Midwest Head and Neck Surgical Oncology consists of seven faculty members that are leaders In head and neck cancer, coming from diverse backgrounds. The group is involved ln patient care through the Estabrook Cancer Center at Nebraska Methodist Hospital. The group’s referral area includes not only Nebraska, but also Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. The Division cares for approximately 1,250 new cancer patients per year and surgically treats approximately 650 cancer patients per year. In addition to head and neck cancer, the program is a high volume head and neck endocrine surgery.
Head and neck cancer is a relatively rare and represents about five percent of all cancers. Given this, it is vitally important that individuals who suffer from head and neck cancer are treated by a team that is dedicated to the care of patients with head and neck cancer. Our fellowship experience is centered on the philosophy of a team approach which is centered upon treating the patient with cancer and not just the cancer. This philosophy is evident in all aspects of our head and neck practice and is passed down to our head and neck fellow.
What does it mean to be a Creighton trained Head and Neck Surgical Oncologist? At the core of Creighton is the Jesuit concept of Magis, which literally translates to “more.” What separates a head and neck surgical oncologist from another sub-specialty surgeon is a desire to become the “primary cancer care provider” for his or her head and neck cancer patients. In other words, to do more or be more than just the surgeon for his or her patients. Ultimately, the head and neck surgeon coordinates all aspects of care for the patient with head and neck cancer, regardless of whether or not they undergo surgical therapy as part of their cancer care. Thus, it is important for the head and neck fellow to gain exposure to radiation oncology, medical oncology, speech and language pathology, dental oncology, and palliative medicine.
To become a head and neck surgical oncologist, one must also become the primary advocate for his or her patients. Fellows that are trained at Creighton must be willing to take on this role. It is therefore expected that all trainees take ownership of all patients on the Head and Neck Service. It is expected that the fellow become an integral and active member of the head and neck team and learn how to help navigate his or her patients through the complex course of head and neck cancer treatment and survivorship.
By the end of fellowship year, the Creighton fellow will gain a vast, diverse, and excellent operative experience encompassing both the ablative and reconstructive aspects of head and neck cancer surgery, endocrine surgery, robotic surgery, and the utilization of ultrasound, which are all vitally important skills for a technically sound head and neck surgeon to have. Most importantly, though, when one comes to train in Omaha, Nebraska, he or she will leave understanding three things: 1) the holistic approach to the comprehensive care and treatment of patients with head and neck cancer, 2) the importance and interplay of mental health, spiritual health, and physical health on the impact of cancer care, and 3) how to be the primary advocate for his or her head and neck cancer patients.