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Department of Otolaryngology
State of the Department
The 2015-2016 academic year marked the 25th 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), Maimonides Medical Center, SUNY at Bay Ridge Ambulatory Surgery Center (SUNY Bay Ridge), New York Methodist Hospital (NY Methodist), and Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital (MEETH).
This past year was marked by consolidation and continued growth. Our residency program has no current citations and all prior citations have been remedied and removed. We continue to pursue a diverse palate of basic, clinical, and translational research supported by national, state, and institutional grants. Our clinical and audiological services are more robust and bountiful than ever and the faculty providing them continue to grow professionally with academic awards and promotions. Please read on for a full description of other noteworthy accomplishments.
Talent and Commitment
A 25th wedding anniversary is a major milestone and so, by analogy, is the silver anniversary of the Department of Otolaryngology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and affiliated hospitals. We are not a traditional marriage, per se, but our faculty, residents, and staff share an interdependence that at times makes it feel like a nuptial bond exists. What makes this bond, and our department, so special is the extraordinary talent and commitment of all participants.
Our 14 full-time faculty at SUNY Downstate, plus many other full- and part-time affiliated faculty, are truly the best and brightest of the bunch. Year after year they receive accolades from our residents on annual evaluations for their commitment to teaching, clinical care, and resident education. They encompass the full panoply of fellowship training within otolaryngology and are recognized leaders locally, regionally, nationally, and even internationally. As chairman and program director I am truly blessed that these hyper-talented individuals have chosen to practice their craft in Brooklyn and commit to residency training and education.
Talent is broadly defined as “a special ability that allows someone to do something well,” but in the case of Brooklyn I would add one qualifier: extraordinarily well. And this ability is not just inherent in our faculty, but also in our audiologists, who continue to expand clinical services, provide community outreach, and train audiology residents at multiple teaching sites. Although not part of our department, per se, we also continue to shine, by proxy, from our close relationship with the Auditory Oral School of New York, which is arguable the most talented, innovative, and successful school of its kind in the world.
One aspect of talent that is easily overlooked is within our administrative and support staff, who often function behind the scenes and out of the limelight. They are, however, the glue that binds together all of what we do as a clinical and academic enterprise. Our senior administrators and managers continue to take on new responsibility as practice locations blossom and affiliate relations mature and thrive. The closure of Long Island College Hospital in May 2014 was a huge shock to our system, necessitating new affiliations and multiple new faculty practice sites. Nonetheless, our talented administrative and support staff rose to the challenge, acquired new skills, and continue to improve our practice environment and patient services.
I alluded briefly earlier to our growing research enterprise, which would not be possible without the incredible talents of Richard Kollmar, in the Department of Cell Biology, and Mark Stewart, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, who have partnered with our faculty in a win-win relationship to pursue innovative, ground-breaking translational research. Our other faculty also pursue many diverse clinical research projects, but the continued growth of basic and translational work is particularly noteworthy.
Last, a brief mention about “commitment,” which is “the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something.” Talent without purpose is not very useful, but when talented faculty, administrators, staff, and researchers all channel their efforts to support our department and residency training a wonderful outcome ensues. Like our faculty, our residents are truly the best of the best, and are a joy to work with and train. They are often the face of our department, a face we are proud to share with all of the diverse stakeholders we serve.
Serving Brooklyn with Quality Care
Of the three pillars that support academic medical departments – research, teaching, and patient care – it is 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 has shown continued growth and expansion through the leadership of Sydney Butts, Eli Gordin, and Richard Westreich. The division covers all aspects of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, including maxillofacial trauma, cosmetic procedures, microvascular free tissue transfer, and reconstruction of complex defects of the head, neck, and related structures.
Head, neck, and skull-base surgery remains a focal point of our department under the leadership of Krishnamurthi Sundaram, Natalya Chernichenko, and Michael Weiss, with additional expertise provided by Gady Har-El, Jessica Lim, Victor Lagmay, and voluntary faculty. Areas of continued growth include microvascular surgery, and minimally invasive surgery. Endocrine surgery remains a center of excellence. We look forward to additional growth, especially in transoral robotic surgery, when Stefan Mlot joins the department in September 2016.
Otology and neurotology remain vibrant through the leadership of Matthew Hanson and Michal Preis, with contributions from other faculty. The division offers comprehensive otologic services, ranging from ambulatory surgery to complex procedures with our neurosurgical colleagues. Abraham Shulman continues to help patients worldwide cope with tinnitus, as one of the few full-time tinnitologists in clinical practice.
Pediatric Otolaryngology remains a highlight of the program with leadership by Nira Goldstein, Joshua Silverman, and Richard Rosenfeld, and additional contributions by Sydney Butts, 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, endoscopic surgery, and rehabilitative services through our cleft team for children with cleft lip, cleft palate, microtia, velopharyngeal insufficiency, micrognathia, and craniofacial syndromes.
Laryngology and neurolaryngology are well covered under the leadership of Boris Bentsianov and Joshua Silverman, with 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, Victor Lagmay, and many other faculty. Procedures include advanced endoscopic sinus surgery, complex image-guided procedures, and office balloon sinuplasty. Surgery for sleep disorders includes endoscopy, transnasal surgery, palatoplasty, stiffening procedures, and transoral robotic surgery.
Communicative disorders continues to grow through the efforts of John Weigand, Sal Saleh, and their relationships with training programs that supply a steady stream of audiology residents. Patients with cochlear implants have been well served by our collaboration with the Auditory Oral School of New York, which provides state-of-the-art mapping and support services, including participation in our monthly cochlear implant team meeting.
Research, Education, and Teaching
Natalya Chernichenko organized the annual Frank E. Lucente Alumni and Resident Research Day program, which featured keynote speaker Clarence Sasaki, from the Yale School of Medicine, and alumni speaker Bhuvanesh Singh, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In addition to showcasing our resident and faculty research, our invited presentations included innovative approaches to treating head and neck cancer, and a new alumni panel discussion, coordinated by Boris Bentsianov, on professional success and work-life balance. Please review the full agenda later in this report for additional details and abstracts.
Nira Goldstein continues as Director of Research and remains an incredible resource for navigating the intricacies of funding, IRB approval, and statistical analysis. 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. In addition to a large number of observational studies and systematic reviews, translational work is active on restoring recurrent laryngeal nerve function after injury using a rat model, developing a zebrafish model to study perineural invasion of head and neck cancer using, and understanding the role of laryngospasm in epilepsy and pulmonary edema using a rat model. These, and other, projects are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the State of New York, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.
Nicole Fraser, our educational coordinator, remains an invaluable resource working with Richard Rosenfeld, program director, and Nira Goldstein, associate program director, to maintain a citation-free department that fully implements the ACGME Next Accreditation System, including milestone assessments, a clinical competency committee, and a program evaluation committee. Sydney Butts continues to oversee our Grand Rounds program, which has enjoyed robust attendance since transitioning several years ago to SUNY Downstate, including our pre-rounds session focused on resident issues and education.
Natalya Chernichenko and Krishnamurthi Sundaram co-directed the highly successful Fifth Annual Multidisciplinary Head & Neck Symposium, which highlighted innovations in the management of salivary gland neoplasms. Keynote speakers were Richard Wong and Nancy Lee, both from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The conference agenda appears later in this report and we remain grateful to Rivi and Gady Har-El for their kind support of the symposium.
Our residency training program remains fully accredited (with commendation) and continues to attract the best and brightest candidates with 100% successful attainment of desired employment by all graduates. We view our residency program as the centerpiece of our department, always striving to improve our responsiveness to 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 particular emphasis, however, are listed below.
Notable Faculty Accomplishments
Notable Resident, Student, and Other Accomplishments
A Bright Future
We are delighted to welcome our three new PGY-1 residents, Rachel Irizarry, from SUNY Downstate Medical School, Prayag Patel, also from SUNY Downstate Medical School, and Alisa Timashpolsky, from SUNY Stonybrook Medical School.
We are proud of our three departing chief residents and wish them health, happiness, and success. Sean Lewis begins a fellowship in laryngology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Punam Thakkar begins a fellowship in head and neck oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jason Wasserman joins ENT and Allergy Associates at their Bayside office in Queens, NY.
Some of our staff have already been acknowledged, but let me close by thanking our administrative miracle workers, Billy Tang at SUNY Downstate, Carole Facciponti at NY Methodist, and Svetlana Lyulko and Veronica Ortiz at our Brooklyn Heights Faculty Practice. 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.
I remain the perennial optimist regarding our department’s future because of the wonderful patients, faculty, staff, residents, and students we are blessed to interact with daily. Moreover, Brooklyn remains one of the most exciting, diverse, and opportunity-laden locations on the planet. My pledge as chairman is to continue working tirelessly to embrace all opportunities and enhance an already wonderful department in an equally wonderful borough.