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James Luketich, M.D., became the founding chairman of the recently created Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center 15 years after first joining the staff as a senior instructor.
His climb to the top was a steady one.
He has excelled through the years in the multi-disciplinary management of pleural mesothelioma, esophagogastric carcinoma and lung cancer; and working with all aspects of thoracic oncology, refining various minimally-invasive surgical techniques that cover a variety of complex operations.
Fast Fact: Dr. Luketich and his co-authors predicted the peak of mesothelioma incidences will not come until 2020, despite the decades-long efforts by activists around the world to restrict the use of asbestos, the primary cause of the rare cancer.
Luketich is one of the four thoracic surgeons on staff at the Mesothelioma Specialty Care Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center, which is home to the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank, an invaluable tool used by researchers everywhere.
Luketich’s notoriety, though, extends well behind his treatment of mesothelioma and other lung diseases. He has published more than 200 papers, abstracts and book chapters, chronicling his work and his vision for the future. Among those was an acclaimed report in 2011 that detailed the advances in minimally-invasive esophagectomy over the traditional open esophagectomy.
His presentation at the American Surgical Association meeting in Boca Raton, Florida – which included a single-center review of 980 cases – was praised by many of his peers as a breakthrough.
Dr. Luketich has been a pioneer in esophageal resection, and I think has developed a procedure that is rapidly becoming a standard of care worldwide.
"He has set a standard, both in quantity and quality, for this operation," said John G. Hunter, M.D., professor and chairman of surgery at Oregon Health and Science University.
Luketich, before coming to Pittsburgh, was a senior instructor in surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He finished his surgical residency at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his cardiothoracic training at New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center.
In Pittsburgh, he has used some of his minimally-invasive surgical techniques for lung cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease, achalasia, esophageal cancer and giant paraesophageal hernia.
As the chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery Department, he has pledged to use advanced surgical, diagnostic and medical techniques at a number of UPMC hospitals in Western Pennsylvania.
Luketich is also director of the Heart, Lung and Esophageal Surgery Institute (HLESI).
"Heart, lung, and esophageal disorders and diseases are among the most common cause of death in the United States. Through research, teaching and training, this department will emphasize the preoperative, operative, and post-operative follow up of patients with such conditions," Luketich said when his position was announced.
Luketich helped author a chapter in the 2006 edition of the book, “Tumors of the Chest.” The chapter is titled “Surgical Management of Mesothelioma.”
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