The fast-growing division of oral and maxillofacial surgery that contributes to the most comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach to head and neck cancers in the region is now officially a department of the University of Florida College of Medicine–Jacksonville.
Until now, oral and maxillofacial surgery was one division among nine others in the surgery department. On July 1, it became one of just 16 departments on campus. From an operations standpoint, the department status gives oral and maxillofacial surgery more autonomy and the chair reports directly to the dean, said Tirbod Fattahi, M.D., D.D.S., associate professor and interim chair of the department.
On the recruiting end, it should help the department become even more attractive to prospective residents and faculty because it shows the weight of the subspecialty on campus, said Fattahi, who was oral and maxillofacial surgery division chief since 2006.
Of the approximately 100 oral and maxillofacial residencies in the country, fewer than 10 are in departments under the college of medicine. About 30 or 40 are in departments in the dental school and the rest are divisions in one form or another.
Every Tuesday in the oral and maxillofacial surgery conference area, physicians and staff from different departments gather at the Multi-disciplinary Head and Neck Tumor Board Conference to discuss patients’ best treatment options. Representatives from radiation oncology, medical oncology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, pathology, neuroradiology, otolaryngology, and speech and swallow therapy are all in the room as physicians take turn discussing recent cases.
A radiologist works the laptops and goes through patients’ scans on a projection screen so everyone else can see. Various specialists offer their opinions, and the team agrees on a next step – whether it’s surgery, radiation therapy or further tests.
"We offer a unique set of services to the public that the private sector does not in Jacksonville, or even in the region," Fattahi said.
Division leaders proposed the change about a year ago, but Fattahi said it’s likely been close to a decade in the making.
When he was hired in 2002, he was one of two full-time faculty in the division with five residents. Today, there are seven full-time faculty, 17 residents and a fellow, Fattahi said.
In the short-term, Fattahi said the department will work toward increasing the number of fellows and add another new faculty member. He also expects that within a year, the department will have a new location to see patients. Now, the oral and maxillofacial surgeons see patients at Emerson Medical Plaza and at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center downtown. The department is looking at three different sites in a different geographic area more convenient to other patients across the region.
"If we are going to grow," Fattahi said. "We have to do so beyond these walls."
Tirbod T. Fattahi, MD, DDS, FACS
Chair, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery; Associate Program Director, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency