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BackTable / ENT / Podcast / Episode #80

Who is the Future Otolaryngologist?

with Dr. Al Merati

In this episode of BackTable ENT, Dr. Gopi Shah and Dr. Ashley Agan interview Dr. Al Merati, chief of laryngology at the University of Washington, about the changing demographics of otolaryngology trainees.

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Who is the Future Otolaryngologist? with Dr. Al Merati on the BackTable ENT Podcast)
Ep 80 Who is the Future Otolaryngologist? with Dr. Al Merati
00:00 / 01:04

BackTable, LLC (Producer). (2022, December 13). Ep. 80 – Who is the Future Otolaryngologist? [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

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Podcast Contributors

Dr. Al Merati discusses Who is the Future Otolaryngologist? on the BackTable 80 Podcast

Dr. Al Merati

Dr. Albert Merati is an otolaryngologist, surgeon, and chief of Laryngology at UW Medicine's Head and Neck Surgery Center.

Dr. Ashley Agan discusses Who is the Future Otolaryngologist? on the BackTable 80 Podcast

Dr. Ashley Agan

Dr. Ashley Agan is a practicing ENT and assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX.

Dr. Gopi Shah discusses Who is the Future Otolaryngologist? on the BackTable 80 Podcast

Dr. Gopi Shah

Dr. Gopi Shah is a practicing ENT at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX.


First, the doctors discuss the pros and cons of selecting trainees in a competitive specialty like otolaryngology. Dr. Merati also notes that applicant trends may fluctuate between years and that residency programs are becoming more diverse. He also recommends normalizing all career choices by encouraging professors to support trainees who want to practice community otolaryngology instead of becoming academic otolaryngologists. Although teaching and mentorship are highly valued within the field, he believes that trainees should not have to conceal their career aspirations in order to obtain a residency spot.

Dr. Merati then discusses the importance of considering diverse trainee experiences. He notes that many talented otolaryngology trainees had to overcome hardships, financial difficulties, and lack of medical mentorship to achieve their goals. For this reason, he questions the feasibility of unmatched students taking a research year. He believes that alternative options to a research year, such as accepting a surgical internship or exploring entrepreneurship opportunities, are equally commendable. He notes that although older generations of otolaryngologists may be cautious about nontraditional trainees, younger generations of attendings are excited to explore the potential and curiosity of non-traditional trainees.

Finally, the doctors discuss constant values in otolaryngology. Dr. Merati notes that being caring and communicative to patients and colleagues is universal across every field. He adds that it may be hard to demonstrate these values everyday because of burnout and debt. Additionally, he believes that being a trainee is more difficult than it used to be. In his opinion, current residents have to deal with the constant intrusion of work life into personal life and have a weaker perception of mastery because of the exponential growth of different surgeries and techniques.

Finally he lists the three elements he believes to be the most important steps to keep recruiting talented and passionate trainees: investing in outreach to younger students, normalizing all career paths, and including community otolaryngology in residency curriculum.

Disclaimer: The Materials available on are for informational and educational purposes only and are not a substitute for the professional judgment of a healthcare professional in diagnosing and treating patients. The opinions expressed by participants of the BackTable Podcast belong solely to the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of BackTable.

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