Dr. Raja Flores

Dr. Raja Flores is continually recognized as one of America’s top thoracic surgeons. With more than two decades of medical experience, Dr. Flores is considered a leading expert in the study and treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma because he established a type of video-assisted surgery as the gold standard in the surgical treatment of lung cancer. He has extensive experience with the trimodal approach to mesothelioma treatment, which combines surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

About Dr. Flores

Dr. Raja Flores is a board-certified thoracic and cardiac surgeon and Department Chairman of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai, which was one of the first departments of its kind in the United States.

Mount Sinai is also one of the few hospitals in the United States that specializes in video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) lobectomy for lung cancer, which is one of Dr. Flores’ specialties. On top of his experience with VATS lobectomy, Dr. Flores was also one of the first physicians anywhere in the world to use robotic surgery to treat lung and esophageal cancer.

In addition to leading the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai, Dr. Flores is also the Steven and Ames Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

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As a surgical professor, Dr. Flores strives to impart his knowledge of the surgical procedure and patient care onto the next generation of thoracic and cardiac surgeons. He specifically focuses on teaching them about VATS lobectomy procedures.

Dr. Flores is an authority in several types of lung cancer and has had his research published in over 100 medical journals. He has been invited to speak at destinations all around the world and has given approximately 200 formal lectures and presentations in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

Dr. Flores is known for his relatable and personable bedside manner. He approaches patient care from a multidisciplinary approach, which means he uses the knowledge of experts across several disciplines and specialties.

His patients can benefit from the insights of multiple experts, including physicians in the Medical Oncology, Pulmonary Medicine, Radiology, and Interventional Radiology departments.

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Believing that no two cases of mesothelioma are the same, Dr. Flores refuses to be shoehorned into the belief that extrapleural pneumonectomy is always better than pleurectomy/decortication or vice versa.

Dr. Flores strives to glean as much information as he can before performing an operation. This will allow him to give the patient the best outcome possible, even if it means waiting until after he has made the first incision to determine which surgery he will perform.

Background

Born in New York, NY, Dr. Flores came from very humble beginnings. He was raised by his single mother, who encouraged him to dream big and work hard to achieve his goals. To help pay for his schooling, Dr. Flores worked several odd jobs, including driving a delivery truck.

Dr. Flores began his post-secondary education at New York University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry. Dr. Flores then went to medical school at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, completing his MD in 1992.

Dr. Flores spent the next five years completing his internship and residency in general surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, followed by a thoracic oncology clinical research fellowship in a joint-program by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana Faber Cancer Institute in Boston. Dr. Flores remained at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School afterward to pursue a residency in cardiothoracic surgery, which he finished in 2000.

With his formal education complete, Dr. Flores worked as a surgeon in a variety of positions at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Memorial Hospital, both in New York, for the next decade.

After completing his residencies, Dr. Flores spent around 7 years at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York as an attending thoracic surgeon. While he was there, he established the current program to use VATS lobectomy.

He also published 2 studies showing its oncological effectiveness.

VATS lobectomy has comparable survival and recurrence rates to a standard thoracotomy, and it has fewer complications while requiring a shorter hospital stay.

In 2010, Dr. Flores took on two new roles: Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the Endowed Chair in Thoracic Surgery at Icahn School of Medicine. He still holds both positions but also became the Chairman of the Department of Thoracic Surgery for Mount Sinai in 2014.

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Dedication to Mesothelioma Asbestos Diseases

Currently, he is continuing his research on the consequences to a patient’s health from being exposed to asbestos as the Principal Investigator of the Libby Epidemiology Research Program.

Additionally, Dr. Flores contributes to the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank, which contains a wide variety of searchable biospecimens. This system helps doctors and researchers study mesothelioma, how it spreads, and what kinds of patient outcomes there are for the different treatment plans.

Throughout his career, Dr. Flores has participated in a dozen formal research projects, several of which focused on better understanding and treating mesothelioma. He has also written more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and has contributed to an extensive list of book chapters, abstracts, article reviews, and videos.

As a result of his vast expertise and knowledge of mesothelioma and lung cancers, Dr. Flores has given approximately 200 formal lectures and presentations at universities and symposiums across the globe. This work has taken him to dozens of foreign countries including Brazil, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France, Tokyo, and China.

Dr. Raja Flores’ Medical Specializations

Over the course of his career, Dr. Flores strives to improve the quality of life and survival rates of his patients.

As a specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, he began to use VATS lobectomy to better understand the type of cancer presented before putting a patient through more invasive surgery.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Dr. Flores is a thoracic and cardiac surgical oncologist specializing in treating pleural mesothelioma.

“What we’re trying to do is help patients live longer with a better quality of life.”

– Dr. Flores

There is currently no agreement about whether extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) or pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) works better, and Dr. Flores refuses to pick a side.

Dr. Flores believes that the type of surgery will be determined by the disease stage and the kinds of therapies the patient will be undergoing as a follow-up (for instance, chemotherapy or radiation therapy).

He doesn’t believe that CT scans are able to effectively show the extent of the tumor.

Dr. Flores warns his patients that he won’t know whether he is only removing the lung’s lining (P/D) or if he will be removing the whole lung (EPP) until after he has made his first incision and can see the full extent of the cancer clearly.

One of the problems faced by oncologists is determining the type of cancer a patient has — mesothelioma or adenocarcinoma. Cancer type determines what treatment options are available.

This is why surgeons need to perform an open pleural biopsy or a VATS lobectomy procedure — where a diseased portion of the lung is removed using three small incisions, instead of the previous method where the chest cavity had to be opened.

With this tiny portion of a patient’s lung, the doctors can determine what kind of cancer a patient has, and which of the 3 cell types of mesothelioma (epithelioid, mixed, and sarcomatoid) they have. This information can help doctors determine the next steps.

This system leads to fewer complications for the patients, has a faster recovery time, and has the same level of effectiveness at determining cancer type as a standard thoracotomy.

Multidisciplinary Treatment

Dr. Flores continues to look for innovative new ways to treat mesothelioma because he believes that a cure will be found one day.

Until that happens, it’s important to constantly discover new methods for improving patient quality of life. One of the ways he does this is through a multidisciplinary approach.

The idea behind this approach is that a patient will benefit from being seen by more than one specialist across different fields like oncology or radiology.

Each specialist will see the problem from their own viewpoint. Specialists can work together, share knowledge and create the best treatment plan for the patient.

Dr. Flores’ Current Work

Dr. Raja Flores is the current Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, where he oversees the treatment and care of thousands of patients each year. He concurrently teaches the next generation of surgeons as the Steven and Ann Ames Professor of Thoracic Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine, where he is the Endowed Chair in Thoracic Surgery.

Dr. Flores is also Chairman of Mount Sinai’s Department of Thoracic Surgery and on the Board of Governors for the Alumni Association of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Dr. Flores is also a member of over two dozen professional associations, including:

  • American College of Surgeons Oncology Group
  • American College of Chest Physicians
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Society of Surgical Oncology
  • American Association of Thoracic Surgeons
  • Lung Cancer Alliance

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Dr. Flores’ Healing Philosophy

“We try to treat mesothelioma here with the patient’s best interest at heart, as I’m sure everybody else does.”

– Dr. Flores

Dr. Flores uses a trimodal approach to treating most mesothelioma patients but believes that the patients’ needs always come first. Dr. Flores and his team at Mount Sinai recognize that the right treatment for one person may not be the right treatment for another.

“What we do here is tailor the treatment to the individual patient. If you have a 35-year-old woman who’s newly married and just had a stage 2 mesothelioma diagnosis — she’d be treated very differently than an 80-year-old male who’s stuck in a wheelchair and has stage 2 mesothelioma. So, you need to treat the patient and not just the stage of the disease.” – Dr. Flores.

Dr. Flores also favors minimally invasive techniques and is an advocate for video-assisted and robotic surgery. For mesothelioma patients, he always tries to spare the lung, favoring pleurectomy/decortication whenever possible.

“Here at Sinai, what we try to do is focus in on sparing the lung, so if there is a chance to spare that person’s lung and do something called a pleurectomy/decortication, that’s what we attempt to do.”

– Dr. Flores

However, he believes there are times and cases when an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), which removes the lung, is the more appropriate treatment option. For example, his team would perform an EPP if the lung has already lost its ability to function, due to the spread of mesothelioma. This willingness to perform both standard mesothelioma surgeries is somewhat unique amongst mesothelioma specialists.

Working With Dr. Flores

Because of his background, Dr. Flores finds it very easy to relate to his patients because he understands their lifestyle and livelihood.

He is highly personable and provides hope to his patients while giving them the best quality of life he can. This is why Dr. Flores is so willing to work with others and hold off judgment for surgery type until he has all the information before him.

Dr. Flores is one of the best in the mesothelioma field. His patients can rest assured that not only is he a caring physician, but he’s also one of the most capable surgeons.

For more information on working with Dr. Flores, contact us today.

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. We help give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma.

5 references
  1. Mount Sinai Hospital. “Raja M Flores, MD.” Retrieved from http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/raja-m-flores. Accessed on December 20th, 2017.
  2. Mount Sinai Hospital. “Curriculum Vitae.” Retrieved from http://www.mountsinai.org/static_files/MSMC/Files/Faculty%20Profile%20Pdfs/Flores.pdf. Accessed on December 20th, 2017.
  3. US Health News. “Dr. Raja Flores.” Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/doctors/raja-flores-8123. Accessed on December 20th, 2017.
  4. Mount Sinai Health System. “Mesothelioma - Dr. Raja Flores - Mount Sinai Hospital.” Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJk_LzL7YNg. Accessed on December 20th, 2017.
  5. NY Daily News. “Mesothelioma: The environmental cancer that strikes on the job.” Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/mesothelioma-environmental-cancer-strikes-job-article-1.190536. Accessed on December 20th, 2017.

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