Enhancing Cancer Care with Added Surgical Expertise

Dec 14, 2023, 13:40 PM by Faculty Group Practice Newsletter

The desire to fulfill a need in healthcare sparked an education and career journey that led Raj Vaghjiani, MD, to pursue surgical oncology as a specialty. Now, as a new member of UTMB’s Surgical Oncology Division, he applies his expertise and skills to help patients with cancer on the path to survivorship.

Dr. Vaghjiani is fellowship trained in Complex General Surgical Oncology and completed a research fellowship focusing on solid tumor immunology. With his training in minimally invasive surgery using robotic platforms, he has arrived at UTMB well equipped to handle the full spectrum of surgical oncology.

“My main area of focus would be upper gastrointestinal malignancies: gastric, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers,” Dr. Vaghjiani says. “I am also interested in endocrine disorders including adrenal, thyroid, and parathyroid tumors as well as general surgical oncology.”

Dr. Vaghjiani earned his medical degree at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He completed his general surgery residency at the Montefiore Medical Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine before embarking on fellowship training at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

His interest in surgical oncology was ignited several years ago, when he was studying how some regions of the world lacked the expertise to treat advanced chronic diseases including cancer. In some portions of eastern Africa, for example, people are living longer thanks to breakthroughs in the treatment of infectious disease, but these advances have also revealed a concerning gap in healthcare.

“Folks are now living to the age where cancer is becoming a problem, but you don't have enough specialists including oncologists,” he says.

“So that's been my whole driving motivation, to develop this very niche expertise in an area of cancer and cancer surgery, but also be able to give that back to communities that don't have easy access to it.”

The addition of Dr. Vaghjiani to UTMB’s Surgical Oncology team not only expands the capacity to provide surgical care for more cancer patients, it broadens the division’s reach to more areas of UTMB’s service region. Dr. Vaghjiani sees patients in four different locations across the region.

“It’s definitely easier when folks can see someone right in their backyard rather than having to drive one, two, or three hours away,” he says.

The treatment of cancer is truly a team sport, and Dr. Vaghjiani is looking forward to working with the many departments involved with taking care of cancer patients.

“From intake to imaging, from nursing to navigators, surgeons cannot function in a silo. I am excited to be joining the cancer care program at UTMB and be able to help reach more patients,” he says.