Awards : Hall of Fame Award

Thomas Balkany, M.D. ’72

Thomas Balkany, M.D., ’72, Hotchkiss professor of otology and neurotology, director of the University of Miami Ear Institute, and chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is a highly recognized leader in cochlear implantation surgery to restore hearing to the profoundly deaf. Balkany returned to South Florida from Colorado as founding director of the University of Miami Ear Institute in 1990. He has built the University’s cochlear implant program into one of the busiest in the nation, restoring hearing to approximately 400 deaf children and adults.

Balkany and his team typically conduct multiple clinical trials on new restorative hearing devices, not only cochlear implants for the profoundly deaf, but also implantable hearing aids for those with less severe hearing loss. He expects that within the next few years, these bionic ears will be entirely implanted, no longer requiring the microphone to be worn externally, behind the ear. Other research programs about to begin under Balkany’s direction include gene therapy for stimulating nerve growth and restoring hearing to those with nerve-related deafness. Another is a study of the role viruses play in initiating ear infections, one of the most common childhood illnesses.

As a strong supporter of resource sharing, Balkany established the Microsurgery Training Center in 1995 to provide advanced hands-on training for surgeries which restore hearing, remove tumors from the skull base, clear sinuses, repair facial nerves, treat chronic ear infections, and correct balance disorders like Meniere’s disease. Over 600 participants from the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand have gone through training, learning techniques from ophthalmologists and neurosurgeons, in addition to otolaryngologists. Balkany is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Audiology. In recognition of his efforts to teach national and international colleagues, he has been the guest of honor at the national medical congresses of Chile, Brazil, England, Taiwan, and Mexico. The League for the Hard of Hearing recognized him in recent years with a special award for medical ethics regarding cochlear implantation. He also received the medical school’s teaching award and the Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity from the University of Miami in 1999 in recognition of his research activities.