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Dr. Derek Hewitt – The World of Otolaryngology and ENT

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Derek Hewitt

Dr. Derek Hewitt is a board-certified otolaryngologist at Prescott ENT in Arizona. He specializes in a variety of fields, including head and neck surgery, pediatric care, and hearing loss, among others. Dr. Hewitt attended the University of Utah’s School of Medicine and completed his five-year residency at the University of Missouri Hospitals and Clinics. He began practicing at Prescott in 2011, staying up to date on research for best practices in the ENT world. He is currently a Fellow of the American Board of Otolaryngology and the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Dr. Derek Hewitt’s journey from English degree to ENT
  • The patient stories that impacted Dr. Hewitt
  • Who are the mentors that defined Dr. Hewitt’s career?
  • The powerful technology of the new Inspire devices
  • Dr. Hewitt talks about the significance of sounds
  • The unique advantages to working in ENT

In this episode…

The field of ENT is much broader than the average person may think. Outside of the titular specializations in ears, nose, and throat, the practice can extend even to head and neck surgery. Everything from mild hearing loss to head cancers are covered by the ENT label. As a result, many doctors in the field are able to work in a myriad of contexts for people of all ages. 

This variety is what attracted Dr. Derek Hewitt to the field. He currently practices at Prescott ENT, where he works as an otolaryngologist. He has had the opportunity to perform surgery, provide comprehensive care in pediatric ENT, and even work on allergy issues. So, how do all of these specialties come together in one field?

In this episode of the ListenUp! Podcast, Dr. Mark Syms speaks with Dr. Derek Hewitt, an otolaryngologist at Prescott ENT, to discuss the ENT field and its unique advantages. The two go over Dr. Hewitt’s career, starting with his time working for the church to his current residency. They also cover more specific topics, such as the new Inspire devices for sleep apnea and how context changes the meaning of a sound. Stay tuned to hear the rest!

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by the Arizona Hearing Center.

The Arizona Hearing Center is a cutting-edge hearing care facility providing comprehensive, family-focused care. Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from some sort of hearing loss, more than half of whom are younger than the age of 65. That’s why the team at the Arizona Hearing Center is focused on providing the highest-quality care using innovative technologies and inclusive treatment plans. 

As the Founder of the Arizona Hearing Center, Dr. Mark Syms is passionate about helping patients effectively treat their hearing loss so that they can stay connected with their family and friends and remain independent. He knows first-hand how hearing loss can impact social connection and effective communication. By relying on three core values—empathy, education, and excellence—Dr. Syms and his team of hearing loss experts are transforming the lives of patients. 

So what are you waiting for? Stop missing out on the conversation and start improving your quality of life today!  

To learn more about the Arizona Hearing Center, visit https://www.azhear.com/ or call us at 602-307-9919. We don’t sell hearing aids—we treat your hearing loss.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:04

Welcome to the ListenUp! podcast where we explore hearing loss communication, connections and health.

Dr. Mark Syms 0:15

Dr. Mark Syms here I’m the host of the ListenUp! podcast where I feature leaders in healthcare. This episode is brought to you by Arizona Hearing Center, I help patients to effectively treat their hearing loss so they can better connect with their families and friends and remained independent. The reason I’m so passionate about hearing loss is because I lost my brother Robbie twice, first to the hearing loss from his radiation to his brain tumor, tumor and then later to complications from that radiation. I am an otolaryngologist who just practices the E of e and T, I’m an otologist I only do yours. I performed over 10,000 ear surgeries in my career, and treated 1000s of patients with hearing loss. And I’m passionate for you to learn how to treat hearing loss better. I’m the author of a book called Listen Up: A Physician’s Guide to Treating Your Hearing Loss. If you want to learn more about that you can go to www.listenup.com. If you want to learn more about my practice, you can go to ww az here.com. Today I’m really excited. We have Dr. Derek Hewitt. He’s a Board Certified otolaryngologist. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Utah and did his NT residency at the University of Missouri hospital clinics. He practices at Prescott ENT he’s an excellent colleague takes great care of patients in the area. And I’m excited to have you on the show. Derek, welcome.

Dr. Derek Hewitt 1:27

Thank you so much. Good to be here.

Dr. Mark Syms 1:29

Oh, great. So tell me, you know, how did you end up in the world of ENT. So what was your path to visit being a physician and then E and T specifically?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 1:39

Well, my path was probably a little circuitous. I didn’t quite get the itch to go into medicine until I was early 20s or so. And it took me a while to kind of figure out how to get there. I never knew any doctors. No one was a doctor in my family and really no professionals. So what do you do to find my own way? Um, well, I went on a mission for my church for two years. I’m LDS. So I did that from the time I was 19 to 21. And then I started college after that, and kind of took a while to work and get myself through college and figure out what I wanted to do. And it was probably the last year of my college career when I really decided that this is what I wanted to do. And I graduated with an English degree, which I actually recommend for anyone because just was really good for me.

Dr. Mark Syms 2:47

A great heart weight was the teachers the professor’s great, very tough in English. 

Dr. Derek Hewitt 2:54

Yeah, there’s a lot of critical thinking skills you learn in English that maybe you learn in other areas, but that was really important for me. So after my undergrad, I had to go back and do all this science stuff. That took a couple years. And then I actually ended up getting a Master’s in Public Health before I went into medical school, okay, so a little circuitous route, I but I got there in the end. And I thought I was gonna do pediatrics. So that was my goal. And then my third year of medical school, middle school during clerkships and stuff, I just after pediatrics, there was just not an interest anymore. Maybe it had to do with the fact that the Twin Towers came down during clinic and I remember watching that happen when I was in clinic, in my pediatric rotation, but if I nonetheless, I had a professor come my first year medical school. In fact, professors in different specialties came to visit and they spoke to us about what they do. And the ENT, Head and Neck Surgery sounded really interesting. I like the variety of what I do. I like seeing lots of different patients. I like doing the surgery, I’d say the technical stuff really is enjoyable and satisfying. And that’s why I went into it. And that’s why I still do it.

Dr. Mark Syms 4:30

Yeah, you get to treat people from all age groups, which is really awesome. Yeah. Yeah. So So you did your residency in Missouri and then you were looking for a place to settle. How did you end up in Prescott?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 4:44

Well, after residency, I spent about three years in Spokane, Washington, and I think you know, a couple of the doctors I worked with up there, Neil, Neil Giddings and Mark Michael, Olds. But so I worked with them for three years. And I just had an itch to practice more broadly, what I learned and residency, and really try to firm up my skills. And so I looked around for a different place to practice. That’s what I really like about practicing and Prescott. I feel like, I get to do a lot of what I learned in residency and stay up on it. And consistent. And, and I’ve been here 10 years.

Dr. Mark Syms 5:38

That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s great. And, you know, somebody receives patience from you, I tell you do a great job taking care of them up there. And I appreciate the referrals. But I know they also appreciate the great local care, which is really important, right? What the local care so so, you know, everybody has kind of, you know, maybe that impactful patient story or two, do you have any that you can put your head is just like a great story or funny. I mean, people ask me, I tell people, I had a patient who had a key fob put into his mastoid bone. Right? Right. Yeah. So I’m not not that it’s just because it’s so crazy. It doesn’t have to be crazy. But you know, we all have those patients that make impressions. Is there anyone that you know, obviously, through anonymity, but any patient stories you’d like to tell her?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 6:23

Um, you know, I probably the thing that comes to my mind is, patients who are well, there’s a couple of patients that come to my mind a few years ago, I saw that one of them particularly was an older lady, she had laryngeal cancer, carcinoma of the voicebox, right. And she really needed a lawyer injected me and she, I really, really begged her basically, to go down to Phoenix and get it done. Because it been, you know, about five years or so since I’ve done one. I felt like I could do it. But of course, I’d have to put the time and study and prep into it. And I don’t do it a lot, of course, but she really resisted going down to Phoenix, and she, you know, looked at me and said, I want you to do it. And you know, I debated Of course, but she and I go so I ended up doing it. Everything went fine. And she held up great. And she’s done great. And but probably just her faith. And in me and her willingness to put herself out there and trust me what and that impresses me about what I do and and people that go in and they really trust you with personal details and their private stuff. And it’s amazing to me that I agree 100%

Dr. Mark Syms 7:53

I say this job, you know, we all have our complaints. But you know, where else do you get to put person in a room and they start telling you their deepest secrets in terms of not purpose because it’s intrigued, but they’re willing to entrust you with that information with the hopes of you improving their lives. I mean, it’s a it’s a pretty awesome thing to get to do. Yeah. I really think that’s one of the great things about one of the many great things about being a physician. Yeah, yeah, I agree. So like you know, you on your day, what are the things that you know, get you jazzed every day when you go to work and work? What are those types of things?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 8:25

What gets me jazzed? Yeah. Thursday’s give me jazz because that’s when I, that’s my surgery day. So I just really enjoy that. I love being in the operating room. I love the technical aspects of it.

Dr. Mark Syms 8:41

Was a difficult day for you in the O r, what type of things are you doing?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 8:44

Septoplasty is turbinates sinus surgery. I love a day where I get to do a thyroid. Maybe an ear surgery, sinus surgery, kind of the broad kind of thing of vnt that really gets me jazzed. I love doing that thing. And that’s probably what I look forward to the most. 

Dr. Mark Syms 9:09

Okay. And so, tell me a little bit about your mentor. So who are some of the mentors in et like if you wanted to look back and thank them, who would they be and how did they contribute to your career?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 9:21

I’m probably the first one in medical school, Steven Gray, he was an otolaryngologist at the University of Utah. And I hooked up with him early in medical school. He’s the one who came and talk to you about being an otolaryngologist. Actually, it was another one it was that Dr. Smith I hooked up with Steven Gray, because he was doing research on vocal cord senescence and aging and stuff. And I helped him on some research projects and just interacting with him. his demeanor was inspiring. His respect for other people inspired me. I really took a lot from him, then that the head of the department, the chair was Dr. Davis. And he also just was very encouraging, and gave me a lot of trust and encouragement along the way. And those two people probably I think, of course, by residency, I mean, you know, residency, there’s so many professors in residency, Jerry Templar in residency was probably one of the senior professors I worked with. And he was from Texas and he had this accent and this way with people and he had all these one liners that I can’t remember them all, but he would just whip them off his tongue and just crack everyone up. And and everyone in residency just very, you just you learn a lot from everybody.

Dr. Mark Syms 11:11

You do, right how to practice medicine, and unfortunately, practice how not to on occasion. But yeah,

Dr. Derek Hewitt 11:20

That’s true. 

Dr. Mark Syms 11:21

Yeah. So that’s great. And so, you know, when you tomorrow? Or I’m sorry, you see patients from all ages are what what type of spectrum of patients do you see?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 11:34

Well, I think being in Prescott, and the retirement community that it is I obviously see more, you know, older patients. That was you know, I knew as retirement community when I moved here, it was a little surprising and how much but it’s been fun. I see kids when they come pediatrics and stuff that there’s not as much here as I would like, but that older spectrum definitely is big here.

Dr. Mark Syms 12:04

And so what are some of the other you do? I don’t know allergy? And there’s other areas as well or?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 12:10

Yeah, yeah, allergy. And recently started doing sleep, the the Inspire device that you’ve heard about the Inspire so we just started doing that this year?

Dr. Mark Syms 12:24

What’s that in it tell me a little bit about I’ve been out of the that world.

Dr. Derek Hewitt 12:28

Inspire device came out in 2014. To treat sleep apnea that’s unresponsive to C pap and bipap. I like to call it a pacemaker for the tongue. So it’s a generator, like a pacemaker, it’s, it’s about that big and it’s implanted into the chest, and it has a sensor that goes into the chest wall, and it senses your respirations. And then it has a jet, an electrode that goes up to your hypoglossal nerve. And every time you inspire, hence the name Inspire every time you breathe in. It causes your tongue to protrude and basically moves out of the way so that you can breathe. It’s

Dr. Mark Syms 13:15

Yeah. Are you having great success with it? Yeah, just,

Dr. Derek Hewitt 13:19

I started trying to get it approved and press get about three years ago, just took forever jumping through hoops and then COVID happened and stuff. So it finally came to fruition this year. And I started doing it the last few months for patients just go smoothly, and so far, the patients love it. You know, they don’t have to wear the mask. claustrophobia anxiety stuff. They’re very happy with it.

Dr. Mark Syms 13:50

So far, 90 and T listeners. So what would be some of the symptoms people would have for sleep apnea that would lead perhaps down the road to see you for sleep problems?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 13:59

Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, sleep apnea typically will cause daytime somnolence falling asleep easily reading a book falling asleep riding in a car. Some people will wake up with a headache in the morning. That’s due to low oxygen saturations that are circulating around in your brain at night. It can obviously affect your cardiovascular system because the pressure that’s put on that constantly throughout the night, it doesn’t give your you know, if you’re not getting into that deep REM sleep, your body’s not relaxing, right? And your sympathetic tone is always high and if it doesn’t relax at night, and that’s always high then at least hypertension atherosclerotic disease, even stroke and stuff. But symptoms mainly are going to be daytime. tiredness And headaches and stuff.

Dr. Mark Syms 15:02

Okay, so if people have that type of stuff, they should maybe start with their primary care doctor, get a sleep study and see what it shows, right? Yeah. Uh huh. So that’s great. That’s a really cool device. And so you’ve had some success. And how long does the surgery take just not that?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 15:19

Well, that’s a good question. My first surgery took about four hours, and my recent surgery took about an hour and a half. I anticipate that as I get more familiar with it, and stuff, I’ll get down to probably about an hour or so.

Dr. Mark Syms 15:34

That’s fun. I mean, that sounds great. Like it’s Yeah, that’s a great example of just repetition and getting better and becoming a student of surgery. Right? Yeah. Yeah. So so that’s really great. And so and tomorrow, you’re doing some sinus surgery, right?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 15:51

Yeah. Tomorrow is assigned to state so some backstory and trisomies and frontal sinuses and septoplasty?

Dr. Mark Syms 16:00

I assume there’s a lot of sinusitis in the Prescott region.

Dr. Derek Hewitt 16:03

Yeah, I think there is. 

Dr. Mark Syms 16:04

Yeah, so that’s great. Well, what one of the questions I like to ask everybody is, is what’s your favorite sound?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 16:12

What’s my favorite sound?

Dr. Mark Syms 16:13

Yeah, well, I mean, why is ListenUp! So why? 

Dr. Derek Hewitt 16:17

Well, that’s an interesting question. A sound so should it should this be like, just a single sound?

Dr. Mark Syms 16:25

Whatever you want. Some people somebody told me, the purr of a Porsche, somebody told me, the ordering of the ocean, another person told me when going through the trees, I mean, you know, the point is, is you know, as we tie back to some hearing loss, whatever people’s favorite sound is, if you have hearing loss, it’s it’ll likely leave your life. So that’s why I always ask people what it is.

Dr. Derek Hewitt 16:45

So, what comes to mind is, I probably don’t have a favorite sound, but I think what, it depends on the situation and the setting.

Dr. Mark Syms 16:56

And tell me tell me two situations in settings.

Dr. Derek Hewitt 16:59

Where your Sounds Sounds have meaning, right? Yeah. And sounds. They they, he evict emotion, they bring back memories. You know, they can be sounds can be irritating and annoying and anxiety provoking, or they can be soothing and stuff. So all of those things you mentioned. Recently, I was in Costa Rica, at the beach, the waves just found the repetitive waves that soothing and stuff. But you know, that brings on a different emotion and then laughter for instance. Yeah, I mean, the roar of a car, a souped up car, something that that’s absolutely fun, too. So

Dr. Mark Syms 17:50

yeah, mine was laughter So everybody has their own but no, that’s that’s great. You’re absolutely right. It’s not it’s a it’s a more nuanced question or answer than just what’s your favorite sound? Right. So it’s, in terms of what you’re thinking about, right? intellectual? Yeah, for sure. That’s great. And so if you were to win a Lifetime Achievement Award, who would you thank? If somebody said, okay, who would you thank, you know, you got up to the podium? Who are the people you would thank for where you are in your life?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 18:15

My mom and my wife for sure. That’s, that’d be the first ones. I mean, that’s where the foundation comes from. Right? That’s where any personal success is always related to you know, who’s behind you. Who’s supported you.

Dr. Mark Syms 18:31

Who’s your cheerleaders? Right?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 18:33

Who’s your cheerleaders?

Dr. Mark Syms 18:34

Yeah. That’s for sure. Now that that’s awesome. So this is Derek Hewitt from Prescott. Doctor here and if people want to get a hold of you, how would they do that?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 18:46

Our number here at Prescott ENT is 928-778-9190. And we’re on Iron Springs Boulevard up in Prescott. Right next, right beside you have a website? Yeah, sorry, prescottent.com.

Dr. Mark Syms 19:02

Okay, so if people want to go see him, those would be the places he’d be great to see. You know, practicing the full breadth and doing it on an excellent level, which is really great to hear. And I love your enthusiasm about the whole field. I think it’s really amazing. You know, as you know, I’m a sub sub specialist. I do ears, but I do love the fact that I get to see a broad spectrum of patients, right. And so I actually am empathetic to you about PDA. Being a pediatrician, although I love children. I love the fact that I see children, young adults, you know, mid aged adults, elderly adults. I mean, I love the whole people ask me, who do I take care of? And I said cradle to grave? I’ll take care of them. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I think that’s really a privilege and end one of the many many. I feel so lucky and blessed to end up in this specialty. And it sounds like you’re very enthusiastic about it, too.

Dr. Derek Hewitt 19:49

Yeah, it’s fun. I mean, we have a fun specialty, right? Yeah, we don’t. I first I thought I’d go into general surgery or something like that. But you know, I didn’t want I wanted to have a family and didn’t want to be gone all the time. 

Dr. Mark Syms 20:03

So follow the happy people.

Dr. Derek Hewitt 20:06

Yeah, but happy people.

Dr. Mark Syms 20:09

And that’s what you’re accounting for, right? This guy came to you and your first year ENT or at medical school, and he seemed like a happy guy, I had a pretty good life, you’re like, Hey, I should think about that. Right?

Dr. Derek Hewitt 20:18

I think it’s funny how in medicine. You know, we talk about stereotypes, and we try to resist stereotypes and stuff. But I feel like in medicine, and in surgery, especially there really are kind of stereotypes and ENTs that are generally happy and steady and in good moods, and other specialties aren’t always that way.

Dr. Mark Syms 20:43

No, we have a great tribe very much. So you know, tribe, the tribe of ENTs is really wonderful. And that’s actually one of the reasons why, you know, I’m talking to some other people in the hearing space, but one of the reasons I want to talk to you guys is because I really do like talking to my tribe, right? The people who do what we do together and you know, talking about life as an otolaryngologist. I mean, I learned a lot about the Inspire I didn’t know that much about it. I mean, I’d heard about it, but you know, as you know, it’s a little bit out of my lane, but I always like to keep on top of what other people are doing. And that’s it. Yeah, are these conversations So

Dr. Derek Hewitt 21:15

Tell me about yourself. You’ve been in Phoenix for a while, right?

Dr. Mark Syms 21:19

Yeah. So I’ve been in Phoenix for 20 years, you know, basically solo otologist you know, obviously you take care of people in and out of town. And I have been blessed to do the full breadth and depth of otology right you know, you know I don’t do as much you know, the bread and butter you know, I leave tubes and adenoids for my older loranger colleagues for you guys to do by and large. But you know, obviously, typically revision to kind of class these primaries, you know, sicula plasti cpws clous de tomos, acoustic neuromas, cochlear implants, other implantable hearing devices. Uh huh. The whole gauntlet, so, and I feel really blessed. And you know, I really do enjoy going to work every day. And guess what, Thursday is one of my operating days, too. So I have a full lineup of ear surgery tomorrow, and I had to So thinking about you tomorrow. Yeah. So well, this has been great. Derek, thank you so much, everybody. This is Derek Hewitt from Prescott, ENT. We really appreciate you coming on the show. And thanks again for coming on. 

Dr. Derek Hewitt 22:20

Yeah, you bet. Thank you, Mark. 

Dr. Mark Syms 22:21

Thanks. Appreciate it.

Outro 22:26

Thanks for tuning in to the ListenUp! podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get updates on future episodes.

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