Road to Graduation: Arnaoutakis follows in his brothers’ footsteps, paves his own way

Demetri Arnaoutakis is used to following in his two older brothers’ footsteps.

Like them, the fourth-year University of Florida College of Medicine student was a standout soccer player recruited to Columbia University as an undergraduate.

And, as of May 11, like his brothers, Arnaoutakis will be able to add M.D. after his name.

He will become the third son in his family to become a physician and the second to graduate from the UF College of Medicine. His oldest brother, George, is a 2007 UF College of Medicine graduate.

“I’ve always had big shoes to fill, but at the same time had one foot in the door because of them,” said Arnaoutakis, whose brothers George and Dean are both surgery residents at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Demetri Arnaoutakis, UF College of Medicine class of 2013. Photo by Maria Belen Farias

Demetri Arnaoutakis, UF College of Medicine class of 2013. Photo by Maria Belen Farias

However, Arnaoutakis has spent the past four years paving his own distinct career path.

He is the only member of the class of 2013 who matched to otolaryngology and is starting a five-year residency in July at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

As a junior, he also was awarded a highly competitive Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship, which allowed him to dedicate a year to clinical research in head and neck cancer at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“It was a great privilege and blessing to be selected for such a distinguished award,” he said. “Research is a way of giving back and understanding more about the underlying disease process.”

Arnaoutakis, whose parents are both of Greek heritage, grew up in the Tampa Bay area. He credits his family and mentors with helping him achieve his dream of becoming a surgeon.

His stepfather, Ron Hytoff, who is the former president and chief executive officer of Tampa General Hospital, helped foster his interest in medicine. But Arnaoutakis first became interested in otolaryngology as a senior in high school, when he was able to shadow a local pediatric otolaryngologist. His fascination with the ear, nose and throat specialty stuck.

“It’s such a small field, but there are so many niches within otolaryngology that it offers a great variety with regards to clinical diagnosis, treatment and research ” he said.

At the UF College of Medicine, he quickly found a mentor in William O. Collins, M.D., chief of pediatric otolaryngology and an assistant professor in both the departments of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and pediatrics. He spent the summer after his first year of medical school working with Collins on a research project that was published in a national medical journal.

“I was first author on that article – just me and him,” Arnaoutakis said. “One of the great things about coming here to UF was finding such a fostering mentor in Dr. Collins.”

Collins was also the one who encouraged him to apply for the Doris Duke fellowship at Johns Hopkins.

At Johns Hopkins, Arnaoutakis worked with Joseph Califano, M.D., a professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and renowned researcher specializing in head and neck cancer. Part of Arnaoutakis’ experience included working with Califano on a clinical trial.

“It was a great honor to learn from Dr. Califano who is a highly respected physician-scientist,” he said.

Arnaoutakis’ research fellowship delayed his graduation by a year, but he still keeps in touch with his friends from the class of 2012. He also enjoyed spending a year living with his two brothers in Baltimore.

“George, Dean and I are extremely close and obviously share many similar life experiences,” he said. “We probably talk on the phone every day.”

As graduation draws near, he is excited to further his medical expertise in Texas, but will also miss his home state.

“A part of me is sad to be leaving Florida,” Arnaoutakis said. “At the same time, I’m excited for a new challenge and opportunity that awaits in Dallas.”