Meet a Doctor: Steven Rauch, M.D.
When the future Dr. Steven Rauch was in his second year of medical school at the University of Cincinnati, he worked as a "suture doc," providing minor wound care in the city hospital Emergency Ward. During this time, he became what he describes lightheartedly as "a hand surgery groupie." He loved the complicated and beautiful anatomy of the hand, as well as the fact that each surgery presented the physician with an array of new problems to solve.
Early one morning, an ambulance arrived at the hospital carrying a patient who had severed his hand with a power saw. Thirteen hours later, surgeons had perfectly reattached his hand. The local press converged on this feat of the then-new specialty called microsurgery and Dr. Rauch was excited to have played a small role in this success. However, he was distressed when the patient returned to the ER soon thereafter because he had again damaged that hand in a fist fight.
"I realized that I become emotionally involved in my work and I want a good result, one that reflects my skill and judgment," explains Dr. Rauch, now an Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Otologist, and Professor of Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School.
He was frustrated by the idea that the surgical outcome could be undermined by post-operative factors such as inadequate or incomplete rehabilitation therapy, but he still desired a specialty that would offer objective results, involve fabulous anatomy, and the challenge of surgical decision-making. Hand surgery's loss became Mass. Eye and Ear's gain when Dr. Rauch decided to specialize in conditions of the ear, nose and throat.
In addition to administrative and teaching responsibilities, Dr. Rauch divides his time between clinical care and studying disorders that affect hearing and balance, such as Meniere's disease, and he is currently chairing a national multicenter clinical trial on sudden deafness supported by the NIH National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
"What drives me is the great opportunities I have at Mass. Eye and Ear, not only to answer clinical questions that ultimately benefit our patients, but to be able to work with a team of outstanding researchers and great resources that facilitate that process," he says.
Dr. Rauch is leading a program to combine and expand the resources at Mass. Eye and Ear to form a new Balance and Vestibular Center, where those patients with balance disorders will benefit from multidisciplinary care under one roof. "With a Balance Center we will learn more," he says. "A Balance Center will help us train the next generation of balance specialists. We will train physicians and researchers who are curious and interested in balance disorders so they will then do even more research and provide better care to patients with balance problems."