By Jeff Tucker

Challenges Accepted

Surgeon Vinay Rai Looks Forward to Helping New Mexicans Overcome Cancer

A quintessential part of facing any kind of challenge is reaping the rewards when you’ve successfully met it.

It’s an adage that can be applied to nearly any profession, including surgical oncology, and it’s what brought Vinay Rai, MD, FACS, FASCRS, to The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Here we get to face challenges and we get the chance to make a contribution to the community,” Rai says.

vinay-rai-md.jpgRai, an associate professor at the UNM School of Medicine, has deep domestic and international experience in general surgery and specifically in colon and rectal procedures. He spent several years at the UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center in Rio Rancho, but moving to the UNM Cancer Center had been a goal of his.

“This is something I’ve always been interested in,” he says. “The Cancer Center is the best provider of cancer care in the state and being a part of the Cancer Center gives me the best resources.”

But he also notes the importance of nurse navigators at the UNM Cancer Center who help patients make their way through their treatments, from diagnoses to follow-ups.

Along with teaching and being part of the UNM Cancer Center’s surgical oncology fellowship program, Rai said he will focus on treating complex colorectal cancer.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Dr. Rai join our colorectal cancer team at the Cancer Center.  He brings a wealth of experience in treating colorectal disease to our team.  As important, he is the consummate “team player” who is a pleasure to work with,” said Bridget N. Fahy, MD FACS Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology. “Given the multidisciplinary nature of state-of-the-art cancer care, his ability to work seamlessly with our colleagues in medical and radiation oncology is essential.  His warm disposition and genuine compassion is a real asset for patients and their families as they face the challenges associated with colon and rectal cancer.”

Rai was born in India and became interested in medicine following an injury he sustained as a boy. Getting access to treatment was a challenge, and that experience inspired him to pursue medicine and continues to inform his approach today.

The UNM Cancer Center treats patients from throughout the state, some of whom travel to Albuquerque from hundreds of miles away.

The state’s diverse population and the distance between many New Mexicans is another challenge Rai is looking forward to meeting.

“I hope in the future, as the COVID situation improves, I would like to go to every part of the state,” he says. “I’m very interested in telemedicine, which has been a lifesaver during these times.”

Rai says he’s come to love his new home.

“I just love being in New Mexico,” he said. “The people are very friendly and it makes me happy in my heart when patients start to get better.”

Rai completed his fellowship in colon and rectal surgery in Chicago at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County in June 2012. He completed his residency in general surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in June 2011.

He received his medical education from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India’s premier medical institute. He received a bachelor of medicine and surgery in 2001, completed a master’s in general surgery in January 2004, and was a senior resident in general surgery from March to December 2004. He also served as a senior house officer in surgery at the Tameside General Hospital at Ashton-Under-Lyne, United Kingdom.

UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius.

Its more than 120 board-certified oncology specialty physicians include cancer surgeons in every specialty (abdominal, thoracic, bone and soft tissue, neurosurgery, genitourinary, gynecology, and head and neck cancers), adult and pediatric hematologists/medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, and radiation oncologists. They, along with more than 600 other cancer healthcare professionals (nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, navigators, psychologists and social workers), provide treatment to 65% of New Mexico's cancer patients from all across the state and partner with community health systems statewide to provide cancer care closer to home. They treated approximately 14,000 patients in about 100,000 ambulatory clinic visits in addition to in-patient hospitalizations at UNM Hospital.

A total of nearly 400 patients participated in cancer clinical trials testing new cancer treatments that include tests of novel cancer prevention strategies and cancer genome sequencing.

The more than 100 cancer research scientists affiliated with the UNMCCC were awarded $35.7 million in federal and private grants and contracts for cancer research projects. Since 2015, they have published nearly 1000 manuscripts, and promoting economic development, they filed 136 new patents and launched 10 new biotechnology start-up companies.

Finally, the physicians, scientists and staff have provided education and training experiences to more than 500 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowship students in cancer research and cancer health care delivery.

Categories: Comprehensive Cancer Center