UAMS Alumnus Gives $500,000 to Honor Surgeon

J. Floyd Kyser, M.D., (left) recently honored James Y. Suen, M.D., (center) with a professorship gift. UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., (right) thanked Kyser at a recent ceremony.

Sept. 9, 2013 | Citing his long admiration for James Y. Suen, M.D., retired Little Rock otolaryngologist J. Floyd Kyser, M.D., is funding a $500,000 professorship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to honor the surgeon who trained with him as a resident and went on to become an international leader in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery.

Kyser, a 1962 graduate of the UAMS College of Medicine, has maintained close ties with UAMS and has been a longtime, strong supporter of the college’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Suen, a 1966 UAMS graduate, has chaired the department since 1974. While Suen was a resident at UAMS, he spent a six-week training rotation in Kyser’s private practice.

“One Saturday afternoon, Dr. Suen and I were repairing an extensive facial fracture on a patient from Batesville who had survived a major accident while flying up the White River and striking a cable,” Kyser recalled. “I remember it as if it were yesterday – how interested and focused Dr. Suen was. I realized at that moment that he was going to be a very good resident and a very good surgeon.”

Kyser said he didn’t realize at the time that Suen would go on to become a world-class head and neck surgeon, but he had the pleasure of watching that unfold over the following 40 years.

“Dr. Suen is a man of high moral and ethical standards and great patience,” Kyser said. “He has a keen mind and the ability to anticipate complications. He has gifted surgical technical skills, but also has a conservative and cautious approach to surgery.”

The endowment is believed to be the first from a UAMS College of Medicine alumnus that has solely funded a professorship. It will be known as the Patricia and J. Floyd Kyser, M.D., Professorship in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

“This new gift to establish a professorship in our department comes at a crucial time when financial resources are decreasing and it is difficult to support our educational and research activities,” said Suen. “Dr. Kyser’s gift will allow us to support these important activities for years to come. It is definitely an honor to me and our department, and we are so grateful.”

In addition to his residency at UAMS, Suen trained at San Francisco General Hospital as an intern and later as a fellow in otolaryngologic pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C. He completed advanced training as a senior fellow in head and neck surgery at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he briefly served on the staff before being recruited to UAMS in 1974.

Suen worked with Kent Westbrook, M.D., and other colleagues to develop comprehensive cancer programs at UAMS that culminated in the Arkansas Cancer Research Center (now the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute), where Suen served as executive director from 2002 to 2007. Meanwhile, Suen became widely known for his expertise in head and neck cancers, vascular lesions of the head and neck, and diseases of the larynx. He has authored six medical textbooks, including “Cancer of the Head and Neck,” which is used by medical schools worldwide.

Kyser grew up in Camden and attended what is now Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia before entering the UAMS College of Medicine in 1958. He noted, laughing, that he set out to be a forester but decided to pursue medicine due to a fear of snakes and unrelenting poison ivy. Kyser said that while medical school was stressful at times, he enjoyed every aspect of it as well as his internship at UAMS. He graduated with honors and was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, a national medical honor society.

Two of Kyser’s four children followed his footsteps to UAMS – Greg Kyser, M.D., a 1987 graduate who practices psychiatry in Nashville, Tenn., and Steven Kyser, M.D., a 1997 graduate who completed residencies in pathology and family medicine and now practices family medicine at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. Kyser said that gratitude to UAMS for providing all three with the opportunity to study medicine also contributed to his decision to fund the new professorship.

After graduating in 1962, Kyser did a medicine-pediatrics internship at UAMS and then was drafted into the Army.

“That turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” said Kyser, who was assigned as a young captain to the Ear-Nose-Throat (ENT) Department Fort Benning, Ga., and worked with two board-certified otolaryngologists. “In retrospect, it was a phenomenal two years.”

Following his discharge from the Army, Kyser began a general surgery residency at the University of Missouri. After a year of general surgery he continued his training with a residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Southwestern Medical School and Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

In 1969, Kyser and his wife, Patricia, whom he had known since the 11th grade, returned to Little Rock. He established a solo practice where he worked for 31 years until his retirement in 2000. In 1984, he opened a freestanding outpatient surgery suite in the Medical Towers One building on the Baptist Hospital campus.

Like Kyser, Suen also vividly remembers their work together while Suen was a resident on rotation.

“I was impressed with Dr. Kyser’s surgical skills and knowledge,” Suen said. “He is one of the best and fastest surgeons I have ever watched, and I have seen many. Dr. Kyser is also a master at interacting with patients, and he is one of the most organized and efficient persons I have known.”

Suen commended Kyser for his long support of the department.

“My respect for Dr. Kyser was renewed when I began meeting with him as he was retiring,” he said. “Over the following years our friendship has grown, and he has been one of our department’s most important supporters. His wise advice has been invaluable to me.”

“Dr. Kyser’s gift to establish and support our annual Resident Research and Alumni Conference has been invaluable to our educational program,” Suen said. “Each year we have an outstanding internationally known guest speaker deliver the James Floyd Kyser Lectureship in Otolaryngology at that meeting.”

Kyser also has been active in the College of Medicine Alumni Association and the college’s Founders Society, serving as president of the philanthropic organization’s executive committee in 2005-2006. He is also a member of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board, the Society of the Double Helix and the Chancellor’s Circle.

Kyser hasn’t slowed down since his retirement. He exercises six days each week. He and Patricia spend significant time in Dallas, where their daughters Lisa and Tracy and three granddaughters live. Dallas is also headquarters for the family’s investment company, Highfield Equities.

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