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Division of Endocrine SurgeryHave you been diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism or an endocrine-related condition that needs surgery? The UAB Section of Endocrine Surgery is honored to serve and treat patients of Alabama and beyond as one of the southeast’s premiere endocrine research and surgery centers.

Endocrine surgeons treat diseases related to the endocrine system by removing all or part of the affected gland. Surgery options include both minimally invasive and robotic-assisted procedures alongside open surgeries.

About the Endocrine System

The endocrine system is essential for a healthy and functional body. Surgery is needed when glands produce too much or too little hormones, which, if left untreated, can affect physical health or lead to tumors and cancer. Operations are typically performed on three primary types of glands:

• Adrenal glands: These glands produce hormones that affect reproductive health and body development, along with cortisol, which regulates the body’s response to stress and aldosterone. The adrenal glands also play a very important role in the hormonal regulation of blood pressure.

• Thyroid gland: This gland is found in the front of the neck and produces hormones related to the body’s metabolism, including digestion, breathing, body temperature, blood circulation, and energy levels.

• Parathyroid glands: Located next to or behind the thyroid gland, these four glands produce hormones that regulate calcium and phosphorous levels, which are vital to mood/energy as well as bone, kidney, and cardiovascular health. Patients with parathyroid disease typically experience extreme fatigue.

Conditions such as thyroid cancer, adrenal gland tumors, or an overactive gland are all diseases that need to be treated by an endocrine surgeon.

Meet the Team

The Section of Endocrine Surgery consists of a collaborative group of surgeon-scientists with extensive clinical and surgical experience. The team includes Herbert Chen, M.D., FACS, Andrea Gillis, M.D., Jessica Fazendin, M.D., FACS, and Brenessa Lindeman, M.D., MEHP, FACS.

Dr. Chen is the UAB Department of Surgery Fay Fletcher Kerner Endowed Chair and a globally recognized endocrine surgeon with over 540 publications. He is a pioneer in radio-guided parathyroid surgery and has extensively studied thyroid and neuroendocrine cancers. Dr. Chen has previously been president of the Association for Academic Surgery, the Society of Clinical Surgery, and the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons.

Dr. Gillis is an NIH-funded, board-certified surgeon with a desire to improve health outcomes for all patients, particularly those from minority and underprivileged backgrounds. A National Cancer Institute Grant recipient, she also serves on national committees for both the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons and the Association of Academic Surgeons.

Dr. Fazendin serves as an assistant professor in the Division of Breast and Endocrine Surgery and is also the director of the Medical Student Surgery Clerkship. This year, she was selected as an Argus Award recipient – an honor that allows medical students to recognize outstanding faculty for their guidance and leadership. Fazendin serves as Assistant Chief of Surgery at the VA.

Dr. Lindeman is an associate professor in the division and chief in the Section of Endocrine Surgery. She is also vice chair of education for the Department of Surgery and is the program director for the UAB Endocrine Surgery Fellowship. Lindeman serves as assistant dean of the UAB Graduate Medical Education program and was selected for the prestigious Macy Faculty Scholars Program.

The Surgery Process - What to Expect

The Section of Endocrine Surgery understands that undergoing surgery can be a highly stressful time for patients and families. That’s why surgeons work with a team of healthcare providers to guide patients through the surgery process and provide high-quality, personalized care.

Educating patients on the endocrine system is a critical component of the surgical process, Gillis states.

“Endocrine surgery treats diseases related to cancers and many hormones, generally parathyroid, thyroid, and adrenal problems,” Gillis said. “The first time we meet people, we educate people on these problems in a way they can understand. We show pictures, use examples, use events that are prominent in pop culture and refer to them; so we tie it all together to explain what’s going on.”

After giving patients an initial overview, surgeons use imaging such as ultrasound to get a better look at the disease.

“Not everyone needs surgery. For example, fifty percent of all people may be walking around with a thyroid nodule or growth. Most of them don’t require any intervention, and we have systems in place to determine who would benefit from one, but as a medical community, we are realizing a lot of these endocrine problems are pretty prevalent,” Gillis notes.

If a patient does require surgery, endocrine surgeons collaborate with a highly specialized team of endocrinologists, radiologists, and nuclear medicine doctors to create a comprehensive treatment plan.

Gillis encourages anyone with an endocrine-related condition to see a UAB endocrine surgeon. “We encourage referrals from other providers as well as self-referrals – we see everyone,” she said.

To schedule an appointment with a UAB medicine provider, please call 205-934-9999.

Written by: Nausicaa Chu