Written by Dr Robin Cotton
Born in England, Dr. Cotton received his medical degree from the University of Cambridge in 1966 and later completed his residency in general surgery at the United Birmingham Hospital in 1968. After spending three years in the health service in England, he traveled to Canada and completed his residency and fellowship in Otolaryngology in 1972 at the University of Toronto. He then traveled to the U.S., where he completed a head and neck fellowship at the University of Cincinnati in 1973. After finishing his fellowship, Dr. Cotton led the division of paediatric otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) until 2012. Forty years after he began altering paediatric otolaryngology, he continues to lead the way in the treatment of complex airway disorders.
Recently he was awarded the prestigious Jacobson Innovation Award, which honors living surgeons who have been innovators of a new development or technique in any field of surgery and is made possible through a gift from Julius H. Jacobson II, MD, FACS, and his wife Joan. Dr. Jacobson is a general vascular surgeon known for his pioneering work in the development of microsurgery.
Dr. Cotton was honored with this international surgical award in recognition of his seminal work in the care and reconstruction of the stenotic paediatric airway. Tracheotomy units in paediatric hospitals have given way to airway management units because of Dr. Cotton’s contributions. When others said nothing could be done, Dr. Cotton performed operations that allowed children to live and breathe normally. He built the world’s premiere center for the diagnosis and treatment of airway abnormalities. Originally developed as the Airway Management Unit, it has evolved into the Aerodigestive and Esophageal Center, which he still directs today.
Dr. Cotton’s career has been dedicated to paediatric otolaryngology, and he has continuously aimed to raise the standard of care for children. Among his accomplishments is participating in the initial research work that helped establish the safety and utility of laryngotracheal reconstruction in children. In collaboration with John Evans, MD, in London, England, Dr. Cotton pioneered the techniques utilized worldwide in the reconstruction of the larynx and trachea in children with laryngotracheal stenosis. He developed the anterior cricoid split procedure, a technique to avoid tracheotomy in neonates with acquired subglottic stenosis, and the supraglottoplasty, which he popularized in the US. Both techniques were initially met with skepticism but were later embraced across the globe.
At the forefront in the management of tracheal stenosis, he has been largely responsible for the incorporation of cricotracheal resection into the management of airway stenosis in children. Because results could not be compared between institutions without an appropriate staging system, he developed the grading system for subglottic stenosis that bears his name and is used universally.
Dr. Cotton is a member of more than 20 national and international otolaryngology organizations, including the American Academy of Otolaryngology. He has served as President of the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology and the Society for Ear, Nose, and Throat Advances in Children (SENTAC). He has received many honors and awards, including the coveted Mosher Award from the Triological Society, the Chevalier Jackson Award, the de Roaldes Award, the Ronald McDonald Lifetime Achievement Award, the James Yearsley Medal, and the William Cooper Proctor Award, among many others. Dr. Cotton was named one of America’s Top Doctors seven times in 10 years as well as one of Cincinnati’s Top Doctors from 2002 to 2012.
Today, Dr. Cotton is regarded as amongst the premier paediatric otolaryngologists of this era and has trained many of the leading paediatric otolaryngologists in the U.S. and abroad. He has published extensively and lectures throughout the world. He is on the editorial board of several journals and is a prolific contributor to the literature, having written more than 250 articles and books.