2024 | Volume 25 | Issue 2

Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon Dr Andrew Wood, a recipient of the Herbert and Gloria Kees Research Scholarship (2022) from RACS, is grateful for the opportunity it has provided.

Dr Wood has used the scholarship to conduct a randomised controlled trial investigating the post-operative use of doxycycline and its impact on recovery among patients undergoing endoscopic sinus surgery for the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis.

Based in Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand, Dr Wood is midway through this project. The genesis of this study dates back to 2020 when Dr Wood conducted a smaller pilot study at his centre.

The study was motivated by the prevalence of sinus surgeries, one of the most commonly planned surgeries in the western world. “Survey data indicate that the majority of ENT surgeons prescribe antibiotics post-surgery, but the efficacy of this approach remains uncertain,” he says.

Although only a small study, the pilot found no evidence to support the use of antibiotics in this context. In fact, it suggested that abstaining from antibiotics post-operation might lead to better outcomes.

The study also used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to focus on the bacteria present in the sinuses, aligning with the growing understanding that a diverse microbial environment is conducive to health.

“This unexpected finding implies that avoiding antibiotic use in this context may lead to a healthier flora and a better recovery,” Dr Wood says.

Hence, a larger study was initiated under the RACS scholarship, involving five surgeons from four different hospitals in patient recruitment. Being a blinded study, the final conclusions of this study will only be known on its completion this year.

“If we confirm our hypothesis—that antibiotics exacerbate the situation—it could change the practices of ENT surgeons worldwide.

“This discovery has the potential to decrease unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, addressing the significant threat of overprescribing antibiotics. Recognising that antibiotic resistance is a major concern for the World Health Organization and global health, our findings offer an opportunity to enhance prescribing practices for a common surgical procedure.”

Affiliated with the University of Auckland, Dr Wood regards the scholarship as a crucial opportunity to advance surgical research in his hospital department, which had previously not been a major research centre. With seven years of experience in a consultant position, he has been striving to establish a robust research program.

“Receiving the scholarship was truly fantastic. It provided the necessary financial support to carry out the research that I wanted. Moreover, the support of peers and colleagues, along with the recognition that my work is considered valuable by others, was a warming endorsement.”

He encourages others to pursue the RACS scholarship. “Be confident, persistent, and if faced with rejection from funding applications, take the opportunity to reflect, learn, and enhance your study. It requires considerable hard work and perseverance,” he says.

Originally from the UK, Dr Wood completed medical school at Oxford University. The decision to specialise in ENT surgery was influenced by the people he worked with. "Their achievements and aspirations resonated with mine, serving as a source of inspiration and motivation."

The encouragement of a “compassionate ENT surgeon” led to his first experience in Auckland in 2005, a few years after he completed medical school. Also, his wife's enthusiasm played a key role in their decision to settle in Aotearoa New Zealand, where they have thoroughly enjoyed living.

Dr Wood works for Waikato Hospital as Head of Department, The University of Auckland and in private practice. Balancing personal and professional life, Dr Wood prioritises family outside of work.

Just enjoying the success of my children and watching them grow. And very cognisant that they are going to move on soon so, I'm trying to be there for them too.”