Valerie W. Rusch

Thoracic Surgeon

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

About Me

I am a thoracic surgeon who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancers of the lung, airways (trachea, 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 patient discomfort and length of hospital stay surgeons here 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) — techniques that allow us to determine the extent of tumors without an incision.

Today’s optimal care of cancer patients 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 patients 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 of 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 of 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 the MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas, 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 Memorial Sloan Kettering.

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 Commission on Cancer, and as Chair of the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the IASLC (International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer) 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.

  • Clinical Expertise: Thoracic Surgical Oncology; Lung Cancer; Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma; Esophageal Cancer; Mediastinal Tumors, including Thymoma; Pulmonary Metastases; Tumors of the Chest Wall; Video-Assisted and Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery; Pulmonary and Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, including Laser Endoscopy and Cryotherapy; Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS); Tracheal and Bronchial Disease (Tracheal Stenosis, Tracheomalacia, and Tracheal Tumors) and Resections; Tracheobronchial and Esophageal Stents.
  • Languages Spoken: English; French
  • Education: MD, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • Residencies: University of Washington Affiliated Hospitals
  • Fellowships: The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
  • Board Certifications: Surgery; Thoracic Surgery

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See My Colleagues


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.

Visit PubMed for a full listing of Valerie W. Rusch’s journal articles

Pubmed is an online index of biomedical articles maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Clinical Trials

Research is integral to our mission at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and clinical trials help us discover better forms of patient care and treatment. For you, this could mean access to a new therapy or therapy combination. Click to see a list of the trials I’m currently leading.