After the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine in 1867, the medical specialties were not defined and a group of pioneer surgeons and internists ran the hospital, each one contributing his share of the general work. Around 1920, embryonic departments were beginning to form. Dr. Charles Webster was assigned to the Eye Department because infectious eye diseases were rampant at the time. ENT was yet in its infancy and Dr. Charles A. Webster agreed to take on the ENT specialty along with ophthalmology. From 1897 until 1928 Dr. Webster held the position of professor of anatomy, skin diseases, and eye and ear. During that period, most of the operations in the ENT Department were tonsillectomies. Ear and nasal surgery were uncommon.
In 1928, Dr. Kenneth S. Oliver, a British national, Harvard trained, became professor and chairman of the Department of Eye and ENT (EENT), a position he held until 1948 when he moved to Iraq. During that period leeches were used as a decongestant.
In 1949, Dr. Alfred E. Diab became the chairman of EENT. He maintained this position until 1962 when the EENT Department split into Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. Members of the faculty and residents had to choose one specialty. Dr. Camille Matta was the first to practice ophthalmology only. Even though he was the chief of ENT, Dr. Diab kept his ophthalmology practice. He continued as Chairman of Otolaryngology until 1973 when he moved on to assume other administrative responsibilities in the Medical Center including Chief of Staff position. Dr. Cesar Abou Jaudeh chose ENT as his primary practice at the medical center and continued to practice ophthalmology at outside facilities. Dr. Aram Baghdassrian practiced mostly ophthalmology, while Drs. Diran Mikhaelian, Ramzi Nassif, and Farid Karam chose to practice ENT only. After this period there was a major thrust to grow the otolaryngology practice in the hospital. Surgeries included facial plastics, head and neck, otology, and audiology, in addition to a large volume of tonsillectomies. In 1956 the number of tonsillectomies performed was around 261 accounting for more than 50 percent of the operations performed within the department.
Dr. Salah Salman, who trained in neuro-otology and vertigo, followed Dr. Diab as chairman of the Department in 1973. He is also credited for introducing the subspecialty fellowship part-time concept. He started the electronystagmography lab and recruited fellowship trained faculty such as Drs. Bechara Ghorayeb and Joe Feghali (otology), Dr. Nizar Nuwayhid (pediatric otolaryngology), Dr.Melhem Samara (head and neck), Dr. Nazih Haddad (facial plastic), Dr. Nabil Barakat (oral surgery), Dr. George Zaytoun (otology), and Mr. Sami Hanna (trained audiologist). Dr. Sami Karam (orthodontics) used to assist in the cleft lip and palate patient rehabilitation. The faculty core was solid and diverse and was leading the specialty across Lebanon and the region.
Two years after Dr. Salman assumed the Chair position, the Lebanese civil war started. In spite of all efforts to maintain teaching and practice, all resources within the department and the hospital were devastated. During that period a good number of the faculty made the medical center their homes-literally. They used to sleep in their offices to cover for emergencies, teach the students and the residents and also avoid the uncertain security risks in the streets of Beirut. Between 1978 and 1980, Dr. Salman was appointed minister of interior and Dr. Bechara Ghorayeb assumed the position of acting chair.
Between 1984 and 1987, because of the turmoil in the country, the Medical Center witnessed a massive drain of its medical staff, and the Department of Otolaryngology was not spared. Dr. George Zaytoun was appointed acting chair in May 1986 and chairperson in 1988. He maintained the department during a tough period and had to rely on the help of part-time faculty (Dr. Mohammad Natout, Dr. Usama Hadi, and later Dr. Abdel Latif Hamdan) to secure clinical load and teaching. He modernized the Audiology Division and recruited speech therapists. Dr. Zaytoun introduced CO2 laser and initiated cochlear implant surgery in the medical center.
In 1997 and following the end of the civil war, Dr. Nabil Fuleihan assumed the Chair position. An effort to develop subspecialty expertise led to recruitment of several faculty including Dr. Mohammad Bitar (pediatric otolaryngology), Dr. Alain Sabri (neurotology), Dr. Fuleihan developed facial plastic surgery, Drs. Zaytoun and Natout focused on otology, Dr. Hadi on endoscopic sinus surgery, and Dr. Hamdan on laryngology. The Audiology Division was refurbished with modern testing equipment and a new head of Audiology Division, Dr. Kim Abou Chacra was recruited. This period was defined by clinical growth and expansion of clinical and specialized services. In 2001, Dr. Joseph Ghafari was recruited to establish the Division of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. He put tremendous efforts along with other associates in building a state-of-the-art facility and establishing a residency program in orthodontics and a Master of Science program. Drs. Anthony Macari, Ramzi Haddad, and Naji Abou Chebel, in addition to other clinical associates, were recruited to establish and sustain a solid academic and clinical program in orthodontics. In 2007, through a generous donation, the Tabourian clinics were inaugurated.
After the departure of Dr. Nabil Fuleihan in 2011, the department went through a time of transition where the leadership of the department was assumed by Dr. Alain Sabri as Interim Chair, followed by Dr. Zaytoun as acting Chair. During this period Dr. Randa Al Barazi, a fellowship-trained pediatric otolaryngologist, was recruited to grow the pediatric ENT practice. In 2014 Lebanon’s first comprehensive multidisciplinary Balance Center was inaugurated under the directorship of Dr. Marc Bassim.
After an extensive search, Dr. Samer Fakhri was recruited from the McGovern Medical School at UT Health Houston, Texas as a Chair of the department on January 1st, 2015.
In June 2016, the Temporal Bone was renovated with state-of-the-art material and equipment with the generous support of HE Dr. Salah D. Salman.
Many of the Department alumni assumed chairmanship of leading departments in the United States, such as Drs. George Zalzal, Elie Rebeiz, and Nabil Fuleihan. In addition, the department graduated others who are well recognized for their academic contributions to the specialty, such as Drs. Diran Mikhaelian, Jack Wazen, Joe Feghali, Salah Salman, Bechara Ghorayeb, Alain Shikhani, Fouad Baroudi, Hassan Ramadan, Nicolas Abou Saba, and Ramzi Younis.