Patient Care

ENT welcomes Harbison to Head & Neck Surgery

photo of Alex Harbison, MD, and wife Katie
Alex Harbison, MD, MS, and wife Katie visited the Gateway Arch on a recent trip to St. Louis.

Washington University Department of Otolaryngology is pleased to welcome Alex Harbison, MD, to its Division of Head and Neck Surgery. Harbison received his MD from University of Colorado – Anschutz Medical Campus and completed a residency in otolaryngology at University of Washington, Seattle and fellowship training in Head and Neck Surgical Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. He specializes in thyroid and parathyroid disease and minimally invasive radiofrequency ablation.

What attracted you to otolaryngology, and head and neck surgery in particular? 

Our senses are a major part of what makes us human and allows us to communicate and interact with friends, colleagues, and the ones we love. Otolaryngology as a field treats these senses of communication and interaction, such as hearing, speech, and swallowing. In particular, head and neck surgical oncology impacts all of these senses in patients who have a life-threatening disease.

Harbison and wife Katie take a break from unpacking to share a selfie with daughters Maggie (left) and Ellie.

When I was younger, my grandfather experienced head and neck cancer as well as the treatment sequelae which impacted all of those senses. I didn’t realize at the time what a big impact it would have on me. I dedicated my life to finding better treatments that have less harmful impacts on quality of life while maintaining longevity.

Also, growing up, I played ice hockey and the ability to work on a team has always been important to me. The other part of head and neck surgery that I love is working on a big team, including medical and radiation oncology, radiology, speech and language pathology, physical and occupational therapy, as well as the hospital and clinic based teams (our nurses and staff) who care for our patients before and after surgery.

Do you have any connections with St. Louis that helped draw you to Washington University?

I lived in St. Louis for about three years as a child, while my father was an anesthesiology resident at WashU. I loved my years growing up in Kirkwood and enjoyed going to Grants Farm and St. Louis Cardinals baseball games. I look forward to taking my daughters to these places now. We also have family in the Chicago area, who we are very excited to be a short drive away from. 

The Harbison family explores Forest Park on a recent outing.

Who is the Harbison family?

My family includes my wife Katie of almost 13 years, our two children Maggie (5) and Ellie (1), and our cat Addie (10). Katie has worked in the clinical research field for the past five years. Maggie will begin Kindergarten at Spoede Elementary in the fall. She loves to read, sing, and be outside. Ellie is currently 14 months, talk’s constantly, and keeps us on our toes. We love to go on walks and explore as a family. 

Any special hobbies or interests?

I’m a big fan of ice hockey and Formula 1 racing. I also love to fish, play golf, and ski.

What would surprise your colleagues most to learn about you?

I was the Colorado State Ice Hockey goal tender of the year my senior year of high school and led the team to a state championship. I have also lived in eight states and spent long stretches of time in six different countries outside the U.S. – Philippines, Thailand, Mexico, Ecuador, Canada and France.

And, I like to eat chips with chopsticks.