Head and Neck, Cranial Base and Microvascular Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship

Head and Neck Fellowship

The Vanderbilt Head and Neck, Cranial Base and Microvascular Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship is an outstanding one-year clinical position with the option to extend the fellowship to a second year to focus on clinical or basic science research. There are two positions available per year, beginning in July. This fellowship is offered through the American Head & Neck Society Match and is AHNS-approved.

The curriculum includes a broad experience in head and neck oncologic surgery, with an emphasis on endocrine surgery, treatment of paragangliomas and lesions of the parapharyngeal space, cranial base lesions, reconstructive surgery, and microvascular reconstruction.

Fellows are clinical instructors at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, giving them experience and leadership in the academic setting. They are given surgical privileges at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, and the VA Hospital.

Fellows in the Vanderbilt Head and Neck, Cranial Base and Microvascular Reconstructive Surgery program also have the opportunity to participate in multiple global outreach programs to the Caribbean and Africa. Fellows utilize their medical and leadership skills by treating patients and training local physicians in head and neck surgical techniques.

  • Our fellowship/instructorship is a one-year program designed to accomplish these major factors:

    1. Increase proficiency in thyroid and parathyroid surgery and treatment.
    2. Increase proficiency in cranial base surgery.
    3. Increase proficiency in microvascular reconstructive surgery.
    4. Increase proficiency in robotic surgery.
    5. Increase proficiency in multimodality care of the head and neck oncologic patient.
    6. Prepare the physician for an academic career in head and neck oncologic surgery.
  • To that end there will be opportunities to increase proficiency in head and neck oncologic surgery and myocutaneous reconstruction and laryngology.  It is expected that the candidate for this position possess the core knowledge for these areas as outlined, in the special requirements for programs in Otolaryngology. The fellow will work with a host of Vanderbilt faculty, both in the Department of Otolaryngology as well as outside of this department.

    The individual chosen will be appointed an Instructor in the Department of Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  The Instructor/Fellow works with the attendings throughout the year.  Approximately 10% of their time is independent, during which the Instructor manages cases along with the residents, with supervision as needed.  This independent time allows the Instructor an opportunity for growth of confidence as the year progresses. A host of opportunities are available for clinical research as well as opportunities to contribute to various clinical publications throughout the year. 

    If research is of interest there are also opportunities for basic science research if requested by the Instructor/Fellow, including the possibility of extending the fellowship to 2 years.

    Our educational goals are accomplished through:

    • A reading program facilitated by comprehensive access to textbooks and journals through the Department, VUMC's library system, and VUMC's subscriptions to online publications. See the Reading List in Part III.
    • Addressing surgical skills in the operating room and patient diagnosis, treatment, and interaction in the outpatient clinic. Fellows' progress in basic head and neck, microvascular, skull base (anterior and middle fossa), transoral laser, and robotic surgeries, as well as "bedside manner" and diagnostic skills, is monitored by the head and neck attendings throughout the year, with appropriate feedback and suggestions for further skill development.
    • Weekly head and neck cancer tumor boards. These meetings provide experience with, and examples of, directing multidisciplinary head and neck cancer care with colleagues from a variety of surgical and non-surgical fields.
    • Cadaver dissection courses targeted toward teaching residents head and neck anatomy as related to surgical procedures.
    • Formal and informal didactic teaching sessions given to the residents.
    • Specific rotations to spend time with the radiation oncology and medical oncology teams, and, when possible, in the melanoma medical oncology treatment center.  The Radiation Oncology experience allows further exposure to patient stimulation and treatment planning as well as the treatment experience. The Medical Oncology exposure allows further exposure to side effects of chemotherapy as well as exposure to the infusion experience.
    • Research practice. Fellows work closely with all faculty and other involved head and neck staff to design and execute one or more research projects. A bi-weekly research meeting encourages joint work, and ad hoc meetings are scheduled as needed with team members. Opportunities are provided to collaborate with other members of the Otolaryngology, with all members of the multidisciplinary head and neck cancer team, and with members of Engineering through the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering. The final benchmark for this curriculum area is presentation at a national meeting and publication of peer-reviewed articles.
    • Finally, both fellows participate in a surgical teaching medical mission trip to a low- or middle-income country with the target emphasis of the trip dedicated to teaching head and neck surgery to local attending surgeons.
  • Candidates must complete a residency in Otolaryngology, and be board certified or board eligible.

    Additionally, fellows must be able to:

    1. obtain an unrestricted Tennessee Medical License. At least one year of training in an AMA accredited program in the United States is required for International MD licensure in the state of Tennessee. Requirements for Tennessee Full Medical Licensure are available from the TN Board of Medical Examiners.
    2. obtain a Tennessee DEA. Information on requirements for DEA registration are available from the US DEA
    3. and provide proof of citizenship or Visa status (if applicable). Visa information (if applicable) should be provided with the application. Please note all of the requirements and be advised that we do not sponsor visas for fellows. The visa you would need to independently acquire must permit you to work and may not be a student visa as this position requires teaching. For Visa information, please consult the US State Department website.
  • The fellows rotate between these two plans every two months, spending a total of six months on each:

    Rotation One

    MONDAYS: The fellow spends this day at the Veteran's Administration Hospital as the attending in Head and Neck Surgery. This is targeted to all aspects of head and neck surgery except free flaps and extended skull base. The Vanderbilt attending head and neck surgeons are in the adjacent building and are available for consultations at any time. This promotes independent decision-making skills, leadership skills and development of an ability to perform as an attending surgeon.

    TUESDAYS, WEDNESDAYS AND FRIDAYS: The fellow spends these days in the operating theater. This rotation targets endocrine surgery, rehabilitation of cranial nerve procedures, parotid parapharyngeal procedures, central skull base and infratemporal fossa lesions, anterior skull base, temporal bone lesions, carotid body tumor and unusual cervical tumors, as well as standard common procedures of the benign and malignant tumors of the oral cavity, laryngeal and cervical regions.

    THURSDAYS: The fellow spends an entire dedicated day in the outpatient head and neck surgery clinic with an emphasis on pre- and post-operative evaluation and treatment, developing decision-making skills. Here, the fellow also has extensive exposure to head and neck ultrasound for evaluation and diagnosis, as well as fine needle aspiration procedures.

    Rotation Two

    On this rotation, the fellow participates in all of the above procedures as in rotation one, but with a greater emphasis on free flap reconstruction and rehabilitation of the oncologic patient. Because this fellow spends the vast majority of their time in the operating room, we carve out from this rotation four half-days for the radiation oncology and medical oncology emphasis periods.

  • Vanderbilt Head and Neck Surgery fellows become leaders in the field, both in academic and clinical settings. Of the head and neck oncologic fellows we have trained so far, 45 are in university-based academic practice, and at least 23 are in leadership positions, including two Cancer Center Directors, six Chairs, a dozen Head & Neck Surgery Division Chiefs, and three Program Directors.

    Current and past fellows include:

    1990-1991: John Coniglio, MD
    1991-1992: Frank Civantos, MD
    1992-1993: John Wanamaker, MD
    1993-1994: William B. Armstrong, MD
    1994-1995: Robert J. Sinard, MD
    1995-1996: Donald Weed, MD
    1996-1997: Theodore N. Teknos, MD
    1997-1998: Frank Miller, MD
    1998-1999: Christopher Sullivan, MD
    1999-2000: Alain Sabri, MD and Joseph Sniezek, MD
    2000-2001: Mumtaz Khan, MD and Garth Olson, MD
    2001-2002: Peter Hunt, MD, Terrence Johnson, MD and William Magdycz, MD
    2002-2003: Robert Lorenz, MD and Paul van der Sloot, MD
    2003-2004: George Coppit, MD and Derrick Lin, MD
    2004-2005: Cecelia Schmalbach, MD and Scharukh Jalisi, MD
    2005-2006: Jason Hunt, MD and Becky Massey, MD
    2006-2007: Chad Zender, MD and Francis Ruggiero, MD
    2007-2008: Nadir Ahmad, MD and Kyle Mannion, MD
    2008-2009: Freedom Johnson, MD and Matthew Old, MD
    2009-2010: Sarah Rohde, MD and Ronald Walker, MD
    2010-2011: Kelly Cunningham, MD and Alexander Langerman, MD
    2011-2012: Christian Hasney, MD and Clinton "Casey" Kuwada, MD
    2012-2013: Benjamin Johnston, MD and Adam Lubinbuhl, MD
    2012-2014: Eric Wirtz, MD (Inaugural Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2013-2014: Christopher Fundakowski, MD (Inaugural Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2013-2015: Kelly Groom Anderson, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2014-2015: John Heaphy, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2015-2016: Sunshine Dwojak, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2015-2016: Michael Sim, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2016-2017: Shethal Bearelly, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2016-2017: Alice Tang, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2017-2018: Jo-Lawrence Bigcas, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2017-2018: Justin Bond, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2018-2019: Brian Cervenka, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2018-2019: Nolan Seim, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2019-2020: Sarah Drejet, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2019-2020: William Stokes III, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2020-2021: Catherine Alessandra Colaianni, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2020-2021: Kevin J. Kovatch, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2021-2022: Chen Lin, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)
    2021-2022: Daniel Sharbel, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2022-2023: Melanie Hicks, MD (Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery)
    2022-2023: Andrew Katz, MD (Caridad Bolivar Bacardi Fellow)

Head and Neck Team


Program Director

Kyle Mannion, MD, FACS
Associate Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology
Director, Microvascular Surgery


Head and Neck Faculty

Alexander Langerman, MD, SM, FACS
Associate Professor
Director, Surgical Analytics Lab
Core Faculty of Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society

James Netterville, MD
Mark C. Smith Professor
Director, Division of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology
Executive Vice Chair, Department of Otolaryngology
Associate Director, Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences

Sarah Rohde, MD, MMHC, FACS
Associate Professor
Associate Chief, Division of Head and Neck Oncologic Services
Co-Chair, Early Career Physician Council
Member, Vanderbilt Faculty Senate

Eben L. Rosenthal, MD
Professor and Chair
Odess Endowed Chair

Robert J. Sinard, MD, FACS
Residency Program Director

Michael Topf, MD
Assistant Professor

Jamie Wiggleton, ANP-BC
Adult Nurse Practitioner

Program Coordinator

Candace A. Wright


Multidisciplinary Team


Medical Oncology

Jill Gilbert, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine

Barbara Murphy, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director, Head and Neck Research Program
Director, Pain & Symptom Management Program

Michael Gibson, MD, PhD
Research Director for Translational Research in Head and Neck Oncology

Neurosurgical Oncology

Lola B. Chambless, MD
Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery
Associate Program Director, Neurological Surgery
Residency Program Director

Peter Morone, MD, MSCI
Assistant Professor

Reid Thompson, MD
William F. Meacham Professor
Chair, Neurological Surgery
Director, Neurosurgical Oncology
Director, Vanderbilt Brain Tumor Center


David S. Haynes, MD, FACS, MMHC
Vice Chair/Chief Academic Officer
Director, Neurotology Division
Director, Neurotology Fellowship
Director, Cochlear Implant Program

Marc L. Bennett, MD, FACS, MMHC
Quality Director, Quality and Safety Risk Prevention

Matthew R. O'Malley, MD
Assistant Professor

Kareem Tawfik, MD
Assistant Professor

Radiation Oncology

Anthony Cmelak, MD
Professor of Radiation Oncology
Senior Medical Director, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center at Franklin
Senior Medical Director, Vanderbilt Radiation Oncology
Director of Radiosurgery for Functional and Benign Disease
Director of Head and Neck Cancer Radiotherapy

Zachary A. Kohutek, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor

Natalie A. Lockney, MD
Assistant Professor
Residency Program Director

Kenneth J. Niermann, MD, MSCI
Assistant Professor

Speech Pathology

Jennifer Muckala, CCC-SLP
Senior Speech Pathologist
Singing Voice Specialist, Vanderbilt Voice Center
Clinical Faculty, Department of Otolaryngology

  • Former Baker chair Dr. Kim having lunch with the Barry Baker Lab team
  • Outpatient NP Mary West hugs a patient in Malindi, Kenya
  • Then-fellow Shethal Bearelly, MD in the OR in Malindi, Kenya
  • Then-fellow Michael Sim, MD speaks with a patient in Kampala, Uganda
  • Fellowship director Kyle Mannion with his children
  • Some of our providers and their family at a local marathon
  • Former program manager Joanne Merriam and former director James Netterville display desserts at the annual Academy alumni party
  • Then-fellows Brian Cervenka and Nolan Seim with their children
  • Drs. Sinard and Netterville admire a cake brought into clinic
  • Dr. Netterville with his grandchildren
  • Former fellow Adam Luginbuhl discusses treatment with a patient in Malindi, Kenya
  • Dr Netterville with then-resident Ashley Nassiri with one of the many feasts in his clinic
  • Drs. Netterville and Rohde in Haiti on a global outreach trip
  • Michael Topf, Ben Johnston, Jamie Wiggleton, and Bob Sinard.
  • Then-fellows Sarah Drejet and Bill Stokes at Martin's BBQ
  • Michael Topf, MD in Paso Robles
  • Michael Topf, MD (right) in the OR
  • Then-fellow Sunshine Dwojak, MD teaching in the OR in Malindi, Kenya
  • 2020-2021 fellows Alessa Colaianni and Kevin Kovatch in the OR.
  • Former fellow Kelly Cunningham discusses a patient with Kyle Mannion and several medical students and residents in Kenya