Thoracic surgeon Dr. Nestor Villamizar has raised the level of treatment for pleural mesothelioma patients at the Sylvester Cancer Center and the University of Miami Health System.
He puts them among the elite when it comes to asbestos-related diseases.
His arrival in 2014 brought the surgical expertise he honed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he worked closely with renowned thoracic surgeon and mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Sugarbaker.
You need a real team in place to provide these patients with the specialized care they need.
Villamizar is building a similar mesothelioma program in South Florida, believing he will provide the same kind of care in Miami that patients in the past could find only by traveling to Boston.
"What we hope to replicate here is the best of the best," Villamizar said. "We're doing a lot of things now that we brought from Boston. We want those patients in Florida to have the opportunity to stay close to home and get the same great care."
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Villamizar is part of a mesothelioma program that also includes thoracic surgeon Dr. Dao Nguyen, medical oncologist Dr. Raja Mudad, radiologist Dr. Adrian Ishkanian, and an experienced support staff working closely to coordinate a multidisciplinary approach to treating a complex disease.
“You need a real team in place to provide these patients with the specialized care they need,” Villamizar said. “They need a specialty center. It’s not about one person or one surgeon taking care of a patient. It’s about the team, the total package. We have that here.”
Although the Sylvester Cancer Center had been handling a small number of mesothelioma cases before the arrival of Villamizar, his expertise in the complex pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) surgery brought a new dimension that has improved the overall care being offered.
He also performs the aggressive extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) for mesothelioma patients. He does minimally invasive thoracoscopic lung, esophageal and mediastinal resections, along with complex chest wall resections. The thoracic surgery team at Sylvester handles all disease conditions of the chest large and small.
Villamizar also performs surgery nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital, the University of Miami Hospital and the Miami VA Medical Center, helping military veterans who have been hit the hardest by asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.
He takes an active role in the recently opened Lung Cancer Screening Clinic, which is designed to provide an earlier diagnosis of lung cancer, giving patients a much better chance of surviving.
Villamizar did his residency in general thoracic surgery at the Duke University Medical School, where he trained under Thomas D’Amico, a leader in minimally invasive thoracic surgery. He completed his fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, working as chief resident under Sugarbaker.
He received his medical degree from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Columbia, which is one of the leading schools in the country. His post-graduate work included three years of research at Duke University before his residency began.
“When I was working in Boston, we kept seeing mesothelioma patients coming from Florida, which is a huge commitment for a family to make,” he said. “It just made sense for me to come here. Patients from Florida won’t have to travel so far anymore.”
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