By Benjamin Waldrum
Jan. 20, 2022 | The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) invested Ozlem Tulunay-Ugur, M.D., in the Patricia and J. Floyd Kyser, M.D. Chair in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery on Jan. 13.
“This is just amazing, and such a huge honor,” said Tulunay-Ugur. “Dr. Kyser was actually one of the first people I met when I came to Arkansas. He’s a huge supporter of our mission and the otolaryngology department, and he’s always sponsored a lot of educational activities for me as well. It is such a different honor to have this endowment in his name. I emailed him and said I would do my best to make him very proud. It is a passion of both of ours to further the health of Arkansans.”
Tulunay-Ugur, a professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery who joined UAMS in 2008, is director of UAMS’s laryngology program. She has a special interest in geriatric laryngology and is well known for her work in geriatric voice and swallowing disorders.
An endowed chair is among the highest academic honors a university can bestow on a faculty member. A chair is established with gifts of at least $1 million, which are invested and the interest proceeds used to support the educational, research and clinical activities of the chair holder. Those named to a chair are among the most highly regarded scientists, physicians and professors in their fields.
“Dr. Tulunay-Ugur is one of our superstars here at UAMS,” said Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, UAMS chancellor and UAMS Health CEO. “She is an outstanding faculty member and clinician whose compassionate care endears her to her patients. I can think of no one better suited to hold this chair and carry forward Dr. Kyser’s legacy.”
“Ozlem has developed a national and international reputation in her field in laryngology with multiple responsibilities in our academic and leadership roles, and she is a role model for strong women in medicine in our field,” said John Dornhoffer, M.D., chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. “This chair represents a responsibility, not only to help the patients of Arkansas and further her career, but to do so in line with the vision of Pat and Floyd Kyser.”
Floyd Kyser, M.D., who grew up in Camden, served an internship at UAMS after graduating with honors in 1962. He then was drafted into the Army, where he was assigned to the Ear-Nose-Throat Department at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Following his discharge, Kyser trained in general surgery for a year at the University of Missouri and then completed a residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Southwestern Medical School and Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
In 1969, Kyser and his wife, Patricia, returned to Little Rock, where he established a solo practice and worked for 32 years until his retirement in 2002. Two of the Kyser family’s four children also are graduates of the UAMS College of Medicine.
In 2016, the Kyser family made a generous gift to establish the chair. James Y. Suen, M.D., distinguished professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, trained under Kyser in the 1970s and was the chair’s inaugural recipient. Suen hired Tulunay-Ugur in 2008 during his long tenure as department chair.
“When I interviewed Dr. Tulunay-Ugur, I knew she would fit well in our department,” Suen said. “She’s done an outstanding job with patient care, teaching, succeeding in academics and establishing an international reputation. She deserves this great honor of being invested into the Kyser chair. Congratulations, Ozlem. I’m very proud of you.”
“Floyd was an ENT surgeon for many, many years who had a passion and reputation for patient care,” Dornhoffer said. “When he decided to retire, that didn’t change. He supported our department in multiple ways to continue helping the patients of Arkansas with head and neck issues.”
“He’s not working through his hands anymore doing this, he’s working through your hands,” Dornhoffer said, addressing Tulunay-Ugur directly. “Two things you both have in common are a big heart and compassion. I’m quite confident that you are going to make us proud, you’re going to give better care to our patients, and I’m quite confident you’re going to make Floyd and Pat very proud of you.”
In addition to the honor of being named chair holder, Tulunay-Ugur received a commemorative medallion and an inscribed wooden chair. She thanked many people, including past mentors, nurses and staff. She also thanked her family, who attended virtually and were shown watching the ceremony from a nearby screen.
“This place has changed my life,” Tulunay-Ugur said. “It’s just a phenomenal place to work for. Whatever you want to do here, there’s always support, and you can grow – and I have grown. I can’t thank Dr. Suen and Dr. Dornhoffer for all their support and trusting me in this. I will make you proud.
“I also had the best role models, and my parents Dr. Ozden and Dr. Cankat Tulunay are the reason I am here today. They not only nurtured us with a loving family but guided me through my education. I would like to wholeheartedly thank my sister for always being there, and my wonderful husband and beautiful daughters Parla and Damla for always having my back.”
After graduating from Hacettepe University Medical School in Ankara, Turkey, Tulunay-Ugur completed her residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Ankara University Medical School. She spent an additional year in research and received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health working on head and neck carcinogenesis. She joined UAMS after completing head and neck oncology fellowship and laryngology training at Wayne State University.
Tulunay-Ugur is the immediate past president of the American Society of Geriatric Otolaryngology and has been a member of the executive council for more than a decade. She is a past president of the Arkansas Society of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the current secretary-treasurer. She is also a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Society, American Broncho-Esophagological Association and the American Head and Neck Society. She continues to serve on many committees in all of these societies. Her work has been published in multiple medical journals, and she lectures both nationally and internationally.