Otolaryngologist talks about what ENT is and why you need to see one if you have a problem related to ears, nose and throat
By Chris Motola
Q: When would a patient come to see an ears, nose and throat (ENT) physician as opposed to their primary care physician?
A: The typical way is the patient visits primary care physicians and they’ll do a patient evaluation and see what they can or cannot manage. Not every patient necessarily needs a referral to see an ENT. For example, we have a lot of patients with hearing problems. They know they have an issue and some of the limitations of going to primary care, and they’ll come directly to us to get a hearing evaluation, bypassing the primary care physician.
Q: Does your practice tend to focus on any particular conditions?
A: I try to stay as general as I can. That’s part of why I went into ENT and what I like about it. I enjoy performing a lot of sinus surgery and nasal surgery. I’ve expanded to include surgery for patients who have hearing loss. With some of my head and neck patients, it’s been endocrine surgery, which includes things like the thyroid and parathyroid. We take care of some salivary gland problems here as well. For our pediatric patients, we see a lot of kids with enlarged tonsils or chronic ear infections, whether it needs surgical management or not.
Q: What led you to practice at Buffalo Medical Group?
A: I did my residency training out in Philadelphia and had been working in private practice there for a few years. My wife and I have three children, so we wanted to be closer to family in the Buffalo area. We also just love the area. So, we were kind of drawn back here. I had known some of the ENT doctors here, and we had some long conversations about what they had to offer. One of the biggest draws to BMG is it allows me to be a clinician first and foremost. When you’re in a private group like I was before, your time is allocated toward the administrative side of things and it can take away from your ability to practice as much as you want. Here, we have a strong administrative structure in place where I can solely focus on seeing patients and put my effort into growing my practice. Also, the staffing here is terrific. And a lot of the people here have been here a long time. It’s rare these days to find people who have been at one position more than a couple years, but at Buffalo Medical Group we’re finding people who have been here 10, 15, 20 years. It tells me that there’s some good stuff in place here.
Q: You mentioned surgery earlier. What kinds of issues can be treated with ENT surgery that patients may not be aware of?
A: You get a lot of patients who come in with another complaint and things will emerge during the evaluation. I might ask them how well they breathe through their nose and they’ll say, “Not well at all.” But many times, they haven’t really thought about it or had it mentioned to them before. And that’s just nasal structures. We see that all the time. Patients who have sleep issues, snoring issues, just have a hard time breathing through their nose. These are usually easily correctable problems, like a deviated septum, which a short procedure can fix. I see patients with hearing loss who have seen an outside audiologist, maybe even have a hearing aid, but there are types of hearing loss that are correctable with surgery. But they don’t always get directed in that fashion.
Q: Aside from being in the same general area of the body, how are the ears, nose, and throat connected, and how do they affect each other?
A: Really, all the systems connect through the back of the pharynx. As an example, if you go back along the nose, you get to the pharynx through the nasal cavity. Your ears connect to the pharynx through the eustachian tube. It’s all connected through the same tube. So, problems that affect the pharynx tend to cause problems with the ear and the nose and throat. The pharynx is the main connection.
Q: When you’re meeting patients as a specialist, how do you develop a rapport with patients knowing that you won’t necessarily be seeing them regularly.
A: For me, I think I enjoy the conversations almost a little too much. But I like making it a good experience for them and ask them a variety of questions, if they’re looking for that kind of relationship as well. I try to make notations for myself, have an idea of what they’re struggling with, because all of that can have an impact on their health and what they’re feeling about it.
Q: Are there issues that are more prevalent in the Buffalo area?
A: With the Buffalo area, you see a lot of issues with allergies and sinuses. We also have pretty major shifts in barometric pressure. Having four seasons can wreak a bit of havoc on the sinuses. We have a good relationship here at BMG with our allergist and our primary care doctors to help manage these patients. What we’ve found with allergic rhinitis are topical steroid treatments that are anti-inflammatory. They can be more effective even than the oral antihistamines.
Name: Shaun Baker, D.O.
Position: Otolaryngologist at Buffalo Medical Group, PC (BMG)
Education: Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine; University at Buffalo
Areas of interest: General ear, nose and throat disorders; sinus and skull base surgery; thyroid/parathyroid disease; chronic ear disease and pediatrics.
Affiliations: Sisters of Charity Hospital; Oishei Children’s Hospital; Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital
Organizations: The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery; American Osteopathic College of Ophthalmology & Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery; American Osteopathic Association; Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association
Family: Married (Holly), three children
Hobbies: Golfing, boating