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Opening Ceremony: Transforming, Thriving, Together


Richard W. Waguespack, MD (left), joins David R. Nielsen, MD, on stage during Sunday’s Opening Ceremony to watch a video of AAO-HNSF leadership thanking Dr. Nielsen for his 13 years of service.

After presenting a number of awards and three presidential citations, AAO-HNSF President Richard W. Waguespack, MD, had a surprise presidential citation during Sunday’s Opening Ceremony.

The president honored David R. Nielsen, MD, who is retiring after 13 years as the Academy’s executive vice president and CEO. 

The two then stood on stage and watched a video filled with members of the Academy’s leadership recalling aspects of Dr. Nielsen’s service and thanking him for his dedication to the Academy.

“This means a lot to me,” Dr. Nielsen said following the video. “We are unique as a specialty because of the volunteerism and the sacrifices you are willing to make for our specialty, so I reflect all of this back to you and thank you for the honor of being able to serve you for this many years.”

Dr. Waguespack also presented presidential citations to Byron J. Bailey, MD, Reginald F. Baugh, MD, and Julius N. (Buddy) Hicks, MD, (posthumously). Awards he presented included the Distinguished Award for Humanitarian Service to J. Thomas Roland, Jr., MD; the Jerome C. Goldstein, MD Public Service Award to Keith F. DeSonier, MD; The Holt Leadership Award to Jayme R. Dowdall, MD; and the Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine Award to Raul M. Cruz, MD.

“Personally, I’d like my presidential legacy to comprise helping shepherd the Academy through this period of intense change and mentoring those who follow,” Dr. Waguespack said. “I feel more than confident in the future as I see the next generation of leadership beginning to blossom.”

Prior to receiving his presidential citation, Dr. Nielsen spoke to attendees, acknowledging it was his final time to publicly report to them as executive vice president and CEO. 

“Between now and the end of the year, it will be time for me to perform the last responsibility of a leader and that is to say ‘Thank You,’” he said. “Thank you for your membership in the Academy and thank you for your trust in me, in your fellow Academy members, in our leaders, and in our staff. Most of all, thank you for your dedication to medicine and to your patients.”

Dr. Waguespack presented Gayle E. Woodson, MD, with the presidential medallion, signifying her transition to president. Dr. Woodson in turn presented him with the presidential gavel and pen, honoring his year of service.

“I’m honored to serve as president of the Academy and the Foundation,” she said. “This is truly an extraordinary, dedicated group of professionals who individually collectively give up so much and achieve so much, to advance our profession.”