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Kevin J. Sykes, PhD, MPH

Kevin Sykes portrait
Director, Clinical Research

Research Assistant Professor, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Population Health

Professional Background

Holding a Ph.D. in Health Policy and Management and a Master of Public Health degree, Kevin Sykes is part of our multidisciplinary team of researchers working within the department to advance the care of patients in Otolaryngology. While much of his time is spent working collaboratively on clinical research with the faculty and residents in the department, his research program includes a focus on healthcare delivery for the medically underserved and the impact of non-clinical factors on health outcomes.

Dr. Sykes works to develop effective and efficient models for delivering high quality healthcare services to historically underserved communities internationally and in the United States. His research has led him to work in partnership with communities in Guatemala, India, the Dominican Republic, and across the state of Kansas.

Additionally, Dr. Sykes leads projects that aim to understand the challenges facing patients with complex diagnoses and treatment plans. Looking for ways to reduce inequities in the care we provide by focusing on patient-centered outcomes, he designs studies that aim to overcome social and cultural barriers to the best possible results for otolaryngology patients.

Dr. Sykes also has more than 15 years of experience developing, designing, and managing clinical research for our department in his role as the Director of Clinical Research.

As a member of the Science Board and Joint Policy Committee for the American Public Health Association (APHA), Dr. Sykes has a long history of involvement with the policy statement development process for APHA. He also serves as a representative for the International Health Section on the Governing Council for APHA.

Education and Training
  • BS, Biology, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, TN
  • MPH, University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS
  • PhD, Health Policy and Management, University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS
Professional Affiliations
  • American Public Health Association, Joint Policy Committee, Member, 2022 - Present
  • American Public Health Association, Science Board, Member, 2019 - Present
  • American Public Health Association, Governing Council, Member, 2016 - Present
  • American Public Health Association, International Health Section Policy and Advocacy Committee, Co-Chair, 2013 - 2019
  • Society for Ear, Nose, and Throat Advances in Children, Board of Directors, Member, 2012 - 2014
  • Society for Ear, Nose, and Throat Advances in Children, Member, 2011 - Present
  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Member, 2006 - Present



My primary research examines inequities in healthcare delivery models and the resultant inefficiencies, gaps in quality, or further marginalization of communities historically underserved by medicine. As a mixed methods social scientist, my work aims to understand the impact of the social determinants of health have on treatment and disease management outcomes, especially in head and neck cancer. My goal is to leverage the lived experience of patients and their perceived challenges to explain some of the limits to the efficacy of prescribed therapies. This work has led me to focus on the development of outcomes research projects which include measures of socioeconomics, geography, and changes in insurance status. Additionally, the complexity of multi-modality disease management for head and neck cancer has led me to explore knowledge gaps limiting patient-provider communication.

As the Director of Clinical Research for the University of Kansas Department of Otolaryngology, I have spent more than 15 years collaborating with faculty, residents, and graduate students on projects in all the sub-specialties of Otolaryngology. I provide methodological and statistical expertise to the design and execution of clinical research projects; these collaborations have resulted in more than 75 peer-reviewed publications. My faculty role includes being responsible for educating residents, fellows, and medical students on all aspects of clinical research from project conception to analysis.

My role in the Department also includes the management and implementation of more than 35 externally and internally supported clinical trials in otolaryngology. My extensive experience with clinical trials provides a unique perspective and ability to apply creative solutions to issues that arise in the execution of research protocols.

Current Research and Grants
  • Adherence and Outcome of Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) for OSA International Registry, Inspire Medical Systems, Inc, PI
  • Nallani, R, Subramanian, T., L, Ferguson-Square, K., M, Smith, J., B, White, J, Chiu, A., G, Francis, C., L, Sykes, K., J. 2022. A Systematic Review of Head and Neck Cancer Health Disparities: A Call for Innovative Research.. Otolaryngology--head and neck surgery : official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 1945998221077197.
  • Sykes, K., J, Morrow, E, Smith, J., B, Holcomb, A., J, TenNapel, M, Lominska, C., E, Bur, A., M, Kakarala, K. 2020. What is the hold up?-Mixed-methods analysis of postoperative radiotherapy delay in head and neck cancer.. Head & neck, 42 (10), 2948-2957.
  • Flynn, J., P, Villwock, J., A, Chiu, A., G, Sykes, K., J. 2020. Appraising Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Clinical Practice Guidelines for Effective Dissemination and Implementation Design.. Otolaryngology--head and neck surgery : official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 194599820910126.
  • Villwock, J., A, Li , J, Moore, C, Chiu, A., G, Sykes, K., J. 2019. Affordable Rapid Olfaction Measurement Array: A Novel, Essential Oil-Based Test Strongly Correlated with UPSIT and Subjective Outcome Measures.. The Annals of otology, rhinology, and laryngology, 3489419870833.
  • Sykes, K., J. 2014. Short-term medical service trips: a systematic review of the evidence.. American journal of public health, 104 (7), e38-48