Share This


In the first article of this edition, we introduce IFHNOS, which has created a major impact on the landscape of head and neck cancer treatment and education over the past quarter of a century by offering a global platform amongst specialists and fostering camaraderie.



The need for a common platform for academic and professional interactions between specialists treating head and neck cancer worldwide was realised in the mid-1980s. A proposal was made by Jatin Shah, MD of New York to the executive council of the Society of Head and Neck Surgeons (SHNS) in 1986 to create a global organisation with the purpose of “establishing channels of communication to enhance exchange of information and improving knowledge as well as exploring new directions in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with head and neck cancer”. With its support IFHNOS was founded in 1987, with 16 founding member societies.

Over the years, it has blossomed into a major world organisation in the field of head and neck cancer, fostering education, awareness, prevention and professional camaraderie, through its various programmes. Today it has 53 member societies, from 45 nations, spanning the globe (Figure 1).


Figure 1.


The initial programmes of IFHNOS consisted of creating a world directory of head and neck surgeons and oncologists through its member organisations. Thus IFHNOS reaches over 6000 head and neck specialists around the globe. The first World Congress was held in 1998 in Mumbai. These highly successful quadrennial congresses have been held since then in Rio De Janeiro (2002), Prague (2006), Seoul (2010) and New York City (2014). The 6th World Congress will be held in Buenos Aires (2018) and the 7th in Rome (2022). These congresses are amongst the largest gatherings with global attendance in the field of head and neck oncology (Figure 2).


Figure 2: IFHNOS World Congress locations.


An innovative educational programme called the World Tour Program of Current Concepts in Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology, was started in 2008. This biennial programme, takes six to seven global leaders in the specialty to eight to ten locations in the world, every other year in the month of October, giving a two and a half day intensive CME programme interacting with local faculty. Over 8000 doctors have benefited from these programmes given so far in 26 cities (Figure 3).


Figure 3: IFHNOS World Tour locations.


Since 2005, IFHNOS has collaborated with Head and Neck, its official journal to publish scientific articles and publicise its activities and proceedings, with publication of important papers and presentations in this leading medical journal in the specialty.



In 2014, at its 5th World Congress in New York, IFHNOS declared that July 27th be observed annually as World Head and Neck Cancer Day (WHNCD), to increase awareness, with programmes in awareness of risk factors, early diagnosis by screening and prevention with governmental support. In its first year 36 nations participated with scores of events held globally on that day (Figure 4).


Figure 4: The 36 countries who participated in World Head and Neck Cancer Day (WHNCD) 2015.


To improve standards of care for head and neck cancer, and to enhance the knowledge base and expertise of the next generation of specialists, IFHNOS started the Global Online Fellowship (GOLF), in 2014. This online fellowship programme has registered 184 fellows, from 48 countries. This tremendous effort to uplift and unify the knowledge base and judgment of young surgeons throughout the world will have its impact on the treatment and outcomes of generations of patients with head and neck cancers in the future (Figure 5).


Figure 5: Location of the 184 registered fellows of the Global Online Fellowship (GOLF) programme from 48 countries.


On its web site, an Online Education programme is offered, where one can access actual video tapes of operative procedures performed by leading experts of the world. These videos demonstrate highlights of fine technical details of routine and complex operations, and help educate young trainees in operative techniques.

Through philanthropic support from a private family foundation, since 2014, IFHNOS has offered the International Observership Program. This programme offers travel grants to selected candidates from any part of the world for a two month observership in one of the major head and neck cancer centres in North America. Nine candidates from eight countries have benefited from this programme to date (Figure 6).


Figure 6: Location of the nine International Observership recipients.


IFHNOS has made a major impact through its various programmes on the risk factors, prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, outcomes, research and education in the field of head and neck cancer for the past 30 years. It has fostered programmes in education, training, research, awareness, early diagnosis, prevention, advances in treatment and outcomes, and has been instrumental in raising awareness of the care of patients with head and neck cancer. Above all it has provided a platform for collaboration and camaraderie among specialists from all parts of the world (Figure 7). For further information visit


Figure 7.


  • IFHNOS is the largest global body of head and neck specialists
  • It holds quadrennial World Congresses
  • It conducts biennial CME courses through its world tour programmes globally
  • Its official journal is Head and Neck
  • It sponsors World Head and Neck Cancer day annually on 27 July
  • It offers a Global Online Fellowship programme
  • It offers online education on its website
  • It offers the International Observership programme.


Declaration of Competing Interests: None declared.


Jatin P Shah, MD is Professor of Surgery at Cornell University Medical College and holds the Elliott W Strong Chair in Head and Neck Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York. He graduated from MS University in Baroda, India, and trained in surgical oncology and head and neck surgery at MSKCC. In addition to his superlative patient care, Dr Shah is an international leader in the field of head and neck surgery. He has delivered over 1200 scientific presentations worldwide, over 80 eponymous lectures, and published more than 550 peer reviewed articles and 10 medical textbooks. He has served as president of the New York Cancer Society, the New York Head and Neck Society, the Society of Head and Neck Surgeons, the North American Skull Base Society and the International Academy of Oral Oncology. He founded the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies (IFHNOS), and serves as its CEO. He has been listed amongst the ‘Top Doctors’ in USA directories 55 times in the last 20 years. He was awarded honorary fellowships from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, London and Australia, Honorary PhD degrees from Belgium and Greece, Honorary DSc, from India, the Blokhin Gold Medal from Russia and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the USA. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to enhance patient care and physician training in head and neck surgery, Dr Shah has received numerous awards, including an eponymous lecture established in his name by IFHNOS, an academic symposium in his name by the American Head and Neck Society, and an endowed chair in his name established by MSKCC.
Dr Ashok Shaha completed his surgical training in India and also trained at Downstate Medical Center. He completed his head and neck fellowship at Sloan Kettering and joined the Downstate faculty in 1982 where he rose to the rank of Professor of Surgery. Dr Shaha moved to Memorial in 1993 as attending surgeon and now holds the Jatin P Shah Chair in Head and Neck Surgery. He has been very active in national leadership being President of the American Head and Neck Society and the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. He has more than 500 publications and 150 book chapters. He was Chairman of the Head and Neck Training Council for 10 years. He has also been President of the New York Head and Neck Society, New York Cancer Society and New York Surgical Society. At present he is the Director of IFHNOS. His major contributions are in the field of thyroid cancer.
Share This
Jatin P Shah

MD, MS (Surg), PhD(Hon), DSc(Hon), FACS,FRCS(Hon), FDSRCS(Hon), FRCSDS(Hon), FRACS(Hon), E W Strong Chair in Head and Neck Oncology, Head and Neck Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA.

View Full Profile
Ashok R Shaha

MD, Professor of Surgery, Jatin P Shah Chair in Head and Neck Surgery, Head and Neck Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA.

View Full Profile