Shethal Bearelly, MD, FACS

Associate Professor, Otolaryngology
Residency Program Director

I grew up and spent my childhood in San Jose, California. I then went to Boston University for undergraduate and medical school, graduating from an accelerated 7 yr BA-MD program in 2011. In medical school, I fell in love with ENT. I realized that within the realm of ENT, there was the opportunity to dramatically improve people’s lives. The human face is how we interact with the world and we oftentimes take for granted simple tasks such as speaking, swallowing, and breathing. I matched and completed a 5-year residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. It was here that I learned to become a head and neck surgeon, and I developed an interest and passion in treating patients with head and neck cancer. I then matched and completed a Head and Neck Surgical Oncology and Microvascular Reconstruction fellowship at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I honed my skills and learned about the nuances of head and neck cancer and reconstruction. Following fellowship in 2017, I accepted an academic position here at the University of Arizona-Tucson as a Head and Neck cancer/reconstructive surgeon. We have a very friendly and collegial group of faculty and residents here and I am so fortunate to be able to work with this amazing group of people. My approach to patients is that of listening and trying to understand their goals and fears. I think it’s necessary to individualize each patient’s care and treatment because no two patients are the same. I learn something new from my patients every day and I feel honored that they trust me in taking care of them.  

I have clinical and surgical expertise in treating both benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck, mouth/tongue/throat cancers, skin cancers, transoral robotic surgery, tracheal or airway stenosis, facial trauma surgery, and thyroid/parathyroid surgery. I am also one of very few people in Southern Arizona who does sialendoscopy which is a minimally invasive procedure to treat salivary duct stones and strictures. I also specialize in microvascular reconstruction which utilizes tissue from other parts of our body such as the forearm, thigh, lower leg, and upper back. In this surgery, we auto-transplant these tissues to rebuild parts of the head and neck after either facial trauma or head and neck cancer. With these reconstructive procedures, we strive to restore function in critical elements of our lives such as appearance, speaking, eating, and breathing. Treating these complex head and neck issues requires a multidisciplinary team approach and I am fortunate to be able to collaborate with outstanding medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, speech language pathologist, physical therapists in order to obtain the best outcome for our patients. 

My overall research goals revolve around improving both quality of life and function of our head and neck cancer patients. Current topics of ongoing research include disparities in head and neck cancer treatment and access to healthcare, understanding the somatosensory pathway in speech and swallowing, exploring caregiver burden in head and neck cancer, understanding the significance of surgical margins, and improving pain management following surgery. I also work closely with our Medical Oncologists and Radiation oncologists in offering a wide gamut of clinical trials.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my wife and 3 kids. We love the Arizona weather and we try to stay outdoors as much as we can. I love outdoor running and hiking. I also love to play and watch sports, especially football and basketball. I still root for my hometown teams, the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State warriors.  

Education and Training

MD: Boston University School of Medicine - Boston, 2011
University of California San Francisco, Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, 2011 - 2016
Vanderbilt University, Head & Neck Oncologic, Cranial Base & Microvascular Reconstruction, 2016 - 2017
Board Certification(s):
American Board of Otolaryngology, 2017