Specialty: Thoracic Surgery
Vassar Brothers Medical Center
Health Quest Medical Practice, part of Nuvance Health
What made you decide you wanted to be a thoracic surgeon?
My parents are physicians, so I had early exposure to the field of medicine growing up. My interest in thoracic surgery was kindled by my fascination with the anatomy and physiology of the chest, heart, and lungs. One day, during my rounds as a third-year medical student, I came across a patient who had a cardiac arrest after a recent open-heart operation. I saw my chief resident spring into action and promptly open the patient’s chest to drain the blood around his heart. At that moment, I was the only one there to assist him! From then, I knew I wanted to be a thoracic surgeon.
What have been some of the most exciting advances in thoracic surgery in recent years?
Thoracic surgery is truly one of those unique specialties where one is involved in patient care from screening for potential lung cancer to the diagnosis and treatment of lung nodules or cancer and then lifelong follow-up. A thoracic surgeon provides the full continuum of care.
There have been tremendous advancements in newer and less-invasive diagnostic modalities, including EBUS (endobronchial ultrasound) and targeted operations using navigational technology, as well as advances in robotic surgery. In addition, strides in targeted therapy and immunotherapy are allowing our lung cancer patients to live longer and more productive lives. This is a great time to be a thoracic surgeon.
What is 3D bioprinting of the trachea, and what will accomplishing it do to further the cause of thoracic medicine?
This research is groundbreaking as we are looking to create a tracheal graft from bio-compatible materials using 3D printing technology and tissue engineering. There is no good solution right now to replace a trachea that is significantly diseased by scarring or tumor. Our preliminary research and results have been very successful so far, but we have more work to do to make this a reality for our patients. Ultimately, our goal is to create a customized bioengineered graft that will successfully and reliably replace a long segment of the trachea in patients.
What is something that medical school does not teach you?
Medical schools do not always teach their students enough about having empathy. Also, there should be more emphasis on having excellent communication skills and creating a personalized care plan for every patient. These are qualities and attributes that are difficult to teach but remain very important in practice.
Can you please describe a perfect day at work?
I am a surgeon, a researcher, an educator and an administrator, and I greatly enjoy each of my roles. The perfect day at work for me begins with performing operations on the lung or trachea and having the opportunity to teach my surgical residents how to perform operations safely and efficiently. It is particularly gratifying when an operation goes well, and I have a chance to meet with the patient’s loved ones after the procedure to deliver good news. After my time in the operating room, I make rounds on my post-operative patients and visit any new consults. I then carve out some time for research and meet with our research scientists and other team members. I also manage administrative duties for the general surgery residency and thoracic surgery programs.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your specialty and/or your work?
The practice of medicine is rapidly evolving, and it is a demanding profession. The hours can be long, but as a thoracic surgeon, there is no better feeling than being able to make patients breathe better, cure them of their cancer or treat a collapsed lung. I particularly enjoy the fact that I can continue to do research with the goal of making a difference with how we practice medicine. Above all, being involved in training the next generation of surgeons is immensely gratifying and fulfilling for me.
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