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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Department of Otolaryngology

Service Chief Reports

Division of Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology

Krishnamurthi Sundaram, MD

Natalya Chernichenko, MD


The Division of Head and Neck, Surgery and Oncology continues to be extremely active and productive, both clinically and academically.  Drs. Sundaram, Har-El, Chernichenko, Azoulay, Butts, and Hanson, continue their role in running the leading center for head and neck cancer management in Brooklyn. Using an interdisciplinary approach, experts from across disciplines come together to provide state-of-the-art care for patients with all types and stages of head and neck cancer. Each month, the Division of Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology runs two busy head and neck tumor boards at SUNY Downstate/Kings County Hospital. We also participate in a monthly head and neck tumor board at New York Presbyterian-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. In the spirit of multidisciplinary approach, management decisions are made in collaboration by head and neck surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, radiologists, and pathologists. There is full participation of our attending and resident staff members in all tumor board conferences. Dr. Frank Lucente contributes invaluable advice on ethical issues. These dedicated tumor board sessions have been very successful in discussing difficult cases and designing treatment plans. Advances in surgical equipment as well as special training and expertise of our surgeons made it possible to add transoral robotic surgery (TORS), transoral laser surgery (TLS), endoscopic skull base surgery and video-assisted thyroid surgery to our armamentarium.


As a comprehensive head and neck cancer center, we place a special emphasis on quality of life of cancer patients and their families that led to establishment of our survivorship program. Head and neck cancer can impact some of the most basic human functions, including swallowing, speech, sight, fertility and appearance just to name a few. Our head and neck surgeons as well as our laryngologists, Dr. Bentsianov and Dr. Abu-Ghanem, in collaboration with speech and language pathologists, Dr. Luis Riquelme and Ms. Alexandra Soyfer, work with our patients to rehabilitate every aspect of speech and swallowing function following ablative head and neck surgery. Physicians in the Division of Microvascular and Reconstructive Surgery, Dr. Azoulay, Dr. Butts and Dr. Russo, have been working closely with our cancer surgeons on advanced reconstructive procedures for head and neck cancer. 

In the Division of Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology we place a special emphasis on basic science and clinical research. Our Division of Head and Neck Surgery in collaboration with Dr. Richard Kollmar and Dr. Rosenfeld had successfully secured Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program (ECRIP) Grant ($150,000) to investigate the mechanisms of perineural invasion by head and neck cancers. The results of this work should directly impact the clinical care of cancer patients not only by improving survival and preventing progression of neurotrophic tumors, but also by improving patients’ quality of life by diminishing pain and functional impairment. Areas of clinical research include health and healthcare disparities in head and neck cancer, and NSQIP (ACS National Surgical Quality Improvement Program) database research to study surgical complications of head and neck surgery. Faculty members and residents of our department are regular participants and attendees at the meetings of the New York Head and Neck Society, which is the largest local/regional head and neck oncological organization in North America.  Our Chairman, Dr. Richard Rosenfeld has supported the head and neck division and strongly encouraged its growth.  With his help we look forward to further growth and development of the division.