About Dr. Rusch
Throughout her career, Dr. Rusch has been associated with many hospitals in the New York area, most notably at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she has worked since 1989. At present, Dr. Rusch is one of 11 doctors in the center who specialize in thoracic and cardiac surgery, treating the heart and chest.
“When a patient comes into Memorial Sloan-Kettering for the first time with a cancer diagnosis, they’re frequently very scared, overwhelmed and unsure what to do. I can at least assure them that we will make certain to do whatever is necessary to get the best diagnosis and offer the best treatment plan.” — Dr. Valerie Rusch
Dr. Rusch is not only a master in her field scientifically, but she’s also known to be a very empathetic surgeon who is adept at putting together care plans for her patients.
Nationally, Memorial Sloan-Kettering is one of the busiest hospitals, especially for cancer patients. The surgeons there perform more than 3000 procedures per year. Dr. Rusch, in particular, has been known to operate on around 350 patients per year, that’s more than one per working day, meaning she’s very skilled at what she does.
In addition to her busy surgery schedule, Dr. Rusch is also heavily involved in the research of clinical trials. She believes that research is integral to fully understand how to treat and take care of patients with lung-involved cancers and regularly co-investigates clinical trials to continue on the path to finding a cure.
Dr. Rusch’s Location
Mesothelioma patients can work with Dr. Rusch by contacting her through:
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
1275 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Dr. Rusch’s Career Highlights
Dr. Rusch is renowned for many accomplishments and contributions to thoracic surgery and research, including:
- Chair of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery
- Chair of the Lung and Esophagus Task Force of the American Joint Commission on Cancer
- Chair of the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the IASLC Staging Committee
- Miner Family Chair at Memorial Sloan-Kettering
- A regular contributor to oncology books and journals, including chapters on mesothelioma
- One of the first women in the U.S. to become board certified in thoracic surgery
Dr. Rusch’s Background
Dr. Rusch was determined to become a surgeon from a young age and has dedicated her career to saving the lives of patients with lung cancer.
In 1971, she graduated in Biochemistry from Vassar College in New York before going to complete her MD at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University. From 1975 to 1980, she worked her residency in General Surgery at the University of Washington, before going on to work in Cardiothoracic Surgery for a further 2 years.
Dr. Rusch was made a Faculty Associate of Thoracic Surgery at Anderson Cancer Centre from 1982 to 1983 but went back to her roots at the University of Washington to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. From 1989 to present, Dr. Rusch has worked at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York. She has worked her way up through the ranks from Attending Surgeon to Chief of Thoracic Service Department to Vice Chair of Clinical Research, which is her most up-to-date title.
In addition to these roles, Dr. Rusch is a Professor of Surgery at Cornell University Medical College, a position she has kept since 1995.
Dr. Rusch is a certified surgical oncologist specializing in lung-related and rare cancers, including mesothelioma. She is adept in multiple surgical procedures within this field but is particularly well-known for lung removal.
Dr. Rusch is also a keen researcher and often hosts clinical trials. One example was a study in the late 1990s, early 2000’s, named “A phase II trial of surgical resection and adjuvant high-dose hemithoracic radiation for malignant pleural mesothelioma.”
The purpose of the trial was the reduce the recurrence of mesothelioma tumors after surgery, which occurred in 80% of patients at the time. Patients in the trial had either an extrapleural pneumonectomy (where the lung is removed) or a pleurectomy with decortication (where the lung is left intact) followed by radiation.
The results showed that the radiation made both procedures far more effective, with the median patient survival time reaching 33.8 months. The recurrence of tumors was also reduced. The trial was published in the 2001 Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
Dr. Rusch’s Career Accomplishments
Dr. Rusch has had a long and accomplished career in thoracic surgery. Her specialty is in lung removal, which she does hundreds of times per year. Treating mesothelioma patients can often be difficult for doctors as there is no known cure, but Dr. Rusch believes in treating the patient as fairly as possible. When surgery or treatment is not applicable to the patient, she makes it her priority to prolong the patient’s life and make them as comfortable as possible.
For these kindly traits—plus her incredible knowledge and experience—Dr. Rusch has won many awards over the year, including:
- A Fellow of the ACS
- Top Doctors: New York Metro Area, 2014
- American’s Top Doctors, 2014
- New York Magazine: Top Doctors, 2014
- American’s Top Doctors for Cancer, 2013
- Checkbook Top Doc
- Super Doc
Dr. Rusch’s Current Work
While Dr. Rusch has worked in multiple institutions throughout her career, her outstanding contribution to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is, perhaps, one of her most renowned. Since 1989, Dr. Rusch has continuously pushed the boundaries of her position, gaining the role of Vice Chair for Clinical Research in the Department of Surgery.
Her job as a professor at Columbia also enables her to pass on her knowledge to future students, inspiring them to become surgeons and researchers alike. Her clinical trials are providing medical professionals all over the world with new and profound research in the hope of, one day, finding a cure for mesothelioma and other lung-related cancers.
Dr. Rusch also takes great pride in her commitment to patients. Her care plans are personalized to meet the needs of the patient, and while some surgeons struggle with bedside manner, hers is known for being second to none.
“We’re delighted when we can do something that can cure cancer, that’s actually fairly common in our practice, but there are times when we’re not able to cure a cancer. In those instances, we certainly want to make sure we’ve explored all the treatment options and offered the patient and their family the hope that we can do something to prologue their life expectancy and maintain their quality of life.” — Dr. Valerie Rusch
Dr. Rusch’s Healing Philosophy
Connecting and understanding patients is one of Dr. Rusch’s primary goals. She spends a vast amount of her time outside of the lab to add a personal approach to her patients. Operating almost every day, she’s an incredibly in-demand surgeon who has contributed to medical books, journals and articles, but she’s also skilled at knowing how to handle each patient.
“You have the expertise of knowing about a subject in great depth and the ability to be efficient when developing a care plan.” — Dr. Valerie Rusch
Dr. Rusch firmly believes that each patient should have a specific care plan to ensure optimal healing post-operation. After her research concluded that radiation therapy is beneficial to the mortality rate of mesothelioma patients, she ensures that her patients go through a gentle course and are given plenty of information on how to rebuild their strength. She is also very empathetic and spends time with the patient’s family so that they can understand how to care for their loved one.
Dr. Rusch believes in cutting-end technology and minimally-invasive procedures to shorten hospital stays and allow her patients to recover in the comfort of their own home.
Her position of Miner Family Chair at Memorial Sloan-Kettering allows her to understand the plight of mesothelioma sufferers and help them to get the support they deserve.