Meet the Doctor: Charles Bakhos, MD
Charles Bakhos, MD, was named in June 2020 as Chief of the Section of Thoracic Surgery for Einstein Healthcare Network. A member of the section since 2016, he is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.
Dr. Bakhos also serves as an Associate Professor of Surgery in the Department of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.
We recently spoke with Dr. Bakhos about his career, his interests, and thoracic surgery at Einstein.
Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?
I decided to become a doctor as a teenager. I loved physics and biology and was very curious about how the human body functioned. Medicine seemed like a good fit for my personality. I enjoy interacting with people and I have a lot of empathy for others. Being a doctor checked all the boxes – it fulfilled my curiosity about the human body and my natural desire to help people.
Q: Tell us about your medical education.
A: I went to medical school at Université Saint-Joseph in Achrafieh, Lebanon, and received a master’s degree in cardiovascular pharmacology from the Université Claude Bernard in Lyon, France.
I did an internship in internal medicine at the Cleveland Clinic and then my residency in general surgery at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, Conn. That was followed by a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Q: How did you choose your specialty of thoracic surgery?
I had an excellent mentor who helped guide me in choosing my sub-specialty. What I found when I was doing my residency is that with thoracic surgery, the type of surgery you do each day can be very different, so I liked the variety. One day I’m operating in a patient’s chest cavity and the next day I’m operating in a patient’s abdomen. One day I’m dealing with cancer, the next day non-cancer issues.
Also, the age of patients varies, which I like. My patients are mainly older people, but I also have young patients.
There is also variety in the “tools” and technology, which includes endoscopy, laparoscopy or thoracoscopy, and more recently, robotic surgery. Some cases are large and very complicated and others are simpler. For me, the different types of surgeries and technologies keep me challenged, and I find that very fulfilling.
Q: Do you have particular interests in the field of thoracic surgery?
I find treatment for lung cancer and esophageal cancer particularly interesting, especially with the advent of minimally invasive surgical approaches. These really allow patients to recover quicker and resume their lives faster.
Q: What drew you to Einstein?
Before coming to Einstein, I was an attending physician and Director of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery at Albany Medical Center in Albany in upstate New York. After six years, I was ready to make a change. North Philadelphia was a particularly interesting setting with a more challenging patient population with a high prevalence of significant medical conditions and difficult underlying social needs. I wanted to help a community in an underserved area, which meant adapting to a different population. Challenge can be a catalyst to learn, grow and improve, and I was ready for it.
Q: Why should people choose Einstein for thoracic surgery?
I have a simple answer – the doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals deliver excellent care. We offer advanced technology, including robotic surgery, and we care for patients with empathy. We take a multi-disciplinary team approach. For example, lung cancer treatment requires close interactions between the surgeon, a medical oncologist, a pulmonologist and radiation oncologist, all of whom deliver care based on national guidelines.
Q: What’s new in thoracic surgery?
Video-assisted thoracoscopic and robotic surgery are minimally invasive surgical technique used to diagnose and treat problems in a person’s chest or abdomen. During this procedure, a tiny camera (thoracoscope) and surgical instruments are inserted into the chest through one or more small incisions.
A common reason to perform robotic or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery is to remove part of a lung due to cancer. Minimally invasive techniques have been shown to shorten the hospital stay, offer quicker recovery, and allow additional treatment such as chemotherapy to be given in a more timely fashion.
Q: What are your interests outside of work?
Spending time with family is my main interest. I have a wife and two children, ages 5 and 7. I also enjoy biking, and I like riding as a way to fund-raise. A friend of mine has a lung cancer foundation called Ride Hard Breathe Easy. He organizes a bike ride in the summer to raise money for lung cancer research, and I participate since the funds go towards a good cause. I also enjoy playing soccer.
Q: Did you have an early role model?
The surgeon who taught me thoracic surgery in my general surgery residency played a big role in my choosing thoracic surgery as my specialty. He modeled how to be a caring and ethical surgeon. I also had the chance to work with another surgeon in my fellowship who was absolutely instrumental in mentoring me. I can easily say he is the main reason I became the surgeon I am today.
Q: Do you have a favorite book?
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite books. It looks at the different factors that contribute to high levels of success both in our professional work life and in our personal life.
Q: Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Sardinia, an island off Italy. It has absolutely beautiful beaches and is quite a paradise.
Q: Do you have a favorite cuisine?
I love Italian cuisine.
Q: Is there someone you would like to meet?
I’d like to meet Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. I admire how calm and cool-headed he is considering the enormous pressure he’s under managing the coronavirus pandemic. I also admire how honest and direct he is. Dr. Fauci also played a pivotal role in developing HIV treatment.
Q: Is there anything that would surprise people about you?
I think people would be surprised to learn that I have a sense of humor. I don’t smile very much while at work, so people think I’m very serious. I am when I need to be, but I also enjoy a good laugh.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself?
Working at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia and at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery for more than three years has been a truly rewarding experience. To me, there’s no greater mission than to help poor and sick people.
I’m impressed with Einstein’s reaction to and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The Network has done a very good job organizing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and also making support services available to front line staff who are working during an unprecedented public health crisis.
I also enjoy working with the residents, who are a pleasure to teach, and together we have done a lot of research. We were actually able to present our work at many national and international meetings, and that was quite rewarding.
Learn more about Thoracic Surgery at Einstein.