When Jose Gurrola II, MD, was in college, he had an encounter with a physician that changed the course of his career. Gurrola had a history of childhood asthma that led to persistent allergy and sinus disease, but no one had ever told him he had a deviated septum. “I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t breathe well out of my nose,” he says. “Understanding my condition gave me great insight into how powerful a medical diagnosis could be.”
The experience confirmed Gurrola’s decision to become a physician and piqued his interest in otolaryngology and, more specifically, rhinology. “The more I learned about the complexity of sinus anatomy and the various disease processes associated with the sinus, the more I liked it,” he says.
The differences in sinus structure from person to person also proved a draw for Gurrola, who relishes collaboration. “If you want to have a long-lasting impact as a rhinologist, you have to spend time with your patients and try to understand the way they experience their conditions,” he says. “It has to be a partnership.” For complex cases, Gurrola enlarges the circle of collaboration even wider, tapping the insights of primary care physicians, allergists, neurologists, pulmonologists and neurosurgeons at the Otolaryngology Clinic to develop comprehensive care plans.
As a rhinologist and endoscopic surgeon, Gurrola treats a wide range of nose and sinus problems, from allergic rhinitis and recurrent and chronic sinusitis to complex presentations such as cystic fibrosis, Wegener’s granulomatosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia. He also repairs cerebral spinal fluid leaks in the nose and works with colleagues in neurosurgery on endoscopic pituitary resections and skull-base procedures.
Gurrola points out that rhinology has benefited from the wave of innovations that have transformed modern medicine. They include new medications, advanced CT and MRI scans, and new procedures such as balloon sinuplasty. “UVA has done a great job of keeping us equipped with what we need to provide optimal patient care,” he says. He cautions, though, that the key to making the most of these advances is to match them to the patient. “A procedure like balloon sinuplasty can be quite effective for select patients, but it is not appropriate for everyone,” he says. “The patient and the physician must be clear on shared long-term goals and the treatment measures that are needed to achieve them.”
Gurrola’s commitment to his patients extends to his activities outside the clinic. He has an educational grant from UVA to improve teaching of practical endoscopy to the next generation of UVA otolaryngologists and healthcare providers. His emphasis is on improving the patient experience while providing excellent care. Gurrola is also a member of the Diversity Consortium, which is charged with creating a culture of inclusion at the School of Medicine. “The kind of care we focus on and the people who provide it should be representative of the patients we serve,” he says. “UVA has long maintained a culture of excellence. We are seeking new ways to implement and enhance that in all aspects of care for our community.”
Hear more from Jose Gurrola, MD, in the video below:
Learn more about UVA otolaryngology specialists.