Ear, Nose And Throat Expert

Ear, Nose And Throat
Expert Dr. Deborah Loney Brings A Lifetime Of Experience To Her Local ENT Practice

By Mike May

For Dr. Deborah Loney, there’s no normal day in the office. Based on the campus of Palms West Hospital, Loney practices otolaryngology, which is more commonly known as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.

“For me, no two days are the same,” said Loney, who lives in Wellington with her husband, Gerry Brown, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who now teaches geometry at John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres. “I have office hours where I see patients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. I conduct surgeries on Wednesdays and Fridays at Palms West Hospital, Wellington Regional Medical Center and the Palms West Surgicenter.”

For Loney, the diversity of her ENT practice and client base can only be matched by the diversity of her background and her many life experiences that have shaped her approach to practicing medicine.

Loney was born and raised in New York, the middle child of five children. Her parents — both of whom have graduate degrees — are from Trinidad. For college, Loney enrolled at Columbia University to pursue a degree in chemical engineering before realizing that was not the best choice for her.

“Growing up, I liked math and the sciences, especially physics, but in college, I quickly realized that the life of an engineer was not for me,” Loney said.

So, she left Columbia, switched majors to chemistry/pre-med, and enrolled at Queens College in New York City. For medical school, she moved west to Palo Alto, California, where she attended Stanford University’s School of Medicine. There, she spent five years studying and doing medical research, and along the way realized that she wanted to be an ENT.

“I loved the anatomy of the ears, nose and throat,” Loney said. “The head and neck are the Park Avenue of the body. This is where you have the critical functions of life, which are to taste, smell, talk and see.”

After graduating from Stanford, Loney headed to the University of Iowa in Iowa City for her residency, which gave her the chance to work under the legendary head-and-neck specialist Dr. Brian McCabe.

“It was a fantastic learning opportunity. My boyfriend [now spouse] supported my decision 100 percent, although it meant we would be apart,” Loney recalled. “He told me to go where I would learn the most, so I did.”

While Loney chose Iowa, the U.S. Air Force assigned Brown to South Korea.

“In our first year of marriage, my husband was in South Korea, and I was in Iowa,” Loney said. “I went to see him twice, and he came to see me twice in that first year.”

After a five-year residency in Iowa, Loney excelled at her boards. With her husband in the midst of a successful military career, Loney practiced wherever her husband was stationed. Initially, that meant working in Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., as he was stationed at the Pentagon.

While in Virginia, Loney spent six months working as an ENT and gained great experience as a locum tenens physician, which meant she traveled around the country as a fill-in for ENT doctors in their practices while they were away for an extended period of time. “That was an invaluable experience,” she said.

Later, Loney and her husband moved to other places around the nation, such as Nevada, California and Iowa. During these years of moving around the country, they had two sons, now in their 20s. This military lifestyle also included an assignment in England. Another interesting twist in Loney’s career was her decision to stop working full time and dedicate six years to homeschooling her sons.

Despite the day-to-day absence from the profession during those years, she was able to transition back into the ENT field.

“We had two and half years in Bury St. Edmonds in England, where Gerry was stationed at the Mildenhall Air Force Base,” Loney said. “I volunteered as an ENT, as needed on the base. That kept my skills sharp.”

That experience of living overseas enabled Loney and her family to travel throughout Europe frequently. She loves travel and plans to keep traveling for the rest of her life.

Four years after returning to the U.S. from England, her husband retired from the military. They moved to Palm Beach County to be near her aging parents.

When she currently works as an ENT, Loney utilizes the skills of a detective, as well as a doctor.

“If a patient is having trouble breathing, it could be due to a vocal cord mass or paralysis, nasal obstruction, lung problem, neck mass, sinusitis or even heart failure,” Loney said. “With each patient, I have to look closely, listen carefully, complete a head and neck exam, and then integrate it all to arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan.”

There are occasions where she diagnoses an ailment with a patient serendipitously.

“A husband came along with his wife for her routine ear appointments,” Loney recalled. “I noticed that he was persistently hoarse. I examined his vocal cords, and I found a mass that turned out to be cancerous.”

Being overweight is an issue that often impacts health.

“Obesity is a big issue, especially as it often correlates with obstructive sleep apnea,” Loney said. “Roughly 70 percent of sleep apnea patients are obese — and 40 percent of obese people suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can cause headaches, irritability, hypertension, daytime fatigue, predisposition to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, diminished libido and decreased attentiveness.”

Loney spends a great deal of time encouraging her patients to lead healthier lifestyles.

“Watch what you eat, moderation is key. No. 1 is don’t smoke,” Loney said. “I also tell people, especially younger people, to not listen to loud music.”

When Loney is not working as an ENT, she loves exercising.

“I like running, bicycling, kayaking, tennis and snorkeling,” she said. “I stay healthy with exercise.”

Loney complements her exercise with a largely healthy diet, which she encourages her patients to adopt.

As for her long-term future, retirement is not a goal. Instead, she’d like to mix business with pleasure as she ages.

“My goal is to travel and to work as an ENT in underserved areas, where I can help others,” Loney said. “In the end, I want to leave the world in better shape.”

When she reflects upon her life, filled with marriage, children and travel, she wants other women to realize that they can enjoy the same lifestyle, even while working in the medical field.

“A career in medicine doesn’t mean you can’t have a life,” Loney said. “We need more women in the medical fields, surgical subspecialties in particular. They shouldn’t assume you have to forego marriage and family life in order to pursue your passion.”

Dr. Deborah Loney practices as part of the ENT and Allergy Associates of Florida. Her office is on the campus of Palms West Hospital at 12959 Palms West Drive, Suite 220. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (561) 793-5077.