As reported by Heather Chronis in the Fall 2015 Sight & Sound newsletter of the Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Barry Hirsch, MD, Director of the Division of Otology in the Department of Otolaryngology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is highly regarded by his patients as compassionate and knowledgeable, and is nationally recognized for excellence in ear surgery. He came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1979 for a residency in Otolaryngology (ENT), after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. His interview with the Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology, Eugene N. Myers, MD, sealed the deal for relocating to Pittsburgh.
“Dr. Myers was making the program come alive,” states Dr. Hirsch. Upon completing the residency, Dr. Hirsch joined the Georgetown Faculty in 1982 and stayed until 1984, when he was given the opportunity to return to the Eye and Ear Hospital for a fellowship with his mentor, Donald B. Kamerer, MD. This “golden opportunity” coincided nicely with his wife, Jean Harwick, MD, beginning a cornea fellowship at Eye and Ear Hospital.
In 1987, Dr. Hirsch established the Temporal Bone Laboratory as a training area for residents. He recognized the need for the Residents and Fellows to obtain the necessary practice to develop their skills in ear surgery. The laboratory began with state-of-the-art equipment, including the same microscopes that are used in the operating room. Following his fellowship with Dr. Ugo Fisch in Switzerland in 1996, Dr. Hirsch began to incorporate techniques of Skull Base Surgery into the training facility. Donor funding from many of Dr. Hirsch’ patients, the Lions Clubs, and other organizations continues to provide updated equipment that maintains the status of the laboratory as one of the finest in the country. As a testament to its success, the dynamic space is now also used by Ophthalmology, Urology, and Plastic Surgery for training purposes.
Otolaryngology residents and neurotology fellows regard Dr. Hirsch as an outstanding instructor. As a resident recently commented, “Dr. Hirsch clearly loves working with residents and teaching, and is very trusting in surgical situations that require precision measured in millimeters. He is just as patient and thoughtful in the clinic setting, and is always ready to answer and discuss clinical questions. Dr. Hirsch is also one of the most personable Attendings I have had the pleasure of working with — he obviously cares a great deal for his patients, and they for him.”
Dr. Hirsch takes a considerate and personalized approach to every one of his patients. “I first began treatment with Dr. Hirsch in 1989, when I had my first ear surgery. Quite frankly, I would be nearly deaf today, if it had not been for Dr. Hirsch’s medical treatment. Dr. Hirsch takes the time to explain everything regarding the problem at hand and how to resolve the issue. He is always happy to see me and I am always astounded at how cordial he is even during the worst appointments,” states Laura Underhill. Twenty six years later, she continues to be a patient of Dr. Hirsch.
The admiration is not all one sided. Dr. Hirsch is often inspired by his patients. A teenage patient of Dr. Hirsch’s has a metastatic tumor that has spread to his lungs and treatment, at this point, is directed toward controlling the primary tumor and those to his lungs. The patient has a “phenomenal outlook” and shares his love of music, including a self-produced CD with Dr. Hirsch all while receiving chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Dr. Hirsch considers this patient a role model and source of inspiration showing strength and love of life.
Dr. Hirsch remains passionate about Otolaryngology more than 30 years after arriving at the Eye and Ear Institute. His excellence in treating patients, along with training residents and fellows, has helped the institution maintain its top national ranking. Dr. Hirsch is a prime example of the continued exceptional patient care and treatment that has been the hallmark of the Eye and Ear Institute since its inception.