[May 2009] Originally trained as a pancreatic surgeon, Julie Ann Sosa, MD, shifted her focus to endocrine surgery
after arriving at Yale about six years ago, and she hasn’t looked back since.
One of four surgeons in Yale’s endocrine surgery practice, Sosa performs between 100 and 150 parathyroidectomies each year, more than 90 percent of them minimally invasive procedures done in an outpatient setting. Patients are anesthetized using an anterior cervical block, then Sosa uses pre-operative imaging to explore for parathyroid tumors. Within 10 minutes of the surgery, a rapid parathyroid hormone blood test lets her know whether the procedure has been successful. An hour and a half later, the patient can go home with a 3-centimeter incision that—within six to 12 months—will be almost invisible.
Sosa spends most of her time, however, doing thyroid oncology and particularly enjoys this type of surgery. “It builds on my training in surgical oncology and melds really nicely with my research, which is largely in clinical trials for advanced thyroid cancer,” she said. The vast majority of patients do well and survive their disease. The exceptions are those with anaplastic thyroid cancer, one of the most aggressive types of solid tumor. Sosa is a principal investigator, with co-investigator Hari Deshpande, MD, assistant professor of medical oncology, in a clinical trial which involves anaplastic thyroid cancer and the drug combretastatin. Although the average life expectancy is just nine weeks, one of their patients has survived for 14 months. (Sosa is also a PI in three other trials.)
Another area of interest for Sosa is identifying families with the inherited form of medullary thyroid cancer. A few years ago she operated on five members of a family with the disease, and last year she uncovered a new family in which five to 10 cases have been identified. “They’re all in this area and there are children, adults, and elderly patients, so treating this very complicated family will involve a collaborative approach combining endocrine surgery, genetic counseling, and endocrinology,” she said. “It’s sad for the family, but I’m thankful it was discovered.”
- Originally published in the May 2009 issue of Yale Practice.
Name: Julie Ann Sosa, MD
Title: Associate professor of surgery
Area of expertise: Endocrine surgery and surgical oncology
Place of birth: Montreal, Canada
College: Princeton University
Med School: Johns Hopkins University
Training: Residency in general surgery, surgical oncology fellowship, Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University
Family: Hectic and happy, particularly with the addition of Mary, a young terrier mix that I recently adopted.
What is most challenging to you in academic medicine? Getting out of the office/operating room/hospital before 8:00 p.m. every night.
What is most rewarding? In endocrine surgery, we realistically offer cure to patients with thyroid cancer, as well as parathyroid and adrenal diseases, and we serve as leaders in clinical trials offering novel therapies for patients with locally advanced and metastatic thyroid cancers who previously had no viable treatment alternatives.
What do you like most about your practice? Many things! I enjoy operating on the neck, chest, and abdomen using laparoscopic and open techniques in inpatient and ambulatory settings, combining clinical practice with research interests and having days and nights not filled with emergencies.
Personal interests or pastimes: Training (i.e. keeping up with) Mary; running; addiction to the Food Network
Last book read: Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O’Nan
What would you do to improve our clinical environment if you had a magic wand? Improve support for multidisciplinary clinical efforts in oncology to foster collaboration and recognition for faculty commitment to clinical teaching.