By Scott Scanlon / The Buffalo News
A mosaic adorns one of the softly appointed walls in the office of Dr. Paul Young in Amherst. Concocted with important pieces of Young’s life, it includes a trio of long-nosed scissors, two otoscopes and a painting of a child peeking into the lifted, floppy ear of a dog.
The two-panel piece, crafted by a pair of Medina artists, also includes the “Physician’s Prayer,” in Hebrew, a testament to how an Orthodox Jew who grew up in London found his professional calling in Western New York.
Young is an otolaryngologist, a specialty better known in its vernacular: Ear, Nose and Throat doctor.
“What I like about ENT is we make the diagnosis, we treat the patients medically and surgically, and we maintain the patients afterward,” he said. “There’s a nice comprehensive feel to our specialty. The other thing I like is that even though I’m a surgeon, I’d say 75 percent of my patients do not go to the operating room.”
Young, 42, landed in Buffalo in the late 1990s after meeting his wife, Sonia Gellman, who grew up in the region. They met in New York City, while Young was in the Lubavitch Central Yeshiva rabbinical school in Brooklyn.
He wasn’t sure at the time what he wanted to do for a living – most rabbinical school graduates end up in other professions – so he started in the real estate business with his father-in-law, Arthur Gellman. He soon found himself reaping more joy in volunteer work at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and with a University at Buffalo health researcher.
Young already was a family man when he started at UB medical school at age 30. He did his residency and specialty training in Buffalo, as well, and opened his practice four years ago at 4955 Bailey Ave., near Maple Road. (His website: paulyoungmd.com.)
He and his wife – both active at the Jewish Discovery Center and in the greater Buffalo Jewish Community – welcomed their seventh child, Esther Rose, into the world about six weeks ago. Their other children are Leah, 18, a freshman abroad in Israel, and sons Yaacov, 15, in rabbinical school in New Haven, Conn., Michel, 12, Dovber, 9, Avraham, 4, and Mendel, 2.
Young is affiliated with Sister of Charity Hospital and also sees patients at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst. He performs most of his surgeries at Erie County Medical Center. He is a UB clinical associate professor who teaches residents ENT surgery techniques, and also is head of ENT in the regional state prison system.
Q. What was medical school like for you after you had been in the business world and started a family?
I wasn’t entirely unique. There are certainly other people like that, though certainly not the majority. Most are 18 to 22 in college and 22 when they go into medical school. We’re all adults at that point, though we have different dreams and desires. When you finish for the day, they want to go out. I want to go home to my family. But it was fine. It was kind of like training for a job and doing what you needed to do. I didn’t do as much socializing but we still managed to carve out a niche of friends from my medical school class. On some level, I was kind of the elder statesman. A lot of the medical students would come to my house and my wife would cook for them.
Q. Otolaryngology is a broad field. Can you talk about your specialty areas?
It’s very broad. It spans from newborn to geriatric and involves everything in the head and neck. People think of ear, nose and throat and they don’t really understand the full scope. It includes head and neck cancer. It includes voice. It includes hearing, snoring, sleep, sinus, allergies. Anything that affects head and neck.
The general otolaryngologist will deal with breathing difficulties from the nose, allergies, deviated septums, kids with tonsils and adenoids issues, dealing with ear infections and common ear problems. People losing their voice. People having strep throats and those types of things. Facial plastics is a big part of ENT. Just last night, I was putting together a poor kid who had his cheek bitten off by a German shepherd; 25 percent of our boards is in facial plastics. In Buffalo, I happen to have gotten very good training. The chairman of ENT in this town, David Sherrish, is a facial plastic surgeon, so we get great training here in facial plastics and I’m very comfortable doing it. I do a lot of soft tissue reconstruction in the face. I like, personally, sinuses and rhinology, nose symptoms, so I do a lot of that and I have an innovative way that I do it, which no one else in Buffalo is doing.
Q. You work a clinic twice a month at Wende Correctional Facility. How does that differ from other parts of your practice?
I kind of like it. I find that the population, generally, is very appreciative to get specialty care. It’s a different setup because I’m seeing them in a different environment. Surgery-wise, they get operated on at Erie County Medical Center. You’re not explaining things to families. They’re isolated. And to be honest, the big difference for me is I don’t have to deal with insurance companies. I negotiated a rate with the Department of Corrections. I send them a bill, they send me a check. You don’t say, “I asked for $100, got 55 cents.” Dealing with the state is way easier than dealing with insurance companies.
Q. What is balloon sinuplasty and what can it help patients address?
I’m not the only one who does this in Buffalo but I’m the only one who does it in the office while the patient is awake. Sinus disease in general means there’s some kind of blockage in the draining of the sinuses in the head. Re-establishing good drainage is the goal. The question is, “How do you best do that?” The first approach is to try to do it with medications, try to shrink inflammation and re-establish drainage that way. When medications don’t work and the pathways are still blocked, we go to surgical options. Traditionally, the surgical option was to go in with sharp instruments and bite the openings and re-create large openings by removing tissue. More recently, there’s been a trend toward saying, “Why do we have to remove tissue? Wouldn’t it be better if we could come up with a technique where we just stretch things without removing anything?” You remodel. You don’t remove. The technology was based on cardiac angioplasty, where you take a balloon, put it inside a cardiac vessel and blow it up to break up plaque that’s inside of a vessel. Somebody took that technology and turned it into a balloon that would dilate the openings of the sinus and they created a device that you could thread into the sinus openings. Because the sinus openings are a thin, thin bone, you can stretch them and they stay stretched. It re-establishes the normal drainage pattern without removing any normal tissue. It’s a benefit.
Q. What are some of the signs someone might be losing their hearing.
One of the things I tend to hear is a trend is that the first sign is when people say they can’t hear when there’s noise in the background. If they’re sitting in a restaurant with friends or family and they’re not catching the conversation, but when they’re home and it’s one-on-one and their fine, it’s time to figure out why. When the spouse tells someone they’re losing their hearing, and that person says, “No, you just talk low,” that’s generally a sign you should get a hearing test. Or if someone says, “He doesn’t hear me when I call from another room anymore,” that’s a sign. Directionality is big.