The development of noninvasive tests of the mobility of the tympanic membrane and ossicles to aid in both the diagnosis of conductive hearing loss, and the presurgical counseling of patients undergoing middle ear surgery, was of great interest to our departed friend and associate Saumil Merchant, MD. Saumil, in his position as a practicing otologic surgeon and Professor of Otology and Laryngology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, had firsthand experience with the uncertainties and the subjective judgments involved in the pre- and postsurgical diagnosis of middle ear disorders. He was also well aware of the variabilities in the surgical and treatment outcomes for middle ear disease, and thought that these would be decreased by more definitive diagnostic procedures and increased understanding of normal and pathological middle ear function. To improve treatment outcomes, Saumil dedicated a significant portion of his energy to understanding the physical reasons for the effects of various middle ear pathologies and the surgical treatments used to correct the pathological alterations. The result of these efforts is a series of significant clinically and basic-science oriented publications that quantify the physical problems associated with various middle ear pathologies, introduce improved diagnostic tests, and suggest improvements in surgical technique.
Saumil was a clear leader in our field (and other fields) and we will miss his energy, his experience, and his intellect. We will also miss the manner in which he led, with a wink, a smile, a gentle nudge, his own hard work, and selfless devotion to the cause of improved patient care and treatment. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word.