Thyroid, Parathyroid, & Endocrine Surgery at Columbia

Glands like the thyroid and parathyroids help your body perform a variety of important functions, but many common conditions can throw them off. Problems can occur when they don’t work hard enough—or when they work too hard. Fortunately, diseases of these glands, which make up the body’s endocrine system, are very treatable. In many cases, symptoms can be managed with medication—but often the only true cure for thyroid, parathyroid and other endocrine diseases is surgery. 

Our team of endocrine surgeons works closely with medical endocrinologists to determine when surgery is the best option, or whether your condition can be managed through medications or watchful waiting.

To get started with top level endocrine care, call (212) 305-0444 or request an appointment online today.

Thyroid vs Parathyroid: What’s the Difference? 

The names sound the same, but the thyroid and parathyroid glands are actually completely separate organs, with completely different functions in the body.

The thyroid gland plays a large role in regulating your metabolism. It affects things like body temperature, appetite and energy levels.

The parathyroid glands are actually a set of four glands, and their job is to control the amount of calcium in your blood. Having the proper calcium levels is important for maintaining proper bone density and nerve conduction.

So what do they have in common?  

Well, since they both secrete hormones into the bloodstream, they’re both considered part of the body’s endocrine system—a broad term used to cover all of the body’s glands, including others like the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland too. Problems with glands usually manifest in one of two ways: they make too much of their hormones or too little. Like other parts of the body, glands are also vulnerable to cancer.

They’re also both located within the neck. Typically, the parathyroid glands can be found just behind the thyroid, with both sitting in front of the wind pipe (trachea). Procedures to treat either one require a thorough understanding of the delicate anatomy of this area, which is why surgeons need special training to take care of thyroid and parathyroid disease.

Overall, the similarities between the thyroid and parathyroid glands mean that the same types of doctors—endocrinologists and endocrine surgeons—can treat both, but the differences between them mean that medications and treatments for one will not work for the other.

Comprehensive Care Centers

Our endocrine surgeons provide thyroid and parathyroid care as part of a team-based approach with their colleagues in medical endocrinology. Together, they lead comprehensive thyroid and parathyroid treatment centers that cover all aspects of care for any thyroid or parathyroid condition.

Columbia Thyroid Center

The Thyroid Center’s multifaceted approach to care for those with thyroid disease includes a same-day biopsy clinic, state-of-the-art, non-invasive nodule care, and a dedicated pediatric thyroid team for children.

Columbia Parathyroid Center

Our surgeons provide parathyroid care as part at the Parathyroid Center’s team-based approach. Faster recovery, less noticeable scars, and overall high patient satisfaction underscore our team's commitment to care.

Columbia Adrenal Center

Disorders of the adrenal gland are less common than other endocrine conditions like thyroid and parathyroid disease but no less deserving of high-quality, comprehensive coverage. At the Adrenal Center, our endocrine surgeons help lead one of the most experienced Adrenal teams in the country.


Our team is actively involved in researching the causes and treatments, as well as developing prevention programs, for all types of thyroid, parathyroid and endocrine diseases. Current research includes exploring the use of AI to help diagnose endocrine cancers and looking into new options for post-surgery discomfort relief.

Programs for Students & Healthcare Professionals

As part of a major academic teaching hospital, our division takes its role in educating and training new generations of endocrine surgeons very seriously.  Our program has guided the careers of countless clinical and research fellows over the years, many of whom are now leaders in their own institutions and abroad.

Who We Treat

Our endocrine surgeons provide treatment for people with any thyroid, parathyroid or adrenal conditions, including:

Thyroid Conditions & Treatments

Parathyroid Conditions & Treatments

Adrenal Conditions & Treatments

If you need help for one of these endocrine conditions, call (212) 305-0444 or request an appointment online today.

Our Team 

James Lee, MD | Chief of Endocrine Surgery
Dr. Lee is an internationally recognized endocrine surgeon who specializes in the care of patients with thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal disorders. Dr. Lee is the Chief of Endocrine Surgery at Columbia University and the Physician Director of the Endocrine Service Line at its partner hospital, New York Presbyterian. He has been rated as one of the Best Doctors in America and is one of the highest volume endocrine surgeons in the country.

Jennifer Kuo, MD
Dr. Kuo is the Director of the Thyroid Biopsy Program, Director of the Endocrine Surgery Research Program, and head of the Interventional Endocrinology program at Columbia. Dr. Kuo received her medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and completed surgical training at the University of California, Davis Medical Center. She has clinical expertise in minimally invasive endocrine surgery and fine-needle thyroid biopsy and is dedicated to the advancement of the field of endocrine surgery.

Our team is actively involved in the leadership of Endocrine Surgery at the national and international level, serving on all the major endocrine surgery associations, and authoring 100s of articles and book chapters, including treatment guidelines which set the international standard for patient care.

To make an appointment with our team, call (212) 305-0444 or request an appointment online today.

Finding an Endocrine Surgeon: What Should You Look For?

As with most types of surgery, the chance of having a successful and safe operation increases with the experience of the surgeon. In particular, endocrine surgery is a highly specialized field which requires significant experience to master. 

When visiting a surgeon for thyroid, parathyroid, or other endocrine diseases, keep in mind that the specific title of the surgeon is not necessarily relevant to their experience. For example, a head and neck surgeon may not necessarily be an expert in parathyroid surgery. It is therefore important that you inquire about the surgeon's specific experience. 

Do not be afraid to ask how many parathyroid and thyroid operations a surgeon performs each year and what their personal complication rate is. An expert will expect to be asked these questions and should not get offended by them. Research has shown that an endocrine surgeon should do more than 50 parathyroid and thyroid operations a year to be considered an expert. Use the chart below to determine the experience of your surgeon.

  • Total No. of Thyroid or Parathyroid Operations: < 200
    Experience Level: Inexperienced
  • Total No. of Thyroid or Parathyroid Operations: 200-500
    Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Total No. of Thyroid or Parathyroid Operations: >500
    Experience Level: Experienced
  • Total No. of Thyroid or Parathyroid Operations: >1000
    Experience Level: Expert 

The endocrine surgeons at Columbia have each performed thousands of neck operations in their careers.

Read more about finding the best endocrine surgeon for your care

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Contact Information

Call us at (212) 305-0444 or reach us through our online appointment form
Documents and records can be faxed to us at (212) 305-0445.

Manhattan Office

Herbert Irving Pavilion, 8th Floor
161 Fort Washington Avenue
New York, NY 10032
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Westchester Office

155 White Plains Road
Tarrytown, NY 10591
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Call us at (212) 305-0444 or reach us through our online appointment form.