The Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) has selected Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS, an esteemed thoracic surgeon in New York, NY, as the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Service Award (DSA)—the College’s highest honor. The Board of Regents will present the award to Dr. Rusch, vice-chair, clinical research, department of surgery; Miner Family Chair in Intrathoracic Cancers; attending surgeon, thoracic service, department of surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and professor of surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, at the Convocation ceremony at 6:00 pm October 21 at the Clinical Congress 2018 in Boston, MA.
The Board of Regents is presenting the DSA to Dr. Rusch for “her exemplary leadership of many professional organizations and as a mentor, teacher, and trainer of the next generation of surgeons in clinical trial development and her dedication to expand access to surgical care to underserved global populations,” according to the award citation.
The award also is being presented to Dr. Rusch “in admiration of her natural leadership, integrity, vision, and steadfast commitment to the College’s initiatives and principles, serving as a role model to surgeons everywhere to always do the right thing for patients.”
Leadership in the ACS
An ACS Fellow since 1986, Dr. Rusch has led several prominent ACS bodies, including serving as Chair of the Board of Governors (2006−2008) and Board of Regents (2015−2016). A Regent from 2008 to 2017, she chaired the Central Judiciary Committee (2009–2013), the Program Committee (2011–2017), the Board of Regents Nominating Committee (2011–2012), and the Committee on Global Engagement (2016−2017). She served on the Board of Regents Honors Committee (2012−2016), Executive Committee (2013−2016), and Finance Committee (2014−2016).
In addition, she has been a member of the College’s Advisory Council for Cardiothoracic Surgery (2002−2017), International Relations Committee (2007−2013, Executive Committee, 2009−2012), Commission on Cancer Executive Committee (2012−2017), Scholarships Committee (2008−2012), and Research and Optimal Patient Care Committee (2008−2015).
Renowned thoracic surgeon
Dr. Rusch specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancers of the lung, airways (trachea, bronchi), esophagus, mediastinum, chest wall, and pleura (malignant pleural mesothelioma). She was among the first women in the U.S. to be board certified in thoracic surgery.
For more than 30 years, she has emphasized a multidisciplinary approach to treating patients with thoracic malignancy. Her research has focused on the molecular behaviors of asbestos cancers and the genetic tendencies of lung cancer as a means to identify certain cancers in the earlier stages.
Dr. Rusch has been a leader in national and international clinical trials for the treatment of thoracic malignancies and played a pivotal role in establishing the ACS Oncology Group—now the ACS Clinical Research Program. Among her many honors, in 2007, Dr. Rusch received the Thoracic Surgery Foundation for Research and Education Socrates Award, and in 2012, the Association of Women Surgeons awarded her the Nina Starr Braunwald Award for lifetime contributions to the advancement of women in surgery.
She has held 25 visiting professorships and lectureships and given more than 300 major lectures on thoracic cancers at medical conferences around the world. Her curriculum vitae boasts more than 400 peer-reviewed publications.
In addition to the ACS, Dr. Rusch has been a leader of other surgical organizations. More specifically, she served as chair of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, chair of the Lung and Esophagus Task Force of the American Joint Commission on Cancer, and chair of the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Staging Committee.
Dr. Rusch is fluent in both French and English, having graduated from the Lycée Français de New York. She graduated from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, with a degree in biochemistry. She earned her medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, and she completed surgical residency training in general surgery and thoracic surgery at the University of Washington, Seattle, followed by a fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.