Featured Surgeon: Dr. Leah Backhus

Leah Backhus, MD

“I believe I have the absolute best job in the world.  Thoracic Surgery is mentally and physically challenging and incredibly rewarding.  I consider myself extremely fortunate to play a role in healing others by shining a light in an otherwise dark place.  Facing a diagnosis of lung or esophageal cancer can be a frightening prospect.  Patients are at their most vulnerable and it never ceases to amaze me how our medical profession often fails to shepherd them through the gauntlet of diagnosis and treatment in the best way.  Many feel lost or ill-prepared for what lies ahead.  I think this is one of the most important things we do as thoracic surgeons is to impart knowledge and clarify the road ahead in addition to the surgical treatment.  We alleviate fears and guide them through the process and if we have the ultimate luxury of practicing in an academic medical center, we have the distinct honor of teaching the next generation of thoracic surgeons to do the same.  As an African American female Thoracic Surgeon, one can feel a bit like a pink unicorn, but my hope is that over time, this forest of surgery will have a huge population of “unicorns” who are all thriving!”

Dr. Backhus is a true superstar in our field, well-respected by colleagues, adored by patients, and loved by her family at home.  She is a thoracic surgeon at Stanford University and the Chief of Thoracic at the Palo Alto VA Hospital.  She holds a number of leadership roles throughout academic thoracic surgery, and she is a fantastic mom, to top it off.  She is a tremendous role model for any who aspire to join our field.  As eloquently stated in her nomination, “Dr. Leah Backhus is someone we should all aspire to be like.”  Without a doubt, she is a phenomenal example of what we’d all like to become.

Her nomination continues:

“She is so impressive and a great role model for surgeons wanting a career in Thoracic Surgery. She has a successful practice at Stanford University and wears many hats, such as, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the VA Palo Alto, Chair of Task Group for Lung Cancer in Women, Associate Director of Thoracic track residency, and Vice Chair of Thoracic Surgery Residency Review Committee. She excels in teaching, research, surgery and life. She is fun to be around, great personality, outgoing and wicked smart. She has two beautiful children and a great husband and manages to make career and family look effortless. I am privileged to call her my friend and colleague.”

Dr. Backhus operating

Dr Backhus and her husband

Dr. Backhus in the OR