Lynn Tanoue, MD, MBA, is a pulmonary critical care specialist who predominantly treats patients with lung cancer. At Yale New Haven Hospital, she consults on patients with pulmonary diseases, and works as a critical care specialist in the Intensive Care Unit.
Dr. Tanoue says her most rewarding moments are always with patients, though she also is a researcher and a leader in improving care overall for people with lung disease. She has been focusing on lung cancer for the past 15 years.
Dr. Tanoue founded the Yale Cancer Center Thoracic Oncology Program (TOP) in 2004. “As a pulmonologist, I was acutely aware that my patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer—or those we were worried had lung cancer—were having to deal with very complicated care with many different tests and physicians at a time when they were emotionally and sometimes physically challenged,” she says. Her goal in establishing TOP was to center the care around patients and give them ready and easy access to the variety of specialists necessary to deliver the best care. TOP provides streamlined, multidisciplinary care with physicians specializing in pulmonary medicine, thoracic surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and palliative medicine, supported by a team of nurse coordinators and social workers.
Dr. Tanoue also founded the Yale Lung Screening and Nodule Program—the lung cancer screening program in TOP—after a large national clinical trial in 2011 showed that screening with low-dose radiation CT scans can help diagnose lung cancers early and save lives. Yale’s lung screening program follows the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) screening guidelines, which are based on findings that there are benefits to routine screening for people who are ages 55 to 80 who have smoked at least 30 pack-years (the packs a person smokes each day multiplied by the number of years he or she has smoked), and who are smoking now or who have quit within in the past 15 years.
“That is not the entire group of people at risk, but that is the group of people for whom the USPSTF, which informs Medicare, recommends screenings be done,” Dr. Tanoue says. She also hopes further research will prompt the USPSTF to update its criteria. “For now, even with the reasonably tight population recommendations, screening is saving a lot of lives,” she says.
Dr. Tanoue says she always wanted to be a doctor. “My dad was a doctor, and I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a doctor, too,” Dr. Tanoue says. Her interest in pulmonology may have also come from her father’s experience, as he had severe pulmonary tuberculosis when he was a surgical resident, before there were good medications available to treat it. Dr. Tanoue established the Yale New Haven Hospital Tuberculosis Outreach Program in 1996.The TB outreach program has performed tuberculosis screening in thousands of English-as-a-Second-Language students enrolled at the New Haven Center for Adult Education, and provided a gateway for these newcomers to health care in the United States.
Dr. Tanoue is vice-chair for clinical affairs in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale School of Medicine and in that role helps administrate the largest department at the medical school. She is the founder of the Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra, which is made up of members of the medical center community, including doctors, scientists, nurses, and students of the many graduate programs of the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health.
All these initiatives have made a difference, but Dr. Tanoue says her most rewarding moments are still in the clinic. “As an academic physician, I have an advantage in that I can wear many different hats. But most of us who became doctors really did so because of the yearning to help people, and the main thing I still really love to do is go to clinic and talk to my patients.”
Years In Practice
Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale Medicine