Imagine throwing darts blindfolded, then throwing again with the blindfold off.
That's roughly the difference Dr. Krish Bhadra, an interventional pulmonologist at CHI Memorial Hospital, is working to make in treating lung cancer. He is this year's Champions of Health Care award recipient for Innovation.
"Dr. Bhadra was the first in the world to use FlouroNavigational bronchoscopy and CHI Memorial is one of the few sites in the world to use Cone Beam CT," writes Cindy Mills, the hospital's market vice president for oncology and speciality service lines. "These are advanced techniques that detect lung cancer in its early stages, when it's most treatable and survival rates increase significantly.
"He is among the nation's top talents as he has led, and continues to lead, the field of lung-cancer care with innovation, passion and purpose."
Bhadra says more than 40% of Americans who have a lung biopsy have to have it repeated -- or endure a more invasive procedure.
"We drive out (into the lung) not knowing exactly where the lesion is," he says.
FlouroNavigational bronchoscopy, he adds, allows doctors to visualize lung nodules with advanced imaging -- it's actually "old technology," he says, borrowed from breast imaging and introduced in the late 2010s.
"It's essentially bronchoscopy done in a virtual format," he says. "The Cone Beam CT is true 3-D imaging.
"Advanced imaging is one of the big movements in our field -- the standard of care prior was to just go in blind," says Bhadra, who adds that, while it's a huge stride, advanced imaging isn't everything.
"The lung is particularly challenging," he says. "Doing interventional work in the lung is problematic because the lung is constantly in movement."
Bhadra says he's worked with CHI Memorial Chief of Staff Dr. Sloan Youngblood, who's an anesthesiologist by training, to develop a method for keeping a lung still for "a long period of time" -- up to six minutes.
"These ventilation strategies have been adopted by Stanford and Harvard, among other places," he says.
Karen Long, CHI Memorial's communications manager, says that under Bhadra's leadership, the hospital has reduced the time between a patient's lung cancer diagnosis and start of treatment from two to four months to two or three weeks. Long, who nominated Bhadra for the Champions of Health Care honor, says he's written for multiple publications, is an in-demand speaker at national and international conferences and will participate later this year in pulmonary grand rounds at the Cleveland Clinic.
It's heady stuff but, as the doctor himself says, not yet enough.
"A lot still needs to be done," he says. "We're at the tip of the spear for lung cancer. Our goal as a field is treating without surgical intervention."
How do you relax/beat stress?
I have what I describe as a primitive horse farm, 20 acres on Signal Mountain. I spend a lot of time with the horses and we like to travel.
What led you to become a medical professional?
A lot of it is my desire to help people, in a very idealistic fashion. We have several doctors in our family.
If you had to choose another profession, what would it be and why?
I might have been a lawyer -- the only books I read are lawyer books.