The Rise From Nothing: How An ENT Pioneer Was Born
There’s a commonly referenced quote by Laurie Jean Sennott that says:
“Every flower must grow from dirt.”
When Dr. Madan Kandula recalls his personal story, he can closely resonate with this quote. His story — not unlike many others — is one of rising from the ashes. Actually, rising from the dirt in which he was planted.
Yet from his upbringing to the creation of his pioneering medical practice, there is nothing usual or ordinary about Dr. Kandula. He faced many unique trials and adversities stemming from his family’s long history of extreme poverty and illiteracy. But these seemingly impossible obstacles actually helped to pave his way as an ENT maverick.
Before leaving their native India, his parents both studied medicine. However, when they made the bold decision to move to the states, they had to commit to starting their medical careers over. In fact, they came to the U.S. with little knowledge about American culture but they were determined to make it work. Eventually, as Madan was growing up, he found himself teaching them the habits and patterns of Western culture.
Meanwhile, he was facing daily life in the 1970s with the inability to blend in — his name and skin color made him standout and face the ridicule and ignorance of other kids. This didn’t deter him from studying what it meant to be a proud American. He found an outlet in sports, participating in anything he could.
Eventually, his older sisters followed in their parents’ footsteps and studied medicine, even both married physicians themselves. He found himself grappling with a battle between staying the course and doing it ‘just because everyone else was doing it.’ So, in true Madan-fashion, he approached it in his own unique way.
He said “Let me do everything else first.” He triple-majored in Cultural Anthropology, Religion, and Biological Anthropology & Anatomy. With all this focus and work on this plate, he spent most of his time working at a radio station. In hindsight, he knows this job had the most profound impact on his career today. He learned how to run a business, work with a budget, and manage a workforce.
After all this time and investment in his education and his future, when the time came to apply for medical school, most of his applications were rejected — yet again, being turned away — on the premise of a lack of evidence of his commitment to medicine. At a low point in his life, with the label “med school reject” over his head, he was finally accepted into a program in Philadelphia.
At a low point in his life, with the label “med school reject” over his head, he was finally accepted into a program in Philadelphia.
Early on, he knew he was most attracted to ENT as a specialty. He saw the type of people who were ENT surgeons, and he knew that’s what he wanted to be. He found an open residency slot at the University of Oklahoma, and this is where his journey really got its jumpstart.
Shortly after he started this program, he met an audiologist, Gwen Van Rooy, who would eventually become his wife. Together, they moved to Milwaukee to start both their family and their practice. To build up their patient base, they literally hit the pavement and knocked on doors of primary care doctors and allergist offices, phone book in hand.
They opened the doors of ADVENT on November 1, 2004, with the patients they gained from this venture. Balloon Sinuplasty was approved by the FDA the following year, and Dr. Madan Kandula was the first to perform it in the state of Wisconsin in 2006.
Meanwhile, with a newborn at home, the doctors were forged in fire and forced down a path they wouldn’t have otherwise chosen for themselves. They even faced legal action from the former office in which they worked. Every room he entered — every OR, every ICU bed, every hospital room — Madan knew he was walking into enemy territory.
But with his lifelong familiarity as being the radical outcast, he persevered. He never shied away from facing all of the adversity in his life head-on. And he vowed to never turn a blind eye to technology that could benefit his patients. The simple in-office solutions provided at ADVENT were changing people’s lives. He was hooked. As he sought ways to connect with more people, and word spread of the successful outcomes — patients came from all over the country seeking his help.
In most practices, you’ll find one singular surgeon at the center, much like the sun at the center of our universe, with all other planets circling it. ADVENT is different. It has multiple providers who keep their patients at the center of everything they do. The healthcare system today is designed to keep its antiquated system going, not to serve the people it was originally created to protect and treat.
“Unusual events led us to where we are, and that means everything for where we’re going.”
Dr. Kandula’s story has made himself and his practice more resilient. It was never an easy path — one made of dirt and potholes and hills to climb — but it made him the provider he is today. “Unusual events led us to where we are, and that means everything for where we’re going.”
Just like the flower blooming from dirt, ADVENT wouldn’t be what it is today without its challenging history. Dr. Kandula’s story of rising from the dirt has transformed ADVENT into a revolutionary clinic that is changing the way ENT medicine is practiced. Through his courage and perseverance, ADVENT has unlocked the potential of tens of thousands of their patients’ lives.