Biography 

Eduardo Méndez, MD, MS, Professor of Otolaryngology-HNS at the University of Washington, passed away on January 5th, 2018, with his family at his side.

Eddie received his MD with honors from the University of Maryland in 1999 after his undergraduate years at Princeton. He completed his otolaryngology-head and neck surgery residency training at the University of Washington in 2005 followed by a fellowship in advanced head and neck surgical oncology and microvascular reconstruction. Dr. Méndez later completed a masters in epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of Washington, in 2010. He became an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Washington in 2006, quickly rose through the ranks, and was recently promoted to professor. Eddie became an associate member of the Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in 2016, was co-director of the Head and Neck Oncology Program at the University of Washington, director of the Advanced Head and Neck Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program, and director of the Head and Neck Translational Research Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Eddie Méndez was simply a star; a true “triple threat”. He was an outstanding clinician/surgeon, a dedicated and effective teacher, and an investigator who provided substantial insights and progress in managing the most challenging condition in our specialty. Eddie dedicated his entire career to the treatment of head and neck cancer, and he has improved the lives of countless patients with this affliction. Although facile in all aspects of head and neck surgery, he was one of the pioneers in Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS), which has become a critical component of the treatment in patients with oropharyngeal cancer. He always maximized the patient experience, developed the most appropriate treatment pathway for each of them, and worked to cure their cancer while maximizing speech and swallowing outcomes.

Dr. Méndez was an exemplary teacher, both in the daily one-on-one interactions in the clinic and the operating room as well as didactic sessions both locally and nationally. He instilled the continuing process of inquisitive thought, responsible work, and advancement of knowledge to all his trainees. In 2013 Eddie received the Trachy Award for the outstanding education in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Dr. Méndez had an amazing passion and acumen for research and truly brought his work from bench to bed-side. He led an NIH-funded research laboratory, and his early studies to examine the genetic expression of oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma blossomed into multiple efforts to identify novel treatment pathways for patients with head and neck cancer. One of the landmark projects that will likely lead to a fundamental change in oral cavity cancer care is occurring due to his identification of an inhibitor AZD1775 to alter WEE1 in the tumor cell cycle. His Phase One study showed definitive results in reducing or eliminating oral cancers, and allowing more minimal approaches to preserve form and function, and additional clinical trials are in progress.

Most importantly, Eddie Méndez was a wonderful human being. He was a loving husband and father to his wife and daughters Emma and Julia. His energy was penetrating and invigorating, and it benefitted all those he touched. He will be remembered for his kindness, thoughtfulness, wonderful sense of humor, and being a great friend. Eddie Méndez was one of a kind and will truly be missed. In honor of Eddie, an endowment has been established in his name to help continue his legacy and work in head and neck cancer. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made online or mailed to the University of Washington, Department of Otolaryngology, Eduardo Méndez Endowment, 1959 NE Pacific Street, Box 356515, Seattle, WA 98195.