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Department of Otolaryngology

State of the Department

image of ear hammer bone

The 2014-2015 academic year marked the 24th 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), and New York Methodist Hospital (NY Methodist).

This past year was marked by growth, opportunity, and accomplishment.  We maintained full ACME accreditation (without any citations) for our residency training program, were awarded a substantial new research grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to fund translational research, added a new facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, performed the first transoral robotic surgery in Brooklyn, opened new faculty practice sites in Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope, and expanded our clinical services at SUNY Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn VAMC, and NY Methodist.  Additional highlights appear later in this report, but these alone make the past year an unqualified success.

Mission, Vision, and Values

If you are like most readers, the chances are great that you skipped over the section of this report entitled “Mission Statement.”  For many years this would be no great loss, because our mission had not deviated from the following text formulated a long time ago:

  1. Medical and surgical treatment for diseases of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck
  2. Diagnosis, intervention, and treatment for all communicative disorders
  3. Excellence in medical student, resident, and postgraduate education
  4. Pursuit of high quality scientific research and integration into residency training
  5. Dissemination of otolaryngologic information to patients, their families, primary care physicians, and all members of the Brooklyn and adjacent communities

There is nothing wrong with the five time-tested goals just listed, but they are more factual, than inspirational, and reflect a rather myopic and constrained vision of what our great department is all about.  At our most recent Annual Retreat, however, we took time to reconsider our department’s mission, vision, and values and to craft new statements that are more in line with our current priorities.  These statements are worthy of some emphasis here.

A vision statement defines what impact an organization wishes to have on society and the future of our community. The vision is aspirational, never intending to be reached, but always intending to inspire.  After much deliberation, we concluded “Our vision is a community where individuals can access optimal care for disorders of the ears, nose, throat, head and neck.”  We strive for care that is not only great, but also accessible.

A mission statement states what an organization does, who they do it for, and how and why they do it.  It also sets boundaries on organizational activities.  We agreed that we bring our vision into reality through patient care, education, and research:

  1. We provide state-of-the-art medical and surgical care to the people of Brooklyn and surrounding communities
  2. We teach current best practices for patient care at the local, regional, national, and international level
  3. We train residents to become leaders in the specialty and practice in diverse geographic locations and practice settings
  4. We educate medical students and help those interested in otolaryngology to better understand the specialty and pursue a career in otolaryngology
  5. We conduct clinical, basic, and translational research to share knowledge, identify best practices, and fill knowledge gaps
  6. We engage in volunteer service to professional medical organizations at the local, regional, national, and international level

A values statement reflects the core ideology of an organization by answering “how do we carry out our mission?”  This provides a values-based context for decision-making, thereby avoiding a default approach of fear-based decision-making when things get tough.  We decided that we always want the community to say the following about our work:

  1. We value safe, ethical and compassionate patient care
  2. We value teaching, research, and education since we are first and foremost an academic department
  3. We value collaboration and synergy with our colleagues, fellow specialists, and other professionals
  4. We value professionalism, responsiveness, and timely communication
  5. We value excellence and quality improvement in all endeavors

For many organizations, the mission statement is simply a document that adorns the beginning of an annual report to shareholders, provides meaningless words on the wall that no one ever reads, and is an exercise deemed futile by most of the membership. An agreed upon statement of mission, vision, and values, however, can energize a group and, most importantly, allow it to thrive despite change and challenge. I firmly believe that the words above accomplish this goal, and will bring us closer every year to realizing our vision of “a community where individuals can access optimal care for disorders of the ears, nose, throat, head and neck."

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, Alice Lin, 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, Alice Lin, 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, transoral robotic surgery, and minimally invasive surgery. Endocrine surgery remains a center of excellence.

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, office balloon sinuplasty, and in-office allergy testing and treatment, including sublingual immunotherapy. 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 interns.  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

Sydney Butts organized the annual Frank E. Lucente Alumni and Resident Research Day program, which featured keynote speaker Marion Everett Couch, from the Indiana University School of Medicine, and alumni speaker Gady Har-El, from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  In addition to showcasing our resident and faculty research, our invited presentations included metabolic derangements in head and neck cancer, the history of skull base surgery in Brooklyn and the United States, and how to best integrate time with work and family.  Please review the full Research Day Agenda later in this report for the full agenda.

Nira Goldstein continues as Director of Research, ably coordinating a rich palette of faculty, resident, and medical student projects.  She is 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, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.

Nicole Fraser, our educational coordinator, remains an invaluable resource as she completes her sixth year with the department. Nicole has worked with Richard Rosenfeld, program director, and Nira Goldstein, associate program director, to successfully implement the ACGME Next Accreditation System, including milestone assessments, a clinical competency committee, and a program evaluation committee. Sydney Butts has revitalized 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 transoral robotic surgery (TORS) and oropharyngeal cancer. 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 employment and fellowship positions. We view our residency program as the centerpiece of our academic 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

  • Marina Boruk was appointed Faculty Practice Physician Administrator
  • Marina Boruk was invited faculty for the Rutgers Endoscopic Sinus Surgery course
  • Sydney Butts was appointed Vice Chair for the Department of Otolaryngology
  • Sydney Butts was awarded the SUNY Downstate President’s Health Disparities Grant for “Factors associated with the prevalence of orofacial clefts in New York City.”
  • Sydney Butts received the KCHC Annual Doctor’s Day Award
  • Natalya Chernichenko was appointed to the AAO-HNS Skull Base Committee
  • Nira Goldstein was Scientific Program Chair for the 2015 ASPO meeting
  • Eli Gordin joined the department as a full-time faculty member after a facial plastic and reconstructive surgery fellowship at University of Texas Southwestern
  • Eli Gordin was inducted into the New York Head and Neck Society
  • Matthew Hanson completed six years of service on the AAO-HNS Implantable Hearing Aid Committee
  • Richard Kollmar was awarded an NIH R21 grant for “Restoration of  recurrent laryngeal nerve function after injury in a rat model” with co-investigators Joshua Silverman, Krishnamurthi Sundaram, and Mark Stewart
  • Frank Lucente was appointed Professor Emeritus of Otolaryngology
  • Niv Mor joined the full-time faculty at Maimonides Medical Center after a fellowship in laryngology with Andrew Blitzer
  • Michal Preis was the voluntary faculty honoree at our Resident Graduation Dinner
  • Richard Rosenfeld presented the Charles J. Krause, MD Lectureship at the Department of  Otolaryngology at the University of Michigan
  • Richard Rosenfeld was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award by the Guidelines International Network North America
  • Sal Saleh was appointed Audiology Supervisor for the otolaryngology faculty practice sites in Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope
  • Joshua Silverman was appointed Resident Site Director at NY Methodist Hospital
  • Joshua Silverman was the full-time faculty honoree at our Resident Graduation Dinner
  • Krishnamurthi Sundaram was the Site Principal Investigator for the RTOG 1216 national randomized controlled trial on advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
  • John Weigand and his team were honored with a Community Service Award from Downstate Medical Center for audiology screening and outreach efforts

Notable Resident, Student, and Other Accomplishments

  • Jason Abramowitz had podium presentation accepted for the AAO-HNS 2015 Meeting entitled “Adverse event reporting for proton pump inhibitor therapy.”
  • Anthony Alessi had a podium presentation accepted for the AAO-HNS 2015 Meeting entitled “Anesthetic dependent breathing patterns and vocal fold motion in a rat model”
  • Hamid Arjomandi was awarded Third Place at the Tenth Annual Metropolitan NY Resident Research Day for “A rat model of post-obstructive pulmonary edema.”
  • Carole Facciponti was the staff honoree at our Resident Graduation Dinner
  • Dennis Lee, alumnus, established an endowment to fund the annual “SUNY Downstate Department of Otolaryngology Dr. Frank E. Lucente Resident Research Grant”
  • Sean Lewis received the Triological Society John J. Conley, MD, Resident Research Award for “Systematic review for surgical treatment of adult laryngotracheal stenosis.”
  • Sean Lewis was appointed by the AAO-HNS Section for Residents and Fellows to serve as the Resident and Associate Society liaison for the American College of Surgeons
  • Sean Lewis, Hamid Arjomandi, and Nikita Kohli represented our department at the AAO-HNS annual leadership and advocacy conference
  • Colleen Plein, Punam Thakkar, and Sean Lewis were awarded Second Place in the AAO-HNS Annual Academic Bowl and Resident Competition
  • Jason Wasserman became a resident member of the AAO-HNS Pan-American Committee
  • The Department of Otolaryngology relocated to two, newly renovated, state of the art Faculty Practice Sites in Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope
  • SUNY Downstate is actively building a seven-floor, 100,000 square foot building for the School of Public Health with space for research, simulation, and multi-purpose teaching


A Bright Future

We are delighted to welcome our three new PGY-1 residents, Daniel Ballard, from Eastern Virginia Medical School, Daniel Sukato, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Derek Wu, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

We are proud of our three departing chief residents and wish them health, happiness, and success. Marisa Earley begins a one-year fellowship in pediatric otolaryngology at New York University, Scott Harris joins the academic otolaryngology faculty practice at the North Shore and Hofstra School of Medicine, and Colleen Plein joins an otolaryngology group practice at Aurora Healthcare, just north of Chicago.

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 Ruth Pacheco 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.

Respectfully submitted,

Richard M. Rosenfeld, MD, MPH
July 2015





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