The Leadership of Stanford Otolaryngology : a historical perspective

Stanford’s predecessor school, the Cooper Medical College of the Pacific in San Francisco, was founded in 1870. By the late 19th century it had an eye, ear, nose, and throat clinic.

Cooper Professor of Surgery Levi Cooper Lane (1828-1902) was a pioneer head and neck surgeon. In 1896, Lane published the first textbook of head and neck surgery. Lane is remembered today by the Stanford School of Medicine’s Lane Library (initially founded from his extensive book collection) and the Lane Surgery Center (named in 2017) in which most OHNS surgery is conducted.

The Cooper Medical School became Stanford University School of Medicine in 1909. Adolph Barkan (1844-1935) was the first Chief of Otolaryngology at the newly formed school. The Barkan collection of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology books provides a superb historical resource in Stanford’s Lane Library.

Edward Cecil Sewall (1875-1957) was the next chief, serving from 1911 to 1940. Sewall was a Stanford graduate in the class of 1898 and the valedictorian of the Cooper Medical School in 1902. Originally practicing eye, ear, nose, and throat, he limited his practice to otolaryngology from 1914. He served as Chief of Otolaryngology for the time of his joining the faculty at the inception of the Stanford School of Medicine until his retirement in 1940. Sewall is remembered for an orbital retractor which bears his name. He and his wife Amy had no children. They left a generous endowment to further the goals of Stanford’s otolaryngology department which now supports five OHNS faculty members and has a market value of over $20 million.

The school remained in San Francisco until 1959 when it moved to Palo Alto. Robert C. McNaught (1906 -1986), remembered for the McNaught laryngeal keel, led the program from 1940 to 1957. Like many of his contemporaries McNaught chose to remain in San Francisco when the program moved south. In the early years in Palo Alto, the program was run by community practitioners Lee Shahinian (1909-2004) and William F. Baxter (1924-2008). F. Blair Simmons (1930 – 1998) served from 1965 to 1980 and established Stanford as a true academic program. For the next 20 years, the program was ably led by Willard E. Fee Jr. (1943 -) followed by Richard L. Goode (1935 -) as interim (2000-2003).

In 2003, the small program which had been a division of surgery for nearly a century, became and independent department with newly recruited Robert K. Jackler (1954 -) as its inaugural chair. The establishment of OHNS as an independent department heralded a period of rapid growth.


New chair, Dr. K. Stankovic, assumes the leadership position. Our faculty hold 91 competitive grants and an annual research budget exceeds $13 million. 


54 faculty (18 Professors, 11 Associate Professors, 16 Assistant Professors, 9 Instructors). An additional 7 affiliated teaching faculty include 5 at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and 2 at the Palo Alto Veteran’s Administration Medical Center.  We also have an expanding panel of 11 affiliated community otolaryngologists in our University Health Care Alliance offices in San Ramon (3), San Jose (1), Los Gatos (3), and Emeryville (3). A member of our Packard Children’s Health Alliance is located in Walnut Creek. Search on PUBMED for “Stanford Otolaryngology” lists 367 publications.

2003 -2019

Growth from 5 to 53 faculty members.


New Stanford Hospital opens.


Stanford OHNS achieves #2 ranking on US News and #5 recipient of NIH funding. New Stanford Children’s Hospital opens.


Residency expanded from 4 to 5 per year, T32 program begins.


Stanford Ear Institute opens.


Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss launched.


Perkins Microsurgery Laboratory dedicated.


Residency expanded from 3 to 4 per year.


Stanford Cancer Center opens.


Department moves to new academic home at 801 Welch Road.


Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery awarded departmental status.
From 1909 – 2003 had been a Division of the Department of Surgery.


Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital opens.


First post-residency fellowship established (facial plastics/head & neck surgery). Beginning emphasis on post-residency, sub-specialty training which has grown to encompass programs in all sub-specialties of OHNS.


Blair Simmons implants the first multichannel cochlear implant in collaboration with Stanford   electrical engineering.


Stanford School of Medicine moved to Palo Alto.


Adolf Barkan (1845 – 1935) appointed first professor of structures and diseases of the eye, ear, and larynx. Stanford School of Medicine Created in San Francisco.


Levi Cooper Lane (1828 – 1902) A founder of the Cooper Medical cCollege (Predecessor of Stanford School of Medicine) publishes Surgery of the Head and Neck (1180 pages).