Dr. Raja Flores is chief of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, specializing in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Dr. Raja Flores is recognized as a leader in the field, lauded for his pioneering efforts in advancing treatment of this rare and aggressive cancer.
He is strong believer in the multidisciplinary management of mesothelioma that combines surgery with chemotherapy and radiation in a search for the best possible outcome.
Flores is known for his innovative surgical techniques for lung cancer, along with his ability to perform the aggressive, tumor-removing pleurectomy and decortication and extrapleural pneumonectomy procedures for mesothelioma.
He has extensive experience with the VATS lobectomy, a minimally invasive approach to the surgical treatment of lung cancer. His work has been published and presented at numerous national and international medical conferences.
Flores has been praised for his ability to help patients on a surgical and personal level, relating well to those mesothelioma patients he is treating.
From the start of his career, he was intrigued by the intricacies of pleural mesothelioma and drawn to those he was treating.
Mesothelioma most often stems from occupational exposure to asbestos.
“With my blue-collar background, I can identify with these patients. Many are blue-collar guys, insulators, asbestos workers, pipe fitters, shipyard workers,” he said. “I understand where they are from, and how this is hitting them.”
Flores also has been heavily involved with treating patients in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Many of them were first responders who have developed serious respiratory issues many years after working under the toxic cloud that covered parts of Manhattan for weeks after the attack.
Recently, he has started seeing more cases of asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, which can take anywhere from 15 to 50 years to develop after the inhalation of asbestos fibers.
For those efforts, he recently was appointed to the Society of Honorary Police Surgeons, a prestigious honor given to him for his long-running service to so many police officers and firefighters who were there.
Flores also leads the efforts of Mount Sinai in the collaborative National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank, which provides bio specimens for research and potential treatment advances.
He is the Principle Investigator of the Libby Epidemiology Research Program, which is funded by a federal grant and used to assess ongoing health issues caused by asbestos in the mining town of Libby, Montana.
His interest in research was first sparked by a passion for helping others, which is obvious by his tireless efforts to combat this disease with no definitive cure. He often sees patients who were diagnosed elsewhere and given no hope. He gives them a chance.
“Whenever someone is given a diagnosis of ‘You’re done, there’s nothing we can do,’ that’s when I really crank it up,” Flores said. “That’s when I do whatever we can to try and change those odds.”
Flores first became interested in treating pleural mesothelioma during his residency in Boston at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he trained alongside mesothelioma treatment pioneer Dr. David Sugarbaker.
Flores graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1992 after receiving his undergraduate degree from New York University. He did an internship at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
“For me, going into medicine seemed natural,” he said. “I liked helping people. Cancer intrigued me. It was patients and their families. It needed technical skills, but people skills, also.”
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