Lynn Tanoue, MD, MBA, is a pulmonary critical care specialist who predominantly treats patients with lung cancer, both in the exam room and in Yale New Haven Hospital’s medical intensive care unit. She serves as chief of Yale Medicine Pulmonary, Clinical Care, and Sleep Medicine.
While Dr. Tanoue says her most rewarding moments are always with patients, she also is a researcher and a leader in improving care overall for people with lung disease. “I was a general pulmonologist who became increasingly concerned and frustrated when my patients had lung cancer, and their care actually got really complicated and difficult for them, because they were diagnosed too late,” she says.
So, Dr. Tanoue founded Yale Medicine Thoracic Oncology Program (TOP) so that patients who were making appointments with a variety of specialists in different places could go to one place for all services, including pulmonology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, palliative care, and surgery.
Dr. Tanoue founded TOP’s Lung Screening and Nodule Program 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, adding that she is happy to discuss the screening with anyone who is concerned about lung cancer. 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 also came, in part, from her father, who had a severe case of tuberculosis when he was a surgical resident, before there were good medications available to treat it. When she came to Yale, Dr. Tanoue established the Yale New Haven Hospital Tuberculosis Outreach Program, which has performed tuberculosis screening in thousands of English-as-a-Second-Language students enrolled at the New Haven Center for Adult Education.
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, and the main thing I still really love to do is go to clinic and talk to my patients.”