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UH Head and Neck Services Expands Under New Leader

UH Innovations in Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery - Fall 2018


Director, Head and Neck Surgery, Director, Head and Neck Reconstructive Surgery, UH Cleveland Medical Center; Associate Professor, Otolaryngology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine


Vice Chair of Academics Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, UH Cleveland Medical Center; Professor, Otolaryngology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine


A novel hub-and-spoke care model is expanding head and neck services to University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center regional hospitals and medical office buildings.

“The goal is to provide healthcare closer to home. This give patients and the institution advantages of improved efficiency, cost and overall satisfaction.” says Rod Rezaee, MD, Director of Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology at UH Cleveland Medical Center. “We have high-quality outcomes at the main campus and aim to reproduce these results at our satellite locations. Cutting edge care paths have been developed that allow us to treat patients in the outpatient clinic setting and perform surgeries at our satellite medical centers.”

“We have increased access for head and neck surgical procedures at our community sites by partnering with the respective hospital administrators and physicians. For this to be successful we not only have moved a portion of our physicians’ practices to these sites but have also connected with critical ancillary team members such as nutritionists, physician extenders as well as medical and radiation oncologists.” he adds.

Dr. Rezaee was recently appointed to this directorship in November and is succeeding Chad Zender, MD and previously, Pierre Lavertu, MD, whose leadership grew the division to prominence clinically and academically. A widely published expert on head and neck oncology and organ preservation. Dr. Lavertu is maintaining his active clinical and surgical schedule and continuing in his role as Vice Chair for Faculty Affairs for the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Among other accomplishments, Dr. Zender grew the division by establishing the ENT research center as well as the head and neck fellowship, both nationally and internationally. Fellow microvascular surgeons, Dr. Nicole Fowler, Dr. Ted Teknos and Dr. Jason Thuener, along with our newest recruit Dr. Shawn Li, embrace this team approach in planning and executing patient care for the head and neck cancer patient throughout our NE Ohio region. Dr. Teknos recently joined the team and serves as President and Scientific Director of University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center.

In 2006, Dr. Rezaee, joined the staff and worked to grow the free flap program. This complex microvascular surgical procedure involves harvesting autologous tissue and/or bone, along with defined blood vessels, for grafting at the reconstruction site. Currently, the team completes more than 150 free flap procedures annually, rebuilding critical areas of the head and neck after tumor removal, disease or trauma to help patients attain the best possible cosmetic and functional outcomes.

“This past spring, we reached an exciting landmark,” Dr. Rezaee says. “We performed our 1000th free flap reconstruction, while also achieving an overall success rate of approximately 97 percent for our free tissue transfer patients.”

As the division continues to grow, Dr. Rezaee highlights the value of maintaining balance between regional patient care and the academic mission of the health system.

“I enjoy working with my colleagues and consider it a privilege to work with this team of highly skilled surgeons, nurses, residents and department staff,” he says. “My role as director is to make sure the necessary resources to care for patients in the community are available to our providers. However, it is vital to also maintain their presence at main campus to handle complex tertiary cases such as advanced trauma and microvascular reconstruction. In addition we must train students, residents and fellows, and achieve our goals of participating in quality academic research projects. I am excited about the future here at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.”

Meet our Head and Neck specialists:

Rod Rezaee, MD:

Pierre Lavertu, MD:

Nicole Fowler, MD:

Ted Teknos, MD:

Jason Thuener, MD: