Everyone here has a common purpose – and that’s our patients. We want them to know that we are with them every step of the way, and we are hoping to cure them in the end.
Darius Desai, MD, believes that it’s a combination of innovation, collaboration and personalized care that drive success in cancer treatment. As chief of surgical oncology for St. Luke’s Cancer Center, he and his team are involved in complex surgical oncology cases as well as research and education in the fields of colorectal, upper GI, melanoma and breast cancers.
Dr. Desai’s mentor was a surgical oncologist, so he was exposed to cancer surgery very early in his training. He attended medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and completed his residency at Lankenau Hospital in the suburbs of Philadelphia and a fellowship at the James Cancer Institute at Ohio State University.
Dr. Desai considers education, for both patients and future doctors, to be essential in the fight against cancer, so he serves as the medical director of the Family Cancer Risk Evaluation Program and as the cancer liaison for the physician program at St. Luke’s University Health Network. “90 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screenings and regular screenings are the result of patient education,” explains Dr. Desai. “The importance of health screenings like colonoscopies is crucial for the general public to know, of course, but it’s also important for medical school students, residents and physicians to understand that it’s a big part of our job to get the word out about prevention.”
When prevention isn’t an option anymore and patients are faced with a cancer diagnosis, Dr. Desai wants them to know that he is just one part of an entire team involved in helping them get better. “St. Luke’s has a collaborative approach to diagnosing and caring for patients –it allows for more open, continuous dialogue and is ultimately better for our patients.”
Dr. Desai chose to practice at St. Luke’s Cancer Center because it is the region’s leader in cancer care and also small enough to give patients a very personal approach to surgery and healing, so patients feel like they are a priority. “St. Luke’s excels in terms of quality of care, expertise of providers, willingness and readiness to bring in new technologies and procedures,” says Dr. Desai. “I also love that we are a teaching hospital – we have residents here who are learning on a daily basis. We are all continuously learning and that is so important, particularly in the field of oncology.”
St. Luke’s offers all the amenities of larger, metropolitan hospitals, but in a small, close-to-home setting which is really important to his patients. “They can have all the resources and expertise of bigger hospitals, but they don’t have to travel - it’s one less thing to think about during their cancer ordeal,” adds Dr. Desai. “St. Luke’s also places a strong emphasis on technology and commits to the most leading-edge surgical technology, which is used to provide the best possible care for patients.”
Dr. Desai explains that being a trusted expert and resource to his patients during what is likely one of the most difficult times in their lives, is what is most important to him. “When I consult with my patients before and after surgery, I know that they are counting on me to give them the best surgical care,” says Dr. Desai. “It’s important to me to use my knowledge and expertise to give them an understanding of the situation and make them feel that they are not just a number to me and our cancer team.”