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Sullivan Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Initiative

Sullivan Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Program

The goals in treating head and neck cancer are eliminating the cancer and helping patients and their caregivers return to their best possible quality of life. Patients treated for advanced head and neck cancer may face serious challenges with function, appearance, employment, and even personal relationships. Achieving the best results requires a personalized, well-coordinated care plan designed to minimize treatment complications and keep patients as healthy and active as possible.

The UAB Medicine Pat and Jean Sullivan Comprehensive Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Program supports patients’ cancer treatment by addressing issues related to nutrition, communication, chronic pain, emotional distress, work, and much more. Our care team works with patients during treatment, recovery, and survivorship to prevent problems or identify them in the more treatable early stages – not simply respond when issues arise.

The program is named in honor of Pat Sullivan – a legendary quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner, and celebrated football coach – who himself was treated for head and neck cancer at UAB, and his wife of 50 years, Jean, who was a dedicated caregiver throughout his treatment and survivorship. Although his cancer never returned, Coach Sullivan faced many difficult side effects from treatment, and his experiences led the Sullivan family to get involved with this program at UAB.

Patients in the Sullivan Survivorship Program receive:

  • Personalized care and checkups during and after treatment 
  • Survivorship care that is delivered in collaboration with the primary treatment team
  • A survivorship care plan that:
    • Anticipates patients’ needs, depending on their specific cancer type and treatment
    • Actively addresses those anticipated needs
    • Details the course and timeline of planned cancer treatment
    • Explains guidelines for ongoing care and monitoring
    • Recommends preventive care
    • Identifies whom should be contacted if problems develop
    • Referrals for managing other potential problems
    • Close monitoring of the patient’s short- and long-term treatment results, with the goal of continually improving care and survivorship
    • Training, resources, and connections to helpful services for caregivers, who play an important role in the patient’s recovery and often carry a burden that can feel overwhelming


The Pat and Jean Sullivan Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Program uses a holistic (whole-body) approach to care and recovery that begins shortly after diagnosis. The program is led by experts in multiple medical specialties who have proven experience in head and neck cancer care and survivorship issues, and they work closely with the patient’s entire treatment team at all stages of the cancer journey.

A typical visit will include:

  • A review of medical history and symptoms
  • A physical exam
  • Health education
  • A review of the survivorship care plan
  • Referrals to specialists, helpful resources, and other services as needed

Survivorship care is provided by an experienced nurse practitioner, in consultation with the entire team. Ongoing follow-up visits give patients an opportunity to discuss their cancer treatment, its impact on their health, and ways to stay as healthy as possible. The Sullivan family’s vision is that this program will be a model for head and neck cancer survivorship programs nationally and available to all patients with this and other types of cancer.

For more information about the Sullivan Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Clinic please call 205-801-8780.

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