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Department of Otolaryngology

State of the Department

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The 2012-2013 academic year marked the 22nd anniversary of the Department of Otolaryngology at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center and affiliated hospitals.

Formed initially from existing services at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and University Hospital of Brooklyn (UHB), the current academic structure for resident and medical student education includes affiliations with Kings County Hospital Center (KCHC), the Brooklyn Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC), and Maimonides Medical Center.

In the coming year we are delighted to expand our breadth of services to include New York Methodist Hospital and SUNY Bay Ridge Ambulatory Surgery Center.

A Year of Interesting Times

“May you live in interesting times” is often referred to as the Chinese curse, even though no Chinese source has ever been discovered.  Regardless of origin, the phrase seems particularly applicable to SUNY Downstate during past academic year, whose “interesting” fiscal challenges, leadership changes, and shifting sands at LICH kept us spellbound with a daily allotment of rumors, media stories, and hopeful anticipation.

Interesting times, however, also carry a silver lining of opportunity; opportunity to reflect on the past, present, and future with the goal of emerging stronger.  Our department has proved incredibly resilient and well-positioned to embrace change, due to the excellence of our staff, faculty, and residents.  Our superb residency training program, in particular, has provided a stable center of focus while adapting to a changing health care environment.

If ever there was a time for not putting all your eggs in one basket it was the past year.  When I first joined this department in 1992 LICH reigned supreme, and running the department, much less the residency program, without it would have been a formidable challenge.  Over the years, however, our prior chairman, Frank Lucente, had the wisdom to diversify our portfolio, through fruitful affiliations with Maimonides, the Brooklyn VAMC, and KCHC/UHB.  Michael Weiss has polished the otolaryngology division at the first two institutions to an incredible luster, but let me focus now the true anchors of our program, KCHC and UHB.

When I became Department Chairman in early 2009, a primary request of UHB leadership at the time was to “build services at UHB.”  I (fortunately) took this request seriously, not only because focusing our academic department near the medical school made sense, but also because resources were made available for new recruits.  With the invaluable help of Matthew Hanson at KCHC, seven fellowship-trained superstars were brought on board, although two have left for family reasons.  I also consolidated our full-time academic faculty under the University of Physicians (UPB) practice plan, providing essential financial and administrative stability.

The fading of LICH, however, necessitated further diversification. Fortunately, a cohesive department with top, fellowship-trained faculty providing comprehensive otolaryngology service is a great selling point. We have rapidly become one of the busiest service at SUNY Bay Ridge Ambulatory Surgery Center and anticipate further robust growth at this patient-friendly site.  An exciting new affiliation with NY Methodist hospital is a win-win relationship, providing Methodist with one-stop shopping for advanced otolaryngic care and our department with a robust patient base to support a new Institute for Head & Neck and Skull Base Surgery and a new Institute for Advanced Pediatric Otolaryngology, including cleft and craniofacial surgery.  We will continue to explore opportunities with other institutions.

Brushing aside the pessimism of “interesting times,” I find the words of radio broadcaster Paul Harvey much more appealing: “In times like these, it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.”  And there always will be, but if you are supported by great people, in a great department, success will inevitably follow.

Let me therefore thank the greats I work with daily: our residents, who represent us so well and allow us to recruit stellar new residents year after year; our faculty, who prove that unity and talent can conquer all; our staff, who support our daily efforts with grace and tenacity; and our families, who vicariously endure our own interesting times with unwavering love and support. Thank you for being great and making our department great!

Serving Brooklyn with Quality Care

Of the three pillars that support academic medical departments – research, teaching, and patient care – it is often the ability of a department of serve the community with quality care that most affects the daily lives of the patients and families.  With this in mind, I will briefly summarize the current state of our varied clinical programs.

Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery is a major showpiece of the department, with continued growth and expansion through the leadership of Richard Westreich, Sydney Butts, and Steven Cannady, who cover all aspects of trauma, cosmetic, microvascular, and reconstructive surgery.  Our cleft and craniofacial initiative continues to expand, with opportunities for additional growth at our latest residency program affiliate site, NY Methodist Hospital.

Head, neck, and skull-base surgery enjoy continued excellence under the leadership of Krishnamurthi Sundaram, Steven Cannady, Natalya Chernichenko, and Michael Weiss, with additional expertise provided by Gady Har-El, Jessica Lim, Victor Lagmay, and voluntary faculty.  Microvascular techniques have transformed our management of head and neck cancer in the department and we look forward to adding robotic surgery as a therapeutic option in the coming year with the arrival of Alice Lin in September 2013.

Otology and neurotology remain vibrant through the leadership of Matthew Hanson, Neil Sperling, Tahl Colen, and voluntary faculty.  The division offers comprehensive otologic services, ranging from ambulatory surgery to complex joint procedures with our neurosurgical colleagues. Abraham Shulman, as one of the few full-time tinnitologists in the nation, continues to improve quality of life for patients who suffer from intractable tinnitus. 

Pediatric Otolaryngology remains a highlight of the program with leadership by Nira Goldstein, Joshua Silverman, and Richard Rosenfeld, and additional contributions by Paul Vastola, Ari Goldsmith, Mauro Ruffy, and voluntary faculty.  We continue to offer a full spectrum of clinical services, including advanced airway reconstruction, voice restoration, and endoscopic surgery. Our new relationship with NY Methodist Hospital brings exciting new growth opportunities.

Laryngology and neurolaryngology are well covered under the leadership of Boris Bentsianov and Joshua Silverman, with substantial additional contributions from our pediatric otolaryngologists, head and neck surgeons, and voluntary faculty. A full range of operative and office interventions are available to improve voice-related quality of life for children, adults, vocal professionals, and head and neck cancer patients.

General otolaryngology, allergy, and rhinology continue to expand through the leadership of Marina Boruk who performs advanced endoscopic sinus surgery, complex image-guided procedures, and office balloon sinuplasty.  The department offers in-office allergy testing and treatment.  Additional contributions come from Richard Westreich, Frank Lucente, and many of our superb voluntary faculty.

Communicative disorders continues to grow through the efforts of John Weigand, Irena DiStasi, Laurie Caracciolo, Sal Saleh, and Danielle Nascimento .  Patients with cochlear implants have been well served by our partnership with the Auditory Oral School of New York, which provides state-of-the-art mapping, support services, and auditory training. Speech and language services are provided at the LICH practice site.

Research, Education, and Teaching

Our annual Frank E. Lucente Alumni and Resident Research Day was an unqualified success, featuring Sukgi Choi and alumnus Rhoda Wynn.  Keynote presentations included laryngeal reconstruction, managing cerebrospinal fluid leaks, and preparing for the ACGME Next Accreditation System.  Please review the full Research Day Agenda later in this report for a sampling of the incredible efforts of our residents and faculty.

Nira Goldstein continues as Director of Research, ably coordinating a rich palette of faculty, resident, and medical student projects.  She has been an incredible resource for navigating the intricacies of funding, IRB approval, and statistical analysis, resulting in superb resident presentations at national and international meetings.  Nira is assisted by Richard Kollmar, who serves as Director of Basic and Translational Research, and Richard Rosenfeld, who mentors residents in biostatistics, study design, and systematic review.

Nicole Fraser, our educational coordinator, remains an invaluable resource as she completes her fourth year with the department. Her role becomes more critical each year because of increasingly complex residency requirements, expanded medical student programs, and rising interest among SUNY Downstate medical students in otolaryngology as a career choice.

Krishnamurthi Sundaram, Vice Chairman, organized the highly successful 3rd Annual Multidisciplinary Head & Neck Symposium, which focused on facial plastic and reconstructive surgery with Mark Wax as the guest of honor. The conference agenda is reproduced later in this report and we are particularly grateful for the kind support of Gady Har-El in sponsoring our keynote speaker.

Our residency training program continues to attract the best and brightest candidates, with a 100% board exam pass rate and 100% successful attainment of fellowship positions.  Richard Rosenfeld, Program Director, and Nira Goldstein, Associate Program Director, continue to refine the educational curriculum program structure to better meet the needs of residents and faculty.

Recognizing Our Faculty and Staff

Since our last report there have been many notable accomplishments, which are fully described in the pages that follow.  Some events worthy of emphasis, however, are listed below.


Notable Faculty Accomplishments

  • Sydney Butts was included in the Extraordinary Women of SUNY Downstate
  • Sydney Butts was awarded a Health Services Research Grant from the AAO-HNS for perceptual assessment of velopharyngeal dysfunction by otolaryngology residents
  • Sydney Butts, along with six other facial plastic surgeons from across the country, traveled to Rwanda for a week-long surgical mission sponsored by the Face the Future Foundation in conjunction with the Rwandan Health Ministry
  • Stephen Cannady was the full-time faculty honoree at our Resident Graduation Dinner
  • Natalya Chernichenko joined our full-time faculty as Chief of Head and Neck Surgery at UHB after completing her fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Irena DiStasi was appointed Director of Communicative Disorders at UHB/LICH
  • Nira Goldstein became a Clinical Assistant Dean at SUNY Downstate Medical School
  • Richard Kollmar received the prestigious Percy Memorial Research Award from the AAO-HNS Foundation for research with Krishnamurthi Sundaram, Joshua Silverman, and Niv Mor on restoration of recurrent laryngeal nerve function in a rat model
  • Frank Lucente was invited by the dean of the SUNY Downstate Medical School to direct the new Medical Student Career Advisement Office
  • Richard Rosenfeld became the inaugural president of the International Society for Otitis Media, a new society dedicated to otitis media research, education, and patient care.
  • Richard Rosenfeld delivered the inaugural Patrick E. Brookhouser Memorial Lecture at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska
  • Joshua Silverman was inducted into the American Laryngological Association
  • John Weigand did audiologic mission work in Burma (Myanmar)
  • John Weigand received a Scholar Award from the American Academy of Audiology
  • Jessica Lim was the voluntary faculty honoree at our Resident Graduation Dinner


Notable Resident, Student, and Other Accomplishments

  • Charlotte Aronin, a medical student at SUNY Downstate, won first place for best poster at the ASPO annual meeting for research with Nira Goldstein on the prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing in children with asthma and its behavioral consequences
  • Behrad Aynehchi won third place at the 8th Annual Metropolitan NY Resident Research Day Symposium for the modified brief fatigue inventory in head and neck cancer patients
  • Anita Konka secured a fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery under the direction of Edward Farrior at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida
  • Miguel Mascaró secured a fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery under the direction of Daniel Rousso in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Niv Mor secured a fellowship in laryngology under the direction of Andrew Blitzer at the New York Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders in Manhattan
  • Elaine Williams was the staff honoree at our Resident Graduation Dinner

A Bright Future

We are delighted to welcome our three new PGY-1 residents, Nikita Kohli from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Lee Kaplowitz from the SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine, and Jason Abramowitz from the SUNY Downstate School of Medicine.

We are also proud of our three departing chief residents and wish them health, happiness, and success. Behrad Aynehchi begins a fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery with Minas Constantinidis at NYU; Jonathan Cohen begins a fellowship in microvascular surgery and head and neck oncology with Greg Hartig at the University of Wisconsin; and Marika Fraser joins alumnus Gennadiy Vengerovich in private practice in Florida. 

Despite the many challenges of running a successful academic department in the current healthcare environment I enter the coming year with hope, confidence, and enthusiasm.  How can our department not succeed, prosper, and grow when supported by the best and brightest?  Many have already been acknowledged, but let me close by thanking two of our administrative miracle workers, Billy Tang at SUNY and Carole Facciponti at LICH.  Their efforts, along with all of our other talented support staff, help fulfill our mission of research, teaching, and patient care to the benefit of our community and all stakeholders.

Respectfully submitted,

Richard M. Rosenfeld, MD, MPH
July 2013

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