Wag newsletterRichard Waguespack, MD, FACS, is retiring after 40 years of serving patients. Dr. Waguespack made the transition from private practice to academic medicine in 2013. He specialized in general otolaryngology, otology, and laryngology.


Fulfilling Career

From beginning to end, it has been the satisfaction of treating patients with individual relationships over 33 years of private practice generally being the most personal and, in many ways, meaningful. The same is true with my small office practice wherein staff were family, in particular my wife, Mrs. Ogle, serving as office manager. Likewise, the nearly three decades I spent at St. Vincent’s in Birmingham engendered wonderful relationships with staff, especially in the OR, and with fellow physicians.

What made my seven years at UAB positively unique and irreplaceable, are the interactions with residents and several key colleagues in the Clinic (nurse practitioners, audiologists, and speech-language pathologists).

Finally, my work in health policy, education, and leadership from mid-career onward with the Academy, Triological Society, and AMA CPT processes has been incredibly rewarding. All while being able to provide for my family!

Evolution of Otolaryngology 

General or perhaps comprehensive otolaryngology has become much more consolidated and commoditized, especially in larger cities, with hospital or system employment, being commonplace. There are even practices that have been acquired by venture capitalists. Academia is largely “ruled” by subspecialists, but there is still a very real role in community-based practice for the general Otolaryngologist. Graduates from the UAB program are more than well-prepared to deal with over 95% of patients that present to their offices. There is a large percentage of private practitioners who will be following me into retirement over the next 5-10 years both in Alabama and nationally so, even with nurse practitioners and physician assistants entering practices, there will remain professionally satisfying opportunities ahead.

To Future Otolaryngologists

Lifelong learning is baked into our professional lives, so I am longer as concerned as I was in the past with colleagues who didn’t learn much after completing residency. Granted, most residents graduate with debts far larger than the $2200 we had on completing med school and naturally focus on growing their practices and personal lives. That said, I urge everyone to maintain their moral compass with humility and remember we each have an obligation to our communities that grant our licenses, privileges, and certifications to treat our fellow citizens. Remain engaged with our profession and specialty societies, be it modestly or at a high level. There are many role models and potential mentors both at UAB and in communities around Alabama.

Retirement

I have a few months remaining on the Academy’s Annual Meeting Program CMTE on which I have served these last nearly four years. This body plans each year’s AAO-HNS annual meeting and this one has been radically altered by the pandemic. Likewise, I rotate off of the CPT Assistant Editorial Board, completing four years this October. This group edits the monthly publication that addresses in detail nuances of CPT coding across all specialties. I plan to complete my current 3-year term as the Triological Society’s CPT Advisor, representing our specialty along with my Academy counterparts.

Perhaps, something can be worked out with the Birmingham VA Medical Center to do a bit of part-time staffing of clinic and otologic cases.

On the personal side, my wife and I have some traveling to catch up on. I’ll pursue my long-deferred desire to become a fisherman and woodworker. I have already begun working to restore old radios, instead of old patients.