MSK Celebrates 100 Years of Leadership in Head and Neck Surgery

Pictured: Jatin Shah & Michael Douglas

(Left) Head and Neck Service Chief Jatin Shah with actor and former patient Michael Douglas; (right) MSK President and CEO Craig Thompson

Marking an extraordinary centennial of leadership, Memorial Sloan Kettering celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Head and Neck Service — the world’s oldest — in 2014.

“The centennial of any program is a once-in-a-lifetime event that only a few fortunate ones are able to celebrate,” says Jatin Shah, Chief of the Head and Neck Service since 1992. “This is our year to celebrate.”

To commemorate the milestone, MSK held a special program paying tribute to the service’s history during the joint conference of the Fifth World Congress of the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies and the Annual Meeting of the American Head and Neck Society, which was held July 26 through 30 in New York City.

The centennial celebration’s opening ceremony on July 27 featured keynote addresses from Dr. Shah, MSK President and CEO Craig B. Thompson, and actor Michael Douglas, who was treated for tongue cancer at MSK. The celebration also included a reception and scientific program on July 28 with presentations about the latest research.

In all, there were more than 3,200 conference attendees from 91 countries 500 oral presentations, and 1,300 posters. Keynote speakers over the four days of the conference included Patrick Gullane, MD, and Ralph Gilbert, MD, from the University of Toronto; Antonio Fojo, MD, from the National Cancer Institute; Vincent Gregoire, MD, from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium; Allan H. “Bud” Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball; Jose Baselga, MD, Physician-in-Chief of MSK; and J. Silvio Gutkind, PhD, from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The program also included 44 panel discussions on frontiers in head and neck cancer treatment and research.

Established by James Ewing in 1914, the Head and Neck Service is the institution’s oldest subspecialty and has established global standards of care. Among other accomplishments, Dr. Ewing discovered a form of malignant bone tumor, or sarcoma, which now bears his name.

Henry Janeway, the service’s first chief, oversaw the birth of pioneering work on ablative surgery — procedures designed to remove malignant tumors while sparing nearby normal tissues. Throughout the first 100 years, trainees from around the world came to Memorial Hospital to learn the latest techniques in head and neck surgery.

Today the service continues to be at the forefront of developing advanced surgical techniques that preserve function and restore critical organs. It now has eight surgeons who perform more than 1,800 operations each year, making it the largest head and neck service in the country in terms of patient volume.

In his address, Dr. Thompson said, “Just imagine the boldness, the optimism — the valor — that it took 100 years ago to create a service designed to tackle the enormously complex set of problems that we know of as head and neck cancers, particularly when so little was known about the nature of these diseases. Today, so much has changed. You who have come together at this Fifth World Congress are at the vanguard of developing surgical techniques and combined modality therapies that have saved lives and preserved function.”

He also praised Dr. Shah: “Not only is Jatin a gifted surgeon with boundless compassion for his patients, but he has — for more than two decades — provided invaluable leadership for Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Head and Neck Service, offering guidance and inspiration to his colleagues.”

In his remarks, Mr. Douglas commended the care he received at MSK from Dr. Shah, Head and Neck Oncology Service Chief David Pfister, radiation oncologist Nancy Lee, and others on the medical team. He noted that doctors worldwide continue to come to the MSK Head and Neck Service to learn about the latest techniques “because like any great science, medicine depends on the transfer and dissemination of knowledge to drive progress.”

“For a century, Memorial Sloan Kettering has led the way in head and neck oncology,” he added. “That century, I can say, saved my life.”

As part of the opening ceremonies, Dr. Shah also announced the formal petition to designate July 27 as World Head and Neck Cancer Day. This collaborative effort has the support of both the World Health Organization and the Union for International Cancer Control to recognize the day and join the international movement to increase awareness and promote education and training in the diagnosis, treatment, outcomes, and research of head and neck cancer. The petition is available here:


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Congrtulations on century's leadership of MSK on Head and Neck Surgery.
I deeply appreciate privately on Dr. Shah about his teaching from his warm hearted and most scientific care for his patients.
Sending my deepest gratitude and affection and take pride as an student of him with full of honor.

Dr. Hayes Martin, head & neck surgeon at MSK, was a pioneer in advancing head and neck cancer surgery. Since then Dr. Tollefsen, Dr. Martin's associate used to teach young residents of New York City at MSK lecture hall.

I am a laryinectomy I've had multiple surgeries, I hoped a few years later my pain would subside. Not sure the over radiation poisoned me . I fought to live now I want to have a life . I don't speak on the phone people cannot understand me. Every time I hear my phone talk you think I could have a pretty voice . Is there any trials we used all our savings paying medical and $30,000 having caps put in there beautiful only togind out they have an ultra voice with wires and speakers . I just stay a shut in . Is there an agency that's looking into trials to speak with a voice that can be understood thank you and l would love to speak like a women. I thank the LORD everyday for the gift of life it's a miracle how far you have come.

Dear Colleen, we are sorry to hear about your health issues.

To search a comprehensive list of clinical trials being conducted at centers across the country, go to

Thank you for reaching out to us.

Just friendly congrats for best Cancer hospital, to whole stuff particularly for my friend Jatin Shah

If I have tongue cancer and plan to undergo a glossectomy with reconstruction, how can I determine if my chosen hospital is performing this surgery, reconstruction and rehabilitation at the same level that MSK has pioneered?

Dear Sharon, we’re sorry to hear about your diagnosis. We recommend that you speak with your surgeon about his/her surgical volume and experience in doing this procedure. You might also ask to speak with another patient who has gone through this. If you are interested in arranging a consultation at MSK, you can make an appointment online or call 800-525-2225. If you are not able to come to MSK, we recommend that you consult with an expert at a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center if you have not already done do. Thank you for your comment and best wishes to you.