If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or seek care at an emergency room.
William Gao, MD, is the first to admit that his field—Otolaryngology—is a mouthful for many patients to pronounce. “Head and neck” may involve fewer syllables, but it shouldn’t diminish the critical importance this relatively concentrated region of the body has on our ability to function.
"All five major senses rely on this area of the body, and the conditions that affect them have a major influence on patients’ quality of life,” Dr. Gao explains. “We often don’t realize how important they are until there’s a problem.”
Having grown up outside of Philadelphia, Dr. Gao attended nearby Jefferson Medical College, then came to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital for a five-year residency in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. After completing his fellowship in Laryngology at the University of Southern California (USC), Dr. Gao returned to D.C. in September 2019, to join the faculty at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center.
“It was an honor to come back and work with those who played a pivotal role in my training,” he says. “The Hospital Center is vital to providing top-notch health care to many patients, and it is a privilege for me to serve them.”
Areas of Expertise
Dr. Gao’s subspecialty, laryngology, focuses on the throat’s three primary functions—voice production, providing an airway for breathing, and swallowing food and liquid. The challenge of restoring these functions has given rise to a variety of innovative treatment methods, including vocal cord injections, laser treatment of laryngeal lesions, and electromyography-guided Botox injections. Dr. Gao also performs surgery for voice restoration, laser surgery for resection of voicebox tumors, and reconstructive endoscopic/open airway surgery.
In the coming year, Dr. Gao hopes to launch a study with his colleagues at USC, on using a novel silk-based microparticle filler material for vocal cord injections.
“The materials used currently are only temporary,” he explains. “This material may offer a more permanent alternative, eliminating the need for repeat procedures. There are opportunities to use it for vocal cord paralysis and in helping address age-related vocal cord atrophy, which is a common problem, given the growing geriatric population.”
Life Outside of Hospital
Away from work, Dr. Gao and his wife, a gastroenterology fellow at Georgetown, enjoy hiking in the region’s parks, board game nights with friends, and exploring Washington’s ever-evolving restaurant scene.