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Featured Profile and Interview With Dr. Virginia Litle

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Dr. Virginia Litle is currently Chief of Thoracic Surgery and System Medical Director of Thoracic Surgery at Intermountain Healthcare. She is a member of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the American Foregut Society, the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery, the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and Women in Thoracic Surgery.

Dr. Litle's clinical interests include: Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer, benign esophageal surgery, minimally invasive and endoscopic therapy, and lung cancer and screening. In addition, Dr. Litle has a strong interest in mentoring medical students and residents, editorial work, contributing to advances in gender equity in the field of cardiothoracic surgery, and the development of collaborative research in India.

Read the below interview to learn more about her:


CTSNet: What is the biggest advance you have seen in general thoracic surgery recently?

Dr. Litle: Thoracic surgery is primarily about operative technique, and, out of all surgical disciplines, the biggest advance has been the introduction of the robot. It is here to stay. Not only as a tool, but as an integral component of the surgical approach to manage thoracic diagnoses and malignancies in particular. I feel it benefits patients and in my opinion improves surgical and oncological outcomes. Thoracic surgery is primarily about lung cancer. Of course, we treat a lot of other diseases in the chest outside of the cardiac area, but hands down most of us are focused on the treatment of lung cancer. The biggest advance we’ve seen recently is the introduction on immunotherapy as an integral component of lung cancer management. This is the biggest advance we’ve had to potentially benefit our patients. So, with the combination of immunotherapy and lung cancer screening, perhaps the overall five-year survival from lung cancer will rise well above twenty percent. In addition to bringing down the smoking rate in the US in particular, which is impacting lung cancer rates, we also need to take a public health stand globally and prevent the infiltration of marketing by tobacco companies into vulnerable populations around the world (including those in low- to middle-income level countries).

CTSNet: What is your ideal weekend when you are not at work?

Dr. Litle: I’m a very social person, so when I’m not working I like to have parties with my husband who is a talented cook. I also like to play tennis, hike, golf, ski with friends, and spend time with my children and extended family.

CTSNet: How can we best or most efficiently effect change in the professional areas we are most passionate about?

Dr. Litle: The most important things are to focus and to collaborate. You have to identify your passion and develop your one-, three-, and five-year plans to accomplish your goals. You must collaborate with others because before you know it, five years have passed, and you’ve only reached your one-year goal or your three-year goal, if that. All of our speakers in the Lung Cancer Disparities Guest Editor Series exemplify their passion on the topic of lung cancer screening and racial disparities in general. So, this is a good opportunity to learn how to collaborate with others who share some of the same clinical and public health interests that I share, so I hope you enjoy this series.


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