Program Director Welcome

Welcome to the Department of Otolaryngology– Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Thank you for your interest in our program.

Kristi E. Chang, MD

Here at Iowa, we consider the opportunity to train the next generation of surgeons a privilege.  We are one of the longest running training programs in the world, and have graduates that have completed entire careers whether in successful academic or private practices, as department chairs or innovators in industry.  Our faculty and trainees have pushed the boundaries of our specialty, revolutionizing and innovating in the clinic, operating room and laboratory.  Our colleagues have made impactful advances in every aspect of otolaryngology.  From cleft and craniofacial care, microvascular reconstruction, head and neck cancer care, endoscopic and microscopic skull base surgery, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, facial trauma, hearing restoration, laryngology, pediatric airway disease, congenital hearing loss, many of the current standards of care have a connection to someone who learned the “Iowa Way”. 

With a strong history brings the burden of embracing growth.  Our department continues to expand and evolve.  As we grow, we’ve been fortunate to add talented clinicians, surgeons, scientists and educators to our department to allow our trainees access to the cutting edge of medicine.  Our diverse group of faculty remain committed to our residents’ education, with our program at the center of our day-to-day practices.  This mentality has kept our training program consistently as one of the premier training programs in the world, and we are fortunate to match some of the strongest applicants each year.  As our graduates will attest, we may not do things quite the same as other programs, but we like to
hink of that as one of our greatest strengths.

Each year we match three clinical (5-year) track residents and two research (7-year) track residents.  We encourage our applicants to choose a path that best fits their professional goals and apply to that track.  All of our residents complete an intern year with a mix of otolaryngology and rotations in other departments.  Our interns spend an average of six months on service with us, and rotate through time with our colleagues in “otolaryngology adjacent” specialties.  These include Oral-Maxillofacial Surgery, Neurosurgery, Anesthesia, Critical Care, Emergency Medicine, and rotations on some of the following services: Thoracic Surgery, Vascular Surgery, Plastic Surgery and Surgical Oncology.  These rotations are hand selected to establish skills managing different patient populations, and expose our residents to areas of overlap with our specialty.

Upon completion of intern year, our Research Residents advance to spend two years with a research mentor of their choice, working on NIH-supported grant projects and enjoying the vast resources of our beautiful surgeon-scientist run research facilities.  This is a true research bootcamp that is designed to jump start careers, with hands-on training in grant writing, bench research skills, animal models, manuscript writing and career development. After this experience our research residents rejoin the clinical track as R2 residents to complete their surgical training.

During surgical training, our residents have a premier apprenticeship with our world-class faculty. They receive unparalleled clinical and surgical training in the fields of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Craniofacial Surgery, Pediatric Otolaryngology, Rhinology and Anterior Skull Base Surgery, Neurotology/Lateral Skull Base Surgery, Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery and Microvascular Reconstruction, Sleep Medicine and Surgery, Laryngology, Audiology and Speech Pathology, among others.  While the vast majority of time is spent at our beautiful “mothership” quaternary-care hospital here in Iowa City, our trainees also rotate through the Iowa City VA, spend time with two groups of our colleagues in private practice, and have dedicated time for research throughout their residency. 

Our residents have regular educational conferences, with educational programs such as the Cleft-Palate-Craniofacial Clinical Conference, Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Tumor Board, Melanoma Tumor Board, Endocrine Conference and Grand Rounds.  We also have protected didactic education time every Wednesday morning run by faculty and senior residents on a variety of topics on a rotating basis.  Monthly meetings include the Multidisciplinary Airway Conference, Plastics/Recon Rounds, Pediatric Otolaryngology Conference, Otology Rounds, and Morbidity and Mortality Conference.  All of our residents also participate in our Temporal Bone course, a year-long temporal bone dissection program held in our brand new state-of-the-art Temporal Bone Lab.

Additionally, every month we hold a Resident-Program Director meeting, in which our residents participate proactively in steering our education program.  We believe that our residents have a strong leadership stake in maintaining our program’s position as one of the premier training opportunities in the United States.

What else is unique about Iowa’s training?  Well, quite a bit.  Our method of graduated responsibility and mentorship allows our residents to accelerate past ACGME-dictated minimums and graduate as world class surgeons.  Our residents graduate with multiples of “mandatory minimum” case numbers.  In addition to the basics, our residents are trained in extended areas of otolaryngology.  We reconstruct pediatric airways, some started before the child is even separated from their mother’s circulation.  We decompress facial nerves from brainstem to mastoid.  We open the cranial vault and meticulously excise lateral skull base tumors and push the boundaries of cochlear implants.  We reconstruct children with cleft lip and palate and coordinate their care in our clinic.  We reconstruct faces from microvascular flaps taken from all over the body.  We reconstruct congenital cranial vault deformities.  We reanimate paralyzed faces.  We remove entire intracranial tumors through the nose, just to name a few.  Our residents have access to world class researchers and industry partners, and gain membership into the large family of Iowa Graduates across the world.  You will be hard pressed to find more comprehensive training anywhere else.  Our graduates regularly go on to premier fellowships, or confidently join practices with a set of surgical skills that allows them to build the practice and care for the subset of patients that they choose.

We pride ourselves in training exceptional otolaryngologists.  Our goal is to foster diagnostic skill, surgical acumen, critical thinking and clinical judgment as well as compassion for the human condition.  Our residents start our program as eager trainees, and leave as world class surgeons and scholars.  Most importantly, no matter your background, if you are dedicated to caring compassionately for people, mastering your craft and leaving the world a better place than it was before you arrived, we will meet you as new colleagues, and you will leave as part of the Iowa Family. 

Thank you for your interest in the University of Iowa.  We hope you take the opportunity to see why we feel so honored to be part of this program, have the privilege of training our outstanding residents, and why I personally chose Iowa (twice).




Scott Owen, MD FACS
Residency Program Director
Assistant Professor
Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon
Department of Otolaryngology, Head-and-Neck Surgery
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics