Robert Cerfolio

Robert Cerfolio M.D.

Professor of Surgery

Specialty: Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery
Medical Treatment Center: University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center 2000 6th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35233

About Dr. Cerfolio

The mesothelioma clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Comprehensive Cancer Center was formed to bring multidisciplinary care to mesothelioma patients in the Birmingham, Alabama, area. The clinic offers a complete array of diagnostic and treatment services, including thoracic surgery by Dr. Robert Cerfolio, M.D.

Cerfolio is an expert in fine-needle aspiration as a diagnostic technique for pleural mesothelioma.  In 2008 he wrote about the ultrasound-guided, minimally invasive version of this surgery. According to the team of researchers, no diagnostic errors or complications were noted in a study of this technique, which allows doctors to determine which patients might benefit from curative surgeries such as an extrapleural pneumonectomy. The article was published in the January 2008 issue of Diagnostic Cytopathology.

Fast Fact: Dr. Cerfolio is an expert in fine-needle aspiration to diagnose pleural mesothelioma.

He later spoke about ultrasound examinations to detect the metastatic spread of lung cancer at the annual meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. He explained that high-risk patients might require more conclusive testing to guarantee accurate confirmation of a diagnosis.

For his research in esophageal and lung cancer surgeries as well as pulmonary diseases and chest wall pathology, Cerfolio was named the James H. Estes Endowed Chair for Lung Cancer Research in 2010. He also shares his knowledge with his students at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, where he teaches as the Chief of the Section of Thoracic Surgery.

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Groundbreaking Techniques

As a team member at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cerfolio contributes to a team that provides groundbreaking surgical and radiation techniques, nursing services and social services. The hospital believes that mesothelioma patients can face a better outlook when their treatment combines many different specialties, including operations for patients who are candidates for the procedures.

Some of the operations performed in the thoracic surgery unit at UAB include video-assisted thoracoscopic surgeries, lung surgery and robot-guided lobectomies. Cerfolio was educated in these techniques during his studies at the University of Rochester. He gained further surgical experience at the Hartford Hospital, along with urology studies at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. From 1991 until 1996, he also studied general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery during back-to-back fellowships at the Mayo Clinic.

Cerfolio belongs to the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the Western Thoracic Surgical Association. He has served on the Workforce on Evidence Based Surgery, the Tech-Con Task Force and the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons Abstract Reviewers Board.

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Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His most recent experience is in researching and writing about asbestos litigation issues and asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. If you have a story idea for Tim, please email him at

  1. Cardiothoracic Surgery Network. (2011). "Robert Cerfolio, M.D." Retrieved from
  2. Diagnostic Cytopathology. (2008 Jan). "Endoscopic Ultrasound-guided Fine Needle Aspiration is Useful for Nodal Staging in Patients with Pleural Mesothelioma." Retrieved from
  3. University of Alabama Birmingham. (2010). "Physician Profile – Robert J. Cerfolio, M.D." Retrieved from

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