Featured Surgeon: Smita Sihag

Smita Sihag MD, MPH

 

My decision to go into thoracic surgery was the culmination of several experiences during my second year of residency in particular – with surgeons such as Jim Allan, Chris Morse, Dean Donahue, and Cam Wright, who ultimately became my mentors and advocates over the subsequent years. I distinctly remember what it felt like to open a chest for the first time and the exhilaration of operating in a dynamic space with real-time, observable physiology of vital organs. And I also distinctly remember the phone call that came 2-3 years later from Dr. Mathisen welcoming me into the fellowship program at MGH as the first woman in the thoracic track, and the second ever in the fellowship program. Within a short period of time, there is now a “pipeline” of women coming through the fellowship program.

But having a pipeline is just the beginning. While I’ve always aspired to become an expert or “master” in thoracic surgery someday, I only recently have begun to also aspire to a leadership role to change the outlook of our specialty to embrace fairness, inclusiveness, personal fulfillment, transparency, and talent in all forms. My first year in practice as a staff surgeon at MSKCC has been one of the most exciting of my life to date – filled with sweet victories, humbling failures, grateful patients, challenging cases, and amazing stories that I’ll remember for awhile to come. This privilege should be accessible to all who strive for it, and certainly not at the expense of living a full and fulfilling life.”

Dr. Sihag trained in general surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and obtained her specialty training also at the MGH. She did dedicated research time at the Broad Institute of Harvard/MIT during her residency. As a trainee, Dr. Sihag became an example of clinical and academic success for the male and female junior residents. She was the first female to train in CT surgery at MGH for nearly 20 years and her success in this role has led to an increased volume of female trainees entering this specialty pathway within the MGH. She is currently an attending surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) with a focus on esophageal and lung cancers and is building a dedicated research program at MSKCC examining the genomic and epigenetic changes associated with esophageal cancer and predictive of esophageal cancer response to therapy.

As noted by Dr. Genevieve Boland, who nominated Dr. Sihag,

“Dr. Sihag is a talented surgeon demonstrating clinical excellence in care. Her academic successes parallel her clinical expertise and she has already been awarded the Association of Women Surgeons Fellowship to support her research endeavors. As a colleague and mentor to trainees, she sets the tone of excellence and holds her team to the highest of standards. She was one of the top residents at the MGH. Dr. Sihag represents the best and the brightest of thoracic surgery, male or female. However, given her prominent role as a role model for female residents, she has taken time to mentor the female trainees that have followed in her track and is an ideal candidate to highlight in the field of CT surgery.”

Dr. Sihag and her family at the MGH CT Surgery graduation

Dr. Sihag and her family on the top of Table Mountain, South Africa

Dr. Sihag operating