Thomas C. Calcaterra, M.D.

Date of Passing: October 1, 2021


It is with humbling sadness that the American Laryngological Association (ALA) inform you that Dr. Thomas C. Calcaterra, one of our esteemed Emeritus Fellows, passed away on October 1, 2021 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 84 years.  Inducted in the ALA in 1979, Dr. Calcaterra was an Active Fellow for 27 years and upon his retirement from actively caring for patients, he was elevated to Emeritus status in 2006.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Calcaterra received his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in 1958 and continued his medical education – receiving his medical degree in 1962.  At the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), he completed his internship in general surgery in 1963.  Following military service as a Flight Medical Officer with the US Air Force, Dr. Calcaterra returned to UCLA for his residency in general surgery at the Veterans Administration Wadsworth Hospital and a residency in otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Dr. Calcaterra’s career began at UCLA when he was recruited as an Assistant Professor of Surgery at UCLA in 1969, an appointment as Associate Professor of Surgery in 1973 and Professor of Surgery in 1979. Having been one of the founders of the Department of Head and Neck Surgery, he remained a cherished faculty member at the University of California Los Angeles for more than 35 years and retired as a Professor Emeritus.

Recognized internationally as a Renaissance surgeon, Dr. Calcaterra was a master educator, an incomparable surgeon scientist, and a general leader with a calm and enduring voice. Throughout his career, Dr. Calcaterra was awarded numerous awards including the American Academy of Ophthalmology & Otolaryngology Award of Merit in 1977, the Head & Neck Division Teaching Award in 1988 and the American Laryngological Association’s deRoaldes Award in 2000.  Dr. Calcaterra achieved international recognition as an accomplished researcher with more than 220 papers and 20 books published.  He served leadership roles of professional societies and President, Triological Society Western Section while associations, including Vice President, American Broncho-Esophagological Society and Vice being a member of other otolaryngological societies.

As one of his mentees stated, “Dr. Calcaterra was an unusual teacher. He never quite told you what to do.  He was invariably trying to get us to think—to think like a surgeon—and his questions exposed how much we could learn.  Among the key things we learned from him were discipline, a broad repertoire, and the exigencies of technique.  It was essential, he wanted us to know, simply to understand. This was his deeper lesson. His most important role, as a surgeon and as a scientist, was to bear witness to the wide experience of being human. Dr. Calcaterra remained a great mentor for many residents and faculty at UCLA and around the globe.  He knew so much about so much in every topic.  He knew people in every nook and cranny of academia, science and surgery.  And they all knew him, and revered him.  Through his work and generosity, Dr. Calcaterra shaped our future, that of numerous mentees and innumerable patients as a generous leader, who was a gentleman devoted to his wife and the department with the same calm, steady hands that he used in surgery where nature was undone then redone masterfully.”

The ALA extends our deepest condolences to his wife, Ellen; the Calcaterra; and the UCLA families.