DaSilva Building Mesothelioma Specialty Program in Orlando
Thoracic surgeon Dr. Marcelo DaSilva came to Orlando, Florida, with a lofty goal.
He wants to make Central Florida a destination for patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.
DaSilva also has the tools to make that goal a reality, building a mesothelioma specialty program at AdventHealth Orlando.
“We want to make this a nationally — and internationally — recognized program,” DaSilva told The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. “People who come to Orlando will not only see Disney World, but they will see excellence in health care. We can do that here.”
DaSilva was named chief of Thoracic Surgery Services and medical director at AdventHealth Cancer Institute in 2019.
Program Will Be Among the Best
Among DaSilva’s tasks is creating a mesothelioma program that rivals what he left behind at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
DaSilva spent 12 years at Brigham and Women’s, where he trained under — and worked alongside — legendary thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker, who pioneered many of the mesothelioma treatment advances that were adopted around the world.
“Brigham and Women’s provided me with a template of how to build and grow an elite program,” he said. “Dr. Sugarbaker was the master of surgery, a perfectionist in so many ways. He also taught the holistic approach to patients that really resonated with me.”
That holistic vision includes:
- Seeing the patient as a person, not as the disease
- Treatment involving the patient as a whole, and not only as the lungs, the pleura or even the procedure
- A multidisciplinary approach to healing
- The belief that all patients have innate healing powers if they put their minds to it.
“The diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma is like a black forest ahead of you. It’s scary. It’s dark. The path in front of you is uncertain. You don’t know how you are going to get to the other side,” he said. “But we have a road map here. We have been down this road before. Let us help you navigate to the other side, from diagnosis to treatment to recovery.”
Multidisciplinary and Holistic Approach
In building his program, DaSilva is bringing together specialists from all possible disciplines, using a multimodal holistic approach that goes well beyond treatment.
He talks about nutrition, exercise, rehabilitation, focusing on the mental as well as physical well-being of each patient.
“Many of those services already were here. We’re putting them together under this one program,” he said. “I was told [by AdventHealth], ‘Whatever you need, we will provide the resources.’ I want to create something here like Dr. Sugarbaker did in Boston.”
DaSilva has been in practice for more than 20 years, also serving as the chief of thoracic surgery at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. Beyond mesothelioma, he specializes in lung cancer, chest reconstruction, esophageal cancer and pleural effusions.
Working alongside Sugarbaker, he was instrumental in developing the novel heated chemotherapy technique used for pleural mesothelioma, often extending survival time considerably.
He also served as a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Focus on Patient Follow-ups
DaSilva earned his reputation as a patient-focused surgeon, providing the personal touch that often is missed in the profession.
His patients are encouraged to call his personal cell phone with any follow-up questions and concerns.
He attributes the personal touch to something he learned from his father, also a surgeon who mentored him in his early years and set him on this path.
“I care deeply about my patients today. I worry about them,” he said. “I go home at night, worry about how they are. My wife sees that all the time. I won’t take a patient unless I can fully commit to them.”
DaSilva has committed to building a mesothelioma program of excellence in Orlando. And he is well on his way.
“There was a void in specialized care for mesothelioma here,” he said. “This opportunity has energized me, to build and grow something where there is a need. Too many in this area are leaving the state to get specialized care elsewhere. My goal is to make sure they remain in Florida, close to family and friends and get excellence in care right close to home.”