Meet Thoracic Surgeon Valerie Rusch

Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS

Thoracic Surgeon


Vice Chair for Clinical Research, Department of Surgery; Miner Family Chair in Intrathoracic Cancers

Clinical Expertise

Thoracic Surgical Oncology; Lung Cancer; Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma; Esophageal Cancer; Mediastinal Tumors; Tumors of the Chest Wall; Pulmonary and Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy; Tracheal and Bronchial Disease and Resections


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Memorial Sloan Kettering has locations throughout New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Westchester. These locations offer many services, including screening, chemotherapy, and medical testing.

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About Me


MD, Columbia University


General Surgery - University of Washington; Cardiothoracic Surgery - University of Washington


The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Board Certifications

Surgery; Thoracic Surgery

I am a thoracic surgeon who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of people with cancers of the lung, airways (trachea and bronchi), esophagus, mediastinum, chest wall, and pleura (malignant pleural mesothelioma). I have 25 years of experience as a thoracic surgeon, and was among the first women in the country to be board certified in this specialty.

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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. To minimize patients’ discomfort and the length of their hospital stay, we use minimally invasive techniques such as VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery) and the latest high-tech procedures including robotically assisted surgery whenever possible. To determine the stage of lung and other thoracic cancers, we often use EBUS (endobronchial ultrasound) and EUS (esophageal ultrasound). These techniques allow us to determine the extent of tumors without an incision.

Today’s optimal care of people with cancer depends on the close involvement and coordination of physicians in multiple specialties. Tightly integrated, multidisciplinary care is the hallmark of our approach to the management of thoracic cancers. Our Thoracic Disease Management Team meets twice a week to discuss complex patient problems at our Thoracic Tumor Board and to develop and oversee multidisciplinary research at our team research conference. With my colleagues, I am responsible for coordinating multiple research studies aimed at improving the care of our thoracic patients. We are proud of our active participation in national and international clinical trials and are studying many new ways to help people with the most difficult cancers, including better methods to diagnose cancers at an earlier stage and the testing of new cancer treatments. My own research efforts focus on the genetics and treatment of lung cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma, and esophageal cancer.

A native New Yorker, I graduated from the Lycée Français de New York and Vassar College and am fluent in both French and English. I received my MD degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, then completed residency training in general surgery and thoracic surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. After that, I spent one year at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for additional training in thoracic oncology before joining the faculty at the University of Washington for six years. In 1989, I joined the staff at MSK.

In addition to other responsibilities, I currently serve as Chair of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, as a Regent (i.e., member of the Board of Directors) of the American College of Surgeons, as Chair of the Lung and Esophagus Task Force of the American Joint Committee on Cancer, and as Chair of the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s Staging Committee. I contribute regularly to peer-reviewed specialty surgical and oncology journals and have written chapters on lung cancer, mesothelioma, esophageal cancer, pleural disease, and mediastinal disease for several medical textbooks.

Awards and Honors

  • Exceptional Women in Medicine Award, Castle Connolly (2023)
  • Castle Connolly: America's Top Doctors (2023)
  • Castle Connolly: New York Magazine Top Doctors (2002-2004, 2013-2020)


Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering work as teams, with specialists from all different areas. This allows us to consider all your needs together, and to give you the best possible care.

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Clinical Trials

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Memorial Sloan Kettering's doctors and scientists are constantly developing new treatments for cancer. MSK is typically running hundreds of clinical trials at a given time.

You may be able to participate in a clinical trial even if you are new to MSK. Search our online directory to find trial information and see more about who can participate.

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Research and Publications

Esophageal Tumors: Principles and Practice. Jobe B, Hunter J, Thomas C, Rusch VW, eds. New York: Demos Medical Publishing; 2011.

Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. O’Byrne K, Rusch V, eds. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP; 2006.

Selected Book Chapters
“Lung” and “Mesothelioma.” Rusch VW, AJCC Lung, Esophageal and Mesothelioma Task Force. In: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, Fritz AG, Greene FL, Trotti A, eds. New York: Springer; 2009: Chapters 25-26.

“Diffuse malignant mesothelioma.” Rusch VW. In: General Thoracic Surgery. 7th ed. Shields TW, LoCicero J, Reed CE, Feins RH. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2009: 847-859.

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 “Lung metastasis.” Rusch VW. In: Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone; 2008: 873-884.

“Technique of extrapleural pneumonectomy for malignant pleural mesothelioma.” Rusch VW. In: Thoracic Surgery. 3rd ed. Pearson FG, Patterson A, Cooper J, Deslauriers J, Lerut T, Luketich J, Rice T, eds. New York: Churchill Livingstone; 2008: 1186-1193.

“Pleural effusions: benign and malignant.” Rusch VW. In: Thoracic Surgery. 3rd ed. Pearson FG, Patterson A, Cooper J, Deslauriers J, Lerut T, Luketich J, Rice T, eds. New York: Churchill Livingstone; 2008: 1042-1054.

“Surgical and multimodality approaches to the management of operable malignant mesothelioma.” Boffa DJ, Rusch VW. In: Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. O’Byrne K, Rusch V, eds. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP; 2006.

“Lung neoplasms.” Chang A, Martin J, Rusch VW. In: Greenfield’s Surgery: Scientific Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Mulholland MW, Maier RV, Lillemoe KD, Upchurch Jr GR, Doherty GM, eds. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2006: 1367-1431.

“Lung cancer workup and staging.” Park BJ, Rusch VW. In: Sabiston and Spencer’s Surgery of the Chest. 7th ed. Selke FW, del Nido PJ, Swanson SJ, eds. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 2005.


Publications on PubMed

Visit PubMed for a full listing of Dr. Rusch’s journal articles. Pubmed is an online index of research papers and other articles from the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

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Doctors and faculty members often work with pharmaceutical, device, biotechnology, and life sciences companies, and other organizations outside of MSK, to find safe and effective cancer treatments, to improve patient care, and to educate the health care community.

MSK requires doctors and faculty members to report (“disclose”) the relationships and financial interests they have with external entities. As a commitment to transparency with our community, we make that information available to the public.

Valerie W. Rusch discloses the following relationships and financial interests:

  • National Cancer Institute
    Provision of Services

If you’re a patient at MSK and would like more information about your doctor’s external relationships, please talk with your doctor.

The information published here is for a specific annual disclosure period. There may be differences between information on this and other public sites as a result of different reporting periods and/or the various ways relationships and financial interests are categorized by organizations that publish such data.

This page and data include information for a specific MSK annual disclosure period (January 1, 2021 through disclosure submission in spring 2022). This data reflects interests that may or may not still exist. This data is updated annually.

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