Q & A with neurotologist Joel Goebel

goebel family picture
The Goebel family, from left: grandson Will Hoffman, daughter Shannon Goebel Hoffman, son-in-law Joe Hoffman, Vicky (holding Kona Lisa), Joel, daughter Stacey Goebel Kane, and granddaughter Nora Hoffman.

What about your work makes you the most proud?

I came to Wash U School of Medicine in 1976 as a student and found a home here at the School and ENT Department as my sole medical institution to this day. As a junior ENT resident, I was mentored by Malcolm Stroud, MD in a very basic vestibular lab consisting of a strip chart recorder, electric eye recordings and a drain in the floor to catch the caloric irrigation!

Over the years, we have built one of the world’s most respected centers for diagnosis and management of vertigo and dizziness. My academic career has taken me around the world to teach and learn and the friends I have made along the way have shaped both my career and my understanding of different cultures and medical delivery systems. It is this legacy that I hope to see continued when I retire in June.

Tell us about your work regarding balance. How do you feel it’s made a difference?

Life for me has always been about balance between faith, family and career. It takes effort to manage time to keep all three aspects healthy. My involvement with my church has given me and my family a strong foundation to manage the challenges of medical education and practice. I would take my family with me as much as possible on conferences including overseas to let them experience the excitement of our profession and the joy of teaching and learning.

When it comes to patient care in the OR or office, I found the greatest satisfaction in the personal doctor-patient relationship and helping each patient as best as I could. As I have told the residents many times, the formula for success is simply two things- “you got to be good, and you’ve got to be nice. If you’re good but not nice, nobody wants to deal with you. If you’re nice but not good, nobody needs you”.

What do you enjoy most about working at WashU ENT?

Vicky and Joel Goebel enjoy dinner at one of the many resident graduation ceremonies they have attended.

Since 1976 as a student until now, I have worked under five Deans, four Department Chairs (accepted by Dr. Ogura into the program), and three Chancellors. Throughout my entire experience, I always felt Washington University has been a world-class, well-run institution that provided everything I needed for a successful academic career and practice of medicine. It is truly this stability that has allowed the university to weather many storms including the current COVI-19 crisis. When asked why I stayed over the last 44 years, my answer was simple- “I have everything here!”

I am also grateful for the opportunity to have played a part in educating nearly 150 residents and numerous international fellows over the years. These have been truly some of the most talented and ingenious people I have ever met and it has been a privilege to participate in their career development both here in the US and abroad.

Do you have any special retirement plans?

Absolutely. Vicky and I will spend a lot of our travel time between our two daughters and their families on opposite coasts (Shannon’s family in San Jose and Stacey’s family in Raleigh). We purchased a condo unit on a beautiful inland lake in southern Michigan for the summer which will serve as a great meeting place for the family.

I will stay active in my church with a nationwide course designed to help our ministers be more effective in their sermon presentation. If the opportunity arises, I would like to go back to coaching tennis which I had done for years in the past. Finally, I will continue to teach and lecture both in and outside the university as requested to stay abreast of the field I so dearly embraced all these years.

If I may, here is a bit of advice I leave for the residents:

“We are privileged to be a part of this noble profession where patients place their health and sometimes their lives into our hands. Each patient deserves the very best we can offer and our specialty calls to us all to give back for generations to come.”