.02.023.

Portugal LG, Adams DR, Baroody FM, Agrawal N. A Surgical Safety Checklist for Performing Tracheotomy in Patients With Coronavirus Disease 19. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 Apr 28;194599820922981. doi: 10.1177/0194599820922981.

Price KAR, Nichols AC, Shen CJ, Rammal A, Lang P, Palma DA, Rosenberg AJ, Chera BS, Agrawal N. Novel Strategies to Effectively De-escalate Curative-Intent Therapy for Patients With HPV-Associated Oropharyngeal Cancer: Current and Future Directions. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2020 Mar;40:1-13. doi: 10.1200/EDBK_280687.

Roxbury CR, Lin SY. Evidence and Practicalities of Aqueous Sublingual Immunotherapy, Tablet Sublingual Immunotherapy, and Oral Mucosal Immunotherapy for Allergic Rhinitis and Allergic Asthma. Curr Otorhinolaryngol Rep 8, 7–13 (2020). doi: 0.1007/s40136-020-00268-9.

Saloura V, Izumchenko E, Zuo Z, Bao R, Korzinkin M, Ozerov I, Zhavoronkov A, Sidransky D, Bedi A, Hoque MO, Koeppen H, Keck MK, Khattri A, London N, Kotlov N, Fatima A, Vougiouklakis T, Nakamura Y, Lingen M, Agrawal N, Savage PA, Kron S, Kline J, Kowanetz M, Seiwert TY. Immune Profiles in Primary Squamous Cell Immune Profiles in Primary Squamous Cell. Oral Oncol. 2019 Sep;96:77-88. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2019.06.032. Epub 2019 Jul 12.

Santa Maria C, Sung CK, Baird BJ, Erickson-DiRenzo E. Vocal Hygiene in Collegiate Singers–Does Formal Training Relate to Practices? J Voice. 2020 Apr 30;S0892-1997(20)30106-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2020.03.014.

Schubert AD, Channah Broner E, Agrawal N, London N, Pearson A, Gupta A, Wali N, Seiwert TY, Wheelan. Somatic Mitochondrial Mutation Discovery Using Ultra-Deep Sequencing of the Mitochondrial Genome Reveals Spatial Tumor Heterogeneity in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Cancer Lett. 2020 Feb 28;471:49-60. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2019.12.006. Epub 2019 Dec 10.

Semo Oz R, Gluth MB, Tesher MS. Pediatric autoimmune inner ear disease: a rare but treatable condition. Ped Annals. 48(10):391-394, 2019.

Shah J, Tang D, Grafmiller K, Cappello ZJ, Roxbury C, Sindwani R. Using the Middle Turbinate to Protect the Skull Base in Endoscopic Transsphenoidal Surgery: A Cadaver Study [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jun 19]. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2020; 1945892420933173. doi:10.1177/1945892420933173.

Siegel JK, Wroblewski KE, McClintock MK, Pinto JM. Olfactory dysfunction persists after smoking cessation and signals increased cardiovascular risk. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2019 Sep; 9(9):977-985. PMID: 31365791.

Walker DD, Gluth MB. Postoperative counseling, restrictions, and care. In Carlson, et al, eds. Comprehensive Management of Vestibular Schwannoma. Thieme, 2019.

Xu L, Gluth MB. Malleostapedotomy: recent innovations and surgical outcomes. Curr Otolaryngol Rep. 8: 73-78, 2020.

residents & fellows

View our Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery Residents and Fellows here.