UH Head and Neck Services Expands Under New Leader

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


Director, Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology, Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs and Translational Research, 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



Director, Head and Neck Reconstructive Surgery, UH Cleveland Medical Center, Division Chief, Otolaryngology, UH Ahuja Medical Center; Assistant 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.

“There are many advantages in terms of efficiency, cost and patient satisfaction when we are able to provide healthcare closer to home,” says Chad Zender, MD, Director of Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology at UH Cleveland Medical Center. “We are developing innovative care paths that allow us to treat patients in clinic and perform surgery at our satellite locations while achieving the same high-quality outcomes we see at main campus.

“Working collaboratively with community hospital administrators and clinicians, we are increasing access for head and neck procedures — not only by moving portions of physicians’ practices to these sites but also by connecting them to crucial ancillary services such as physician extenders, nutrition support, and medical and radiation oncology consultation,” he adds.

Dr. Zender recently assumed the directorship, following in the footsteps of internationally renowned surgeon, 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 of Academics for the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Working alongside him are five fellowship-trained microvascular surgeons who embrace a team approach in planning and executing patient care.

In 2006, Rod Rezaee, MD, Director of Head and Neck Reconstructive Surgery at UH Cleveland Medical Center, joined the staff and worked to grow the free flap program. The 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. Zender says. “We performed our 1000th free flap reconstruction, while also achieving an overall success rate of about 98 percent for our free tissue transfer patients.”

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

“Working with this team of highly skilled and productive surgeons is a privilege,” he says. “My role as director is to make sure they have the necessary resources to care for patients in the community, but also maintain their presence at main campus to handle complex tertiary cases such as microvascular reconstruction, participate in resident and fellow teaching, and achieve their goals in terms of academic research.”

Jason Thuener, MD joins ENT Surgical Team