Olivia Henderson, MD, said that beyond “tubes and tonsils,” she did not know much about otolaryngology when she started medical school. During her third-year surgery clerkship at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, she discovered her dream career while working within the specialty.

“It felt like after just one day on that service that I never looked back,” she said.

With a newly earned Doctor of Medicine from UK, Dr. Henderson will be one of four first-year residents joining the UK College of Medicine’s otolaryngology residency program. She is also one of 263 residents and fellows in total beginning their graduate medical training at the UK College of Medicine this summer, along with 12 dental residents, 22 pharmacy residents, and three hospital administration fellows.

“UK offers a fantastic clinical experience,” Dr. Henderson said. “Not only do you see such a broad variety of pathology, but you work with all of these attendings who are so passionate about learning. I felt like no matter what field I was in, wherever I was working, there was a personal investment from the faculty to see students be equipped to leave medical school and enter residency.”

During her third-year clerkship in UK HealthCare’s Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Clinic, Dr. Henderson discovered that otolaryngology merged all of her interests into a single field. She loved the hands-on surgical experience and was intrigued by the technology that made operating in small spaces like the ear, nose, and throat possible. 

Most importantly, she admired how much an otolaryngologist can improve a patient’s quality of life.

“ENT has a really unique platform in which we can directly impact a patient's sensory experience, whether that's hearing, sense of smell, balance, and so on,” Dr. Henderson said. “I remember my first time working in a rhinology clinic when I had the opportunity to watch post-operative nasal debridement. It was so satisfying to see the patient's relief when they were able to regain a function that had been lost.”

Dr. Henderson began residency on July 1 and has a lot to look forward to in her program. Program director Brett Comer, MD, MBA, professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery, said his residents learn one-on-one with faculty who are national and international leaders in their fields. 

“We expect that our graduates will become leaders in their communities, whether that is in a rural setting, in academic medicine, or on the mission field,” Dr. Comer said. 

Many otolaryngology residents have gone on to secure fellowship positions at other prestigious institutions, with graduates serving as faculty across the country including at Emory University, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and the University of Nebraska.

Dr. Henderson was drawn to UK’s otolaryngology program for being “a family” of residents and faculty with a strong culture of well-being and a comfortable learning environment. Because of these factors, combined with exceptional clinical education, opening her Match Day letter made for “one of the best days of my life.” 

She begins residency thankful that she went into medical school with an open mind. 

“I would definitely tell any student who is just beginning medical school that it’s OK not to have your career decided on the first day of medical school,” she said, “because for me, entering it with an open mind was the best thing I could have done.”