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Dorothy Wolff Fellowship in Otolaryngology Research

Who was Dorothy Wolff?

Dorothy Wolff, PhD

Dorothy Wolff, PhD, born 1895, was an inspirational anatomist, pathologist, auditory physiologist, and surgical innovator. She was a woman generations ahead of her time. Though little known, she worked throughout the mid-20th century in the midst of a revolution in otologic (ear) surgery, influencing well-known otologists such as Julius Lempert, MD, Phillip E. Meltzer, MD, and Richard Bellucci, MD. Wolff’s seminal work included pathologic studies of the operated human ear, which provided the anatomic basis for effective modern techniques of surgical hearing rehabilitation. Wolff also developed and refined multiple animal models of otologic pathologies that are still in use today. As an independent, innovative, and ambitious scientist, Dorothy Wolff succeeded in pioneering the study of the human ear to the benefit of us all.

More specifically, Dorothy Wolff, PhD was a dedicated and illuminating scientific figure whose work in otopathology represents a singular contribution that accelerated the development of effective, safe, and modern techniques for surgical hearing rehabilitation. At the peak of her career, she ran the research laboratory at Julius Lempert’s Endaural Hospital in New York, where she helped him perfect the single-stage fenestration procedure for the treatment of otosclerosis. Over the course of her 40-year scientific career, Wolff elucidated mechanisms of osseous change within the temporal bone; she developed a novel animal model to study fixation of the stapes footplate; and she established effective otopathologic techniques to evaluate the auditory system across multiple animal models, including amphibians, birds, felines, and primates. Her seminal work in otopathology was the prerequisite for subsequent developments in the field of surgical otology, specifically related to the treatment of otosclerosis.

What is the Dorothy Wolff Fellowship in Otolaryngology Research?

Although Dorothy Wolff passed away in 1980, her legacy in otolaryngology research lives on. Her contributions have formed a solid foundation for posing contemporary questions about the auditory pathway and improved methods for hearing rehabilitation.

To honor her vital legacy, the Dorothy Wolff Fellowship in Otolaryngology Research was started in 2018 at UMass Medical School with the generous support from the UMass Winter Ball. This fellowship supports motivated medical students who wish to take dedicated time away from their clinical duties to pursue otolaryngology research. Topics may include basic science projects, clinical research or translational work that relates to diseases/disorders of the head and neck. Applications are reviewed annually, and awards are announced in January of each year.

By supporting a new generation of clinician scientists, the Dorothy Wolff Fellowship in Otolaryngology Research will honor Dr. Wolff and celebrate her as an inspirational woman and superb translational scientist. 

All research is performed alongside UMass Otolaryngology Faculty. Aaron Remenschneider, MD, MPH, Vice Chair and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA and Divya Chari, MD, who will begin as full time Otology/Neurotology faculty at UMass Medical School in August, 2021, will supervise the research work of 2021 fellowship recipients, Sara Holmes and Maimuna Ahmad.


2021 - Sara Holmes
Project: Clinical Evaluation of High Frequency Bone Conduction Thresholds

2021 - Maimuna Ahmad 
Project: Clinical Evaluation of Cognitive Function in Patients with Vestibular Disorders

2020 – Prithwijit Roychowdhury
Project: Histopathologic Findings in the Presbycutic Middle Ear

2019 – Marc Polanik
Project: High Frequency Conductive Hearing in Patients Undergoing Middle Ear Reconstruction

2018 – Danielle Trakimas
Project: Understanding Human Otopathologic Changes that Occur Following Middle and Inner Ear Surgery

More information – Dorothy Wolff: A Pioneer in Otopathology