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Dr. Valerie Rusch

Dr. Valerie Rusch may spend a lot of time deep in research projects or scientific studies chipping away at a cure for mesothelioma, but she never forgets who comes first. For Rusch, it’s the patients. She believes in meeting them face-to-face and keeping their hospital stays short and as pain free as possible.

Dr. Rusch is the chief of thoracic surgery at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the vice chair for clinical research in the hospital’s surgery department. She said the hospital uses the most advanced technology available to ensure patients are getting the best care. For most procedures, video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) and robot-assisted surgery are used.

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What is Rusch’s Specialty?

Rusch is known as one of the nation’s leading experts in asbestos-cancer management. Rusch was one of the first women in the United States to be board certified in thoracic surgery and is also certified in general surgery. For nearly 30 years, she has focused on treating patients with chest and lung cancers with an eye on a multidisciplinary approach. The hospital’s Thoracic Disease Management Team meets twice weekly to discuss complex patients and determine the best course. She said she and her team work tirelessly to ensure patients have the correct diagnosis and the best treatment plans throughout their diagnosis. Overall, the hospital performs more than 3,000 thoracic procedures a year. Rusch herself performs up to 350 a year.

“My colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering and I use the highest level of technological expertise to treat our patients, but I also believe in a hands-on, person-to-person approach to ensure that my patients receive the best possible care,” she said in the hospital bio.

At the hospital, Rusch’s research is focused on the genetics of lung cancer, esophageal cancer and asbestos-related cancers. Through her research work, Rusch is studying the molecular behaviors of asbestos cancers and the genetic tendencies of lung cancer as a way to identify some types of thoracic cancers in the earlier stages. She and her team coordinate clinical trials in thoracic oncology both nationally and internationally.

Rusch Background

Born and raised in New York, Rusch graduated from Vassar College and received her medical degree from Columbia University in 1975. She trained at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Washington. She joined the staff at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in 1989.

Rusch is currently the chair of several boards, including the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, the lung and esophagus task force for the American Joint Commission on Cancer and the mesothelioma subcommittee for the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Staging Committee. She is also a member of the board of directors for the American College of Surgeons.

In 2009, Rusch was appointed to the Miner Family Chair in Intrathoracic Cancers, which is aimed at supporting the work of a physician who will help advance the understanding of and develop therapies for mesothelioma and other thoracic cancers. Rusch has been extensively published in oncology and surgical peer-reviewed journals and has written chapters for several textbooks about a variety of cancers including lung, esophageal and asbestos, just to name a few. She is also a co-editor of the 2007 book, “Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma”, which details information about the disease for those in the thoracic oncology field. It not only covers the medical issues but also looks at the legal issues surrounding the disease.


Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS. Retrieved from http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/doctor/valerie-rusch