Otolaryngology residents Adrian Ong, left, and Philip Persino practice sinus surgery during Rhinofest 2019 at the Jacobs School building.

Surgeons, Residents Add to Skill Set at Rhinofest 2019

Published December 17, 2019

story by bill bruton

Otolaryngology surgeons and residents, facial plastic surgeons and other health care personnel got to experience cutting edge technology and techniques during Rhinofest 2019, which took place this fall at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building.

“This is a great way to display what we can do. ”
Clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology

The four-day event allowed 40 participants the opportunity to experience hands-on laboratory dissection with contemporary equipment, including navigation systems.

Participants Learn Detailed Sinus Surgery

“We’re teaching people surgery — sinus surgery and facial plastic surgery. It’s a cadaver dissection course. We showed people live surgery and walked them through it, and then they got to actually try it themselves,” says Jens U. Ponikau, MD, clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology, who directed the event.

The surgical training was extremely detailed.

“We conducted two days of sinus surgery with an endoscope to look inside the nose and operate through the nostril without any outside cuts,” Ponikau says. “We taught them how to do surgery of the brain through the nose. We taught them how to fix leaks of the brain, where you can lose brain fluid. We took our residents and participants and walked them through all aspects of these procedures.”

In Concert With Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Hub

In addition to faculty from the Jacobs School, staff surgeons also came from the University of Graz in Austria to take part.

“Graz is the epicenter of endoscopic sinus surgery. They come to help teach our courses, and I go over to their meetings and help teach their courses as well,” Ponikau says. “We always have a core group doing this together with Graz, but then we also invite others from around the nation and around the world who are experts in their field.”

Event Started at the Mayo Clinic

This was the 26th Advanced International Rhinologic Dissection Course in Endoscopic Sinus Surgery and Rhinoplasty — better known as Rhinofest.

It was started by Eugene Kern, MD, at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Ponikau helped with the event while working there before taking it over in 2000. David A. Sherris, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology, was also at the Mayo Clinic at that time.

A couple of years later, the trio and the event migrated to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“Dr. Sherris, Dr. Kern and myself all left Mayo at the same time to come here and revitalize the ear, nose and throat program,” Ponikau says. “We did Rhinofest for many years in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic. Now it’s centered on the Jacobs School. We focus now on marketing the Jacobs School and the University at Buffalo.”

New Medical School Building Shines

In years past, the event took place on UB’s South Campus.

“This was the first time we did it at the new medical school. We reproduced essentially 12 operating rooms where participants practiced surgery,” Ponikau says.

In addition to surgery and talks, the internationally recognized event also mixed in a visit to Niagara Falls and dinner at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex for participants.

“This is a great way to display what we can do, and it’s a great course. It has always been well received. If somebody puts the effort forward, people come,” Ponikau says.

“Over the years, whether it’s the Office of Continuing Medical Education, whether it’s the gross anatomy lab, they couldn’t be more supportive. I have to give them a lot of credit for having a can-do attitude,” Ponikau adds.

Joseph L. Muscarella Jr., DO; Saurin R. Popat, MD; Samuel A. Reyes, MD, all clinical assistant professors of otolaryngology — as well as John F. Stanievich, MD, clinical associate professor of otolaryngology — were among the faculty members for the course. Other faculty members were from Iowa, North Carolina, Germany and Italy.

Ponikau, Sherris and Kern were course directors for the event, along with physicians from Austria and Germany.