Dr. Trey Alava Celebrates 10 Years of Success

January 4, 2024

Ibrahim Alava, MDIbrahim “Trey” Alava III, MD, is celebrating his 10th anniversary as a faculty member in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. Dr. Alava is an associate professor and vice chair for quality and patient safety in the department and chief of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, where he also serves as medical director of the hospital’s 32 specialty clinics.

Dr. Alava grew up in Belle Glade, Florida, a small primarily agricultural city in western Palm Beach County. His father is a Cuban immigrant and his mother grew up in South Florida; both families had ties to agriculture in Belle Glade. His interest in medicine grew out of his fascination with the human sciences in middle school and high school, where, with the support of his parents, he was a consistent prizewinner at science fairs.

“A close cousin was a cardiologist, and my father and I looked up to him. I was fascinated by the fact that physicians used their knowledge of science and synthesized all that information into a treatment plan for patients. Reading, history, and abstract subjects didn’t interest me, but medicine was an enigma I wanted to solve,” he says. “Growing up, my father and my cousin were my role models. My father has always given me sage advice about accepting responsibility as an adult. He also instilled in me the importance of finishing what I started.”

In 2002, Dr. Alava graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He remembers his college years as busy with study, a part-time job, and volunteer work. After graduation, he completed two years of post-baccalaureate studies in the Department of Biomedical Science at the same institution, and four years later, he received his medical degree from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where he was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

He became interested in otolaryngology in his third year of medical school after meeting Soham Roy, MD, then an assistant professor at the University of Miami, during his ENT rotation. “He gave me my first real clinical experience with otolaryngology and got me involved with research, as well as encouraging me to consider a residency in Houston or Dallas,” says Dr. Alava, who was matched with the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at McGovern Medical School and completed residency training in 2013. He joined the faculty at the medical school as an assistant professor that same year, as well as the medical staffs of Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, part of Harris Health System. He was appointed chief of otolaryngology at LBJ Hospital in 2015 and promoted to associate professor in 2019.

As medical director of the 32 specialty clinics at LBJ Hospital, he helps physicians and staff members develop innovative strategies for care. “Our major focus is always on how to deliver high-quality patient care with finite resources and a huge demand for our services,” he says. “There are so many uninsured and underinsured people in Houston. We face a supply-and-demand mismatch in terms of how we provide care for them. In addition, every year brings something new to health care – changes in government regulations, new drugs on the market, and new population health guidelines. When things change, we have to look for new ways to meet our patients’ needs.”

Despite the hurdles of practicing medicine at a health care safety net hospital, he says he enjoys the comprehensive nature of his work. “We treat patients from age 0 to infinity. I get run-of-the-mill cases one day and very complicated cases the next, which keeps me on my toes. Harris Health has done a tremendous job of improving access to care, and our patients are incredibly grateful for the time we spend with them. The vast majority of patients we see in clinic here face unimaginable trials and tribulations, and we understand that. They are allowed to be late for their appointments… we are just happy they could make it.”

Through the years, Dr. Alava has been recognized with many awards. A fellow of the American College of Surgeons, he was named a Castle Connolly Top Doctor in 2021 and 2022 and a Super Doctors® Rising Star in 2016, 2017, and 2018. He was named among Super Doctors® in Texas in 2019, 2020, and 2021, and a Top Doctor by Houstonia magazine three times. He was recognized with the Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award at McGovern Medical School in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022. The one he says he holds in his heart is the Faculty Member of the Year Award he received in 2023 from residents training in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology.

Dr. Alava’s clinical interests include endocrine head and neck surgery, skin cancers of the head and neck, and all aspects of general otolaryngology. His research interests center on improving outcomes, health care disparities, and health care delivery modeling. He has worked on numerous process improvement projects at LBJ Hospital and at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. As vice chair for quality, his goal is to improve the department’s quality and safety reporting and use the data to strengthen the otorhinolaryngology service at Memorial Hermann-TMC, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, and Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital; Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital; and UT Physicians, the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School.

“My personal goal is to serve in a leadership position at a higher level, hopefully within the next decade,” he says. “I would like to be the person who sets the direction for an organization, but regardless of where I end up, I will continue to practice medicine as an ENT doctor.”

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