For Pediatric Otolaryngologist Anthony Sheyn, MD, FACS, medicine is in his blood. Born in Ukraine, the majority of his family were in the medical field, including his grandmother — who was one of the first female chiefs of staff in the Soviet Union. In the generation above Sheyn, all the women in the family became doctors. Sheyn says that medicine is almost like a family business — his brother and two cousins are now physicians as well.
After only one year in medical school at the University of Cincinnati, Pediatric Otolaryngology (ENT) quickly became the obvious choice for his specialty.
“I realized that ENT was a field that touches every area of the body — almost every condition has a head or neck component,” said Sheyn. “As an ENT, I get to have continuity of care equivalent to general pediatricians. I see kids and adolescents who I first saw when they were infants. I get to know patients and families, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in that.”
Sheyn was recently appointed chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Le Bonheur and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). As the new chief, he casts a wide vision of innovation in pediatric ENT and collaboration among physicians, specialties, hospitals and even countries.
Typical ENT issues that arise in kids — ear infections, tonsillitis, sinusitis, etc. — may seem like run-of-the-mill pediatric conditions. But Sheyn is finding ways to innovate even the most commonplace of pediatric procedures.
Sheyn and his team are currently the only physicians in the area approved for a procedure
to place ear tubes in an outpatient clinic setting. The procedure takes about five minutes with no general anesthesia and no need for a child to be NPO. With this in-office procedure, patients see immediate relief, avoid the risks of anesthesia and open a surgery spot for another child.
But Sheyn sees the future of ENT becoming more specialized with each member of his team bringing their own expertise to a diverse and comprehensive ENT program.
“Our bread and butter will always be tubes and tonsillectomies, but at Le Bonheur we are able to flex our subspecialty muscles as well — that’s where pediatric ENT is headed,” said Sheyn. “Our ENTs are capable of doing everything, but each of us has our own subspecialties working together to cover all pediatric ENT issues.”
Sheyn’s subspecialty focus is head and neck cancer, caring for kids in a partnership between Le Bonheur and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — one of the largest programs in the country. Because of this partnership, Sheyn cares for a wide range of rare pathologies seen at only a few places in the world, making Memphis an international destination for pediatric head and neck cancer.
But the climate of collaboration also extends to other specialties at Le Bonheur Children’s. Sheyn provides ENT leadership for several multi-specialty programs, including a robust thyroid program with Pediatric Surgery and Pediatric Endocrinology.
“Working at Le Bonheur is rewarding; there is a spirit of helping people that doesn’t really exist anywhere else,” said Sheyn on the collaborative atmosphere.
Sheyn’s commitment to collaboration extends to his homeland of Ukraine. When the Ukrainian crisis erupted in 2021, Sheyn was quick to step up and offer his help for any children in need, especially as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital helped to coordinate evacuation and care for more than 900 patients and families.
“It’s nice to be here in Memphis and be involved with Le Bonheur and St. Jude which are doing everything to help the country I came from. It reinforces my decision to come here, stay here and work,” said Sheyn.
Sheyn and his team aim to collaborate for the improvement of pediatric care around the globe through their research. On a national and international level, Sheyn and Le Bonheur’s ENTs work with other hospitals to develop protocols for pediatric thyroid tumors, salivary gland tumors and sarcomas of the head and neck. Closer to home, Sheyn uses Le Bonheur and UTHSC’s BIG Initiative, a pediatric DNA repository, to study hearing loss in African American children — a population that is underresearched.
At the end of the day, Sheyn is building a team that can conquer everything a child may face in the ENT realm, from the most complicated cancers and surgeries to commonplace sinus issues.
“We have access to so much complicated disease here, we can guide care of children on a national level,” said Sheyn. “My vision is for our ENTs to be leaders not just locally, but nationally, and reinforce Le Bonheur as a destination center for pediatric ENT.
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