2021 Graduation Message


Robert K. Jackler, MD
Edward C. and Amy H. Sewall Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery  and, by courtesy, of Neurosurgery and Surgery

A message from Dr. Jackler, Outgoing Chair

I encourage all of you to seek a purposeful life beyond your roles as dedicated clinical surgeons.

We gather to celebrate an exceptional group young surgeon-scholars who are moving on to the next stage in their career. Speaking on behalf of your faculty, we are immensely proud of what you have accomplished and grateful for the dedication you have shown during your training to both learning and achieving excellence in patient care. You are now emerging both as well-trained surgeons & accomplished scholars with the promise of becoming the next generation of thought leaders in our field. For the chief residents Michael, Brian, and Jared it’s graduation – a graduated step on the lengthy pathway towards becoming an academic surgeon. That each of you chose to pursue a post-residency fellowship, adding onto the nine or more years since you started medical school, speaks loudly of your commitment to the seeking highest possible level of learning and most refined technical skills.  For the graduating fellows: today represents a true commencement – the beginning of a new career phase as you undertake your initial faculty appointment.

Apologies, but I am going to wax a bit philosophical. I encourage all of you to seek a purposeful life beyond your roles as dedicated clinical surgeons. First, I hope that you will all become educators and share your hard won fund of knowledge and surgical prowess with generations to come. Being a great clinician and educator is the boat we sail in, but the wind in our sails is  driven by our imagination and innovation.  I encourage you to become creators of new knowledge. The inspiration to follow this path is a gift that I hope we have nurtured during your time at Stanford.

Dedicate yourself to the pursuit of invention & discovery which will amplify your impact beyond enhancing the lives of the thousands of patients you will care for  . . . . . by striving every day of your career to have an impact that benefits millions worldwide.  Throughout your career, the days will be long  - but the years they are remarkably short. Set your goal to be creative and innovative throughout your career – from start to finish. Know the pattern you set in the next few years is crucial.  It is essential to weave research into your career plan from the start and jealously guard the time allotment you reserve for this purpose against the siren call of the countless other responsibilities which draw on a faculty surgeon’s time. Whether through clinical trials, laboratory science, medical device innovation, or introducing new models of delivering care – seek to sustain a higher purpose throughout.

Just a few words of personal reflection as I graduate from being your chair and commence a new phase of my own career. Reflecting, I began my internship in 1979 – 42 year ago this Sunday. Funny, but at times I still feel like a young faculty member and even a newbie at Stanford.  . . . that is until the aches and pains of my age remind me otherwise. Many have asked why I chose to transition. It’s been 18 years on top of a couple of years at UCSF for goodness sake!  Enough already! As Kenny Rogers said: “You gotta know when to hold ’em and you gotta know when to fold ’em.” I have long believed that a chair can stay on too long and that there is a grace in knowing when the time is right to pass the baton to the next generation – I just hope that I did not stay on too long . . .

I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together. From modest beginnings with six faculty as a thread bare division of surgery together we have emerged as a powerhouse department with ninedivisions and over 50 faculty. Our annual research budget has gone from under $2K to over $12M and we enjoy some of the finest facilities in all of Stanford Medicine.  The research productivity of our department has increased exponentially to very high levels.

Several of you have asked how it feels to be “stepping down.”  To me this transition is “stepping up” to a stage of career with much more time to devote to scholarly endeavors I so much enjoy. Contrary to rumors, I am not retiring.  I return from a long anticipated sabbatical next January for at least a couple of more years. Colleagues have shared with me that the best job at Stanford is former chair. Serving as your chair has been an honor and a privilege and I am delighted to be passing the baton.

I would like to invite Tina to join me. I have been highly impressed with Tina’s intelligence, creativity, dedication, and indefatigable work ethic.  More than anything, I recognize that her philosophy of leadership and love of science is perfectly aligned with all we hold dear at Stanford. I want all of you to know that I feel confident that the legacy of my years at the helm is in the very best of hands.

— Dr. Robert Jackler, OHNS Department Chair, 2003-2021



Konstantina Stankovic, MD, PhD
Bertarelli Foundation Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery and, by courtesy, of Neurosurgery
Department Chair

A message from Dr. Stankovic, New Chair

Redwoods grow so well in coastal California because of a special microclimate...
Similarly, you have medically matured at Stanford in a special microclimate that stimulates innovation and nurtures curiosity.

I’d like to welcome you all, and to congratulate the graduates and their families on this major accomplishment that represents the culmination of many years of dedicated and disciplined education and training.

For graduates, your compassion, resilience, curiosity and commitment to improve human lives makes you special.

These talents come with the responsibility to spread the seeds of your knowledge and to create communities that work together for the greater good.

In doing so, I’d like you to remember the symbolism of the redwood tree that is the central part of the Stanford seal. Redwoods grow so well in coastal California because of a special microclimate that includes the fog. The trees store condensation from the fog, which supplies them with water during dry months. 

Similarly, you have medically matured at Stanford in a special microclimate that stimulates innovation and nurtures curiosity through seamless blending of patient care, technology, science, engineering, and the arts. And the fog reminds us that we don’t need to fear its opaqueness, but rather celebrate its nurturing qualities. Because it’s only when we embrace the fog and step outside of our comfort zone, that we grow and advance the boundaries of human knowledge.

California redwoods, as some of the tallest and oldest living creatures, also symbolize vitality and kindness as their rapid growth supports not only themselves but also the lives of other species. This is particularly relevant during the current turbulent times, when we are constantly reminded about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure societal health and prosperity.

The redwood further symbolizes wellness as it is resistant to most diseases and is very hardy, tolerating low temperatures, flooding and droughts. By being here today, our graduates have already demonstrated their hardiness and resilience. When you now move on to new environments, may you be the seeds of wellness that will turn into forests of vigor and vitality.

The redwood also symbolizes longevity and communication, as it can grow to be thousands of years old. We hope that our graduates will remain in communication with their alma mater, so that we may continue to enrich the history of our department which Dr. Jackler has masterfully built. His vision and energy will continue to inspire us all. Dr. Jackler’s love of the department and each of its members has set in motion ripples of kindness and excellence that continue to reach distant shores, with every splashing and dashing wave spreading Stanford’s preeminence.

As I embark on my new role as the Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, I am drawn to the potential and power of Stanford’s unique ecosystem that nurtures innovation, collaboration and excellence. This ecosystem includes each member of our department – trainees, faculty and staff –  as well as their skill, spark and imagination. We have a tremendous role to play in providing top clinical care while educating physicians, scientists and engineers to lead the world in enhancing sensory health and alleviating human suffering caused by otolaryngologic disease.

I very much look forward to getting to know everyone better and hearing your thoughts on the best path forward for the department so that, working together, we can achieve new heights, just like the ever growing redwood tree.

— Dr. Konstantina Stankovic, OHNS Department Chair, 2021-