Janalee K. Stokken, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic sinus surgeon (rhinologist) and skull base surgeon who specializes in all aspects of rhinology: inflammatory sinus disease, sinus and skull base surgery, and surgery for thyroid eye disease. Dr. Stokken's primary research interests are improving outcomes and surgical techniques for patients undergoing surgery related to the sinuses, skull base and thyroid eye disease. Dr. Stokken has a particular interest in educating surgical residents. As program director of the Mayo Clinic Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Residency (Minnesota), she was the driving force behind a major curriculum overhaul and improvements in the simulation-based training programs offered to trainees. She also has an interest in researching techniques for optimizing outcomes and education for residents.
- Orbital decompression surgery. Dr. Stokken developed a multidisciplinary team to provide cutting-edge treatment for patients seeking care at Mayo Clinic for thyroid eye disease. To provide the best care for her patients, Dr. Stokken uses computer technology to help determine what amount of eye protrusion (proptosis) is noticeable to others, which helps guide patients in deciding whether they want surgery to restore appearance. She also conducts research on quality-of-life outcomes after orbital decompression surgery and after patients use medications to treat thyroid eye disease. In addition, Dr. Stokken's lab is completing translational work to better understand how thyroid eye disease develops.
- Surgical skills in sinus surgery. Dr. Stokken is developing methods to objectively evaluate surgical performance of trainees who perform endoscopic sinus surgery. These methods can help identify learners who need extra training at earlier time points during their residency. She is investigating additional opportunities, including detailed 3D models and complex simulation labs, to offer improved educational experiences for future otolaryngology trainees.
- Invasive fungal sinusitis. There is a high mortality rate in patients who develop acute invasive fungal sinusitis, and early surgical treatment is often necessary. Dr. Stokken is developing national guidelines to help practitioners who are not ear, nose and throat (ENT) physicians understand who should be evaluated urgently by an otolaryngologist and which patients should go directly to the operating room for treatment verses those who would benefit from repeat bedside exams or biopsy.
- Skull base surgery. Dr. Stokken works closely with a multidisciplinary skull base team involving rhinology, head and neck surgery, and neurosurgery to address tumors and cancers that arise within the paranasal sinuses and skull base. She wants to better understand how to treat the tumor and also ensure that patients have optimal quality-of-life outcomes. Dr. Stokken has actively investigated and published about critical quality-of-life outcomes for patients, including how well they can smell and taste after surgery and when they can begin using their continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for sleep apnea again.
Significance to patient care
One of Dr. Stokken's top priorities is investigating clinically relevant questions that can immediately improve the quality of care for patients and assist in patient and clinician decision-making. Another key component of her research is identifying residents in need of additional support early in their training and providing resources to improve educational outcomes. Ultimately, Dr. Stokken hopes that her research will improve the lives of the patients she treats and improve education for the residents she is so passionate about training.