Dr. Raja M. Flores chairs the Department of Thoracic Surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and has been recognized for his leadership in the treatment of mesothelioma using video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) lobectomy. His published studies showing the effectiveness of the VATS lobectomy have established the minimally invasive procedure as a standard in the treatment of lung cancer. Flores specializes in treatment of mesothelioma, other lung cancers, esophageal cancer, tracheotomy, and related thoracic malignancies.
Flores earned his medical degree in 1992 from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, after earning his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from New York University. He pursued a General Surgery internship and residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, followed by a Thoracic Oncology Clinical Research Fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Flores also earned a Masters degree in Biostatistics from Columbia University.
One of his most profound contributions is his establishment of the VATS lobectomy as the treatment of choice for eligible mesothelioma patients, an alternative to the standard thoracotomy (which is more invasive and has a longer recovery time). The procedure uses three small incisions into the affected areas (typically the lungs), through which instruments (including a video camera) are inserted for the removal of small tumors. While this procedure produces better results for elderly patients and those who receive chemotherapy following surgery, it’s not for everyone. Patients with tumors larger than 3 cm in diameter and those who have already had pre-operative radiation or chemotherapy may not be good candidates.
But Flores doesn’t just focus on thoracic surgery and has extensively researched a variety of treatments spanning various medical disciplines, including radiation, chemotherapy, and emerging therapies. For example, he led a clinical trial (among many others) studying the effectiveness of a particular chemotherapy treatments (neoadjuvant gemcitabine and cisplatin), followed by extrapleural pneumonectomy (removal of a lung and other organ linings), followed by a high dose of radiation. While it has shown promise for eligible candidates, this series of treatments is much more invasive than VATS lobectomy or thoracotomy.
Flores’ work has been published extensively in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, The Official Journal of the European Cancer Prevention Organisation, and other influential publications. One of his studies concluded that mesothelioma could be more effectively treated by removing just one part of the pleural membrane, which has led to better prognoses for many mesothelioma patients.
But most importantly, he has demonstrated an ability to really connect with his patients to make sure they’re getting the best care possible and understand what’s going. Based on the Clinician and Group (CG-CAHPS) Survey, Flores comes highly recommend by his patients, receiving a 4.9 rating (out of 5) for “explains in a way you understand” and “listens carefully.” He has been quoted as saying he has wanted to learn how to “fix a human being” from an early age.
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