Our Care Team at the Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic

Our expert staff coordinates treatment, as well as all necessary follow-up and rehabilitation, using a team approach. Individually tailored treatment plans increase survival rates and improve a patient’s quality of life.

Medical Oncology

Medical Oncologist

Ariel Birnbaum, MD, is a medical oncologist at Rhode Island Hospital. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Ohio, completed his residency training at the University of Minnesota hospitals, and completed his fellowship in hematology/oncology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. His clinical interests include combined modality treatment for lung cancer and end of life care. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical oncology and a participant in the Brown University Oncology Group.

Palliative Care

Palliative Care Physician

Dana Levy Guyer, MD, is a palliative care physician at Lifespan Cancer Institute and Rhode Island Hospital. She received her medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She completed her residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics, as well as her fellowship in palliative care and hospice, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is board certified in hospice and palliative medicine, internal medicine, and pediatric medicine, and is a member of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Radiation Oncology

Clinical Director, Radiation Oncology

Thomas DiPetrillo, MD, is clinical director of radiation oncology at Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals. He is a leading authority on a variety of radiation treatments for cancer, including intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy. DiPetrillo is a pioneer in the use of IMRT, a noninvasive procedure that allows physicians to pinpoint delivery of radiation therapy, resulting in better tumor control with less toxicity. He is also an expert in the use of HDR brachytherapy, a treatment that involves the use of a robotic arm to deliver a radioactive “seed” to a tumor. 

DiPetrillo is a graduate of the University of Vermont College of Medicine and completed his residency at New England Medical Center (now Tufts Medical Center). He is an associate professor of radiation oncology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and an adjunct associate professor at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Radiation Oncologist

Kara Leonard, MD, is a radiation oncologist at Rhode Island Hospital and an assistant professor of radiation oncology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Leonard received her undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Columbia University in New York, her master of science from Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and her medical degree from Albany Medical College in Albany, New York. She completed an internship in internal medicine at Albany Medical Center, followed by a residency in radiation oncology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. She specializes in treating breast, gastrointestinal, and head and neck cancers. She is a member of several national honor societies, including Alpha Omega Alpha and Psi Chi.

Chief of Brachytherapy Services

Yakub Puthawala, MD, is chief of brachytherapy services at Rhode Island Hospital and an associate clinical professor of radiation oncology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Puthawala is a board-certified radiation oncologist. He received his undergraduate degree in biology from Gujarat College and his medical degree from Municipal Medical College, both in Ahmedabad, India. He completed his fellowship training in radiation oncology at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, and his residency training in radiation oncology at University Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His areas of clinical expertise include intraoperative radiation therapy, gynecologic and head and neck oncology, high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). He is an adjunct associate clinical professor at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Radiation Oncologist

Esther Yu, MD, is a radiation oncologist at Rhode Island Hospital. A 2012 graduate of Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. Yu has published her research on breast, central nervous system, and gastrointestinal cancers in many medical journals, and has presented at several national meetings for radiation oncology. She was named chief resident during her final year of residency at Tufts Medical Center in 2016-2017.

Dr. Yu is a winner of the American Brachytherapy Society’s 2016 HDR Scholarship Award. She holds a number of professional memberships including the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the American College of Radiation Oncology.

Surgical Oncology


Dr. Cotton is an endocrine surgeon who specializes in the surgical management of both benign and malignant diseases of the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, and endocrine pancreas. Originally from Texas, Dr. Cotton graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Texas A&M University. He went on to receive his medical degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio School of Medicine with Alpha Omega Alpha honors. He then completed his internship and residency in general surgery at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC. He subsequently became the Norman W. Thompson Fellow of Endocrine Surgery at the University of Michigan where he completed his endocrine surgery fellowship.

Dr. Cotton’s practice is primarily dedicated to taking care of patients with thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal disease. He has expertise in thyroid ultrasound and ultrasound-guided thyroid FNA biopsies which are frequently performed in the office. He performs standard endocrine operations as well as minimally invasive parathyroidectomy and laparoscopic adrenalectomy.

Dr. Cotton’s research interests include parathyroid disease, papillary thyroid cancer, and thyroid ultrasound. He additionally participates in the education of both medical students and surgical residents at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.


Peter J. Mazzaglia, MD, is associate professor of surgery in the division of endocrine surgery at Rhode Island Hospital and the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University. Mazzaglia completed his residency in internal medicine at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and practiced internal medicine for three years in Portland, Maine prior to beginning his surgical training.

After his surgical residency at Maine Medical Center, Mazzaglia completed an additional year of endocrine surgery fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where he specialized in surgery of the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal and pancreas. As part of this fellowship, he gained expertise in the field of surgeon-performed ultrasound. He has been certified by the American College of Surgeons as an ultrasound instructor. Thyroid and parathyroid ultrasound, as well as ultrasound-guided thyroid FNA biopsy, is now an integral part of his practice. Unique to his fellowship training at the time was also specialized instruction in the performance of retroperitoneal laparoscopic adrenalectomy. When he came to Providence in 2006, he was the first surgeon in New England to routinely use this approach for adrenalectomy.

Research Highlights

  • The Changing Presentation of Hyperparathyroidism Over Three Decades. Mazzaglia P J, Berber E, Siperstein A E, Milas K M.  Archives of Surgery. 2008 Mar;143(3):260-6. 
  • Limited Value of adrenal biopsy in the evaluation of adrenal incidentaloma: A Decade of Experience.  Mazzaglia PJ, Monchik JM.  Archives of Surgery. 2009 May;144(5):465-70. 
  • Surgeon-performed ultrasound in patients referred for thyroid disease improves patient care by minimizing performance of unnecessary procedures, and optimizing surgical treatment. Mazzaglia PJ. WorldJournal of Surgery. 2010 Jun;34(6):1164-70. 
  • Level VI lymph node dissection does not decrease radioiodine uptake in patients undergoing radioiodine ablation for differentiated thyroid cancer. Yoo D, Ajmal S, Gowda S, Machan J, MonchikM, Mazzaglia PJ. World J Surg. 2012 Jun;36(6):1255-61. 
  • The Benign Thyroid Nodule: What is the appropriate follow-up strategy? Ajmal S, Rapoport S, Ramirez Battle H, Mazzaglia P. epubJournal of the American College of Surgeons. 2015 Jan. 

Otolaryngologist-Head and Neck Surgeon

Richard Wein, MD is an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon at the Lifespan Cancer Institute. He earned his medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. He completed his otolaryngology-head and neck surgery residency at the University of Rochester Medical Center and subsequently completed his fellowship in head and neck surgical oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Dr. Wein specializes in surgical management and reconstruction for patients requiring care for tumors of the head and neck.

Patient Navigators

Stephanie Balzano Sousa, BSN, RN
Nurse Navigator

Stephanie Balzano Sousa, BSN, RN, is a nurse navigator for the head, neck and thoracic adult oncology teams at Rhode Island Hospital and a member of the geriatric oncology clinic team. She obtained her bachelor of science in nursing from Rhode Island College. Sousa is a cancer survivor, which enables her to see a patient’s perspective. She also has experience in psychiatry consultation, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and in the neonatal intensive care unit at Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals.

Jennifer Asencio
Jennifer Asencio
Patient Navigator

Jennifer Asencio is a bilingual, certified patient navigator. She brings many years of experience to her role. Understanding a patient's individual cultural and socioeconomic needs allows her to personalize the guidance she provides. She works with the head and neck and lung cancer teams.