Campus News

Surgeons, residents add to skill set at Rhinofest

Otolaryngology residents Adrian Ong and Philip Persino practice sinus surgery during Rhinofest 2019 at the Jacobs School building.

Otolaryngology residents Adrian Ong (far left) and Philip Persino practice sinus surgery during Rhinofest 2019 at the Jacobs School building.


Published January 13, 2020


Otolaryngology surgeons and residents, facial plastic surgeons and other health care personnel got to experience cutting-edge technology and techniques during the recent Rhinofest 2019 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The four-day event offered 40 participants the opportunity to experience hands-on laboratory dissection with contemporary equipment, including navigation systems.

“We’re teaching people surgery — sinus surgery and facial plastic surgery. It’s a cadaver dissection course. We showed people live surgery and walked them through it, and then they got to actually try it themselves,” says Jens U. Ponikau, clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology, who directed the event.

The surgical training was extremely detailed.

“We conducted two days of sinus surgery with an endoscope to look inside the nose and operate through the nostril without any outside cuts,” Ponikau says. “We taught them how to do surgery of the brain through the nose. We taught them how to fix leaks of the brain, where you can lose brain fluid. We took our residents and participants and walked them through all aspects of these procedures.”

In addition to faculty from the Jacobs School, staff surgeons from the University of Graz in Austria also took part.

“Graz is the epicenter of endoscopic sinus surgery. They come to help teach our courses, and I go over to their meetings and help teach their courses as well,” Ponikau says. “We always have a core group doing this together with Graz, but then we also invite others from around the nation and around the world who are experts in their field.”

This was the 26th Advanced International Rhinologic Dissection Course in Endoscopic Sinus Surgery and Rhinoplasty — better known as Rhinofest.

It was started by Eugene Kern at the Mayo Clinic. Ponikau helped with the event while working there before taking it over in 2000. David A. Sherris, professor and chair of otolaryngology, was also at the Mayo Clinic at that time.

A couple of years later, the trio and the event migrated to UB.

“Dr. Sherris, Dr. Kern and myself all left Mayo at the same time to come here and revitalize the ear, nose and throat program,” Ponikau says. “We did Rhinofest for many years in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic. Now it’s centered on the Jacobs School. We focus now on marketing the Jacobs School and the University at Buffalo.”

While in years past the event took place on the South Campus, 2019 Rhinofest was the first at the new downtown medical school building. “We reproduced essentially 12 operating rooms where participants practiced surgery,” he says.

In addition to surgery and talks, the internationally recognized event also mixed in a visit to Niagara Falls and dinner at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex.

“This is a great way to display what we can do, and it’s a great course. It has always been well received. If somebody puts the effort forward, people come,” Ponikau says.

“Over the years, whether it’s the Office of Continuing Medical Education, whether it’s the gross anatomy lab, they couldn’t be more supportive. I have to give them a lot of credit for having a can-do attitude,” he adds.

Joseph L. Muscarella Jr., Saurin R. Popat and Samuel A. Reyes, all clinical assistant professors of otolaryngology, as well as John F. Stanievich, clinical associate professor of otolaryngology, were among the faculty members taking part in the course. Other faculty members were from Iowa, North Carolina, Germany and Italy.

Ponikau, Sherris and Kern served as course directors for Rhinofest, along with physicians from Austria and Germany.