Meet Program Director, Raymond Russell, MD, PhD
Dr. Raymond Russell earned his medical degree and PhD at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. He completed his internal medicine residency and his cardiology fellowship at Yale-New Haven Hospital. His clinical focus is on nuclear cardiology and cardio-oncology. Dr. Russell arrived at Rhode Island Hospital in July of 2015, opening the Cardio-Oncology Program - the first and only one of its kind in the state.
In a recent interview, Dr. Russell spoke about his responsibilities in the new Cardio-Oncology Program and explained his role as both a collaborator with oncologists and an advocate for patients.
What is cardio-oncology?
Cardio-oncology is a treatment program for patients intended to reduce the negative effects of any cancer treatments or cardiac conditions. Cardio-oncology protects the heart while treating cancer. In addition, cardio-oncology deals with the unique issues of patients with co-existing cardiac disease and cancer conditions.
What is your core message about cardio-oncology?
My core message is that cardio-oncology is part of comprehensive cancer care. We must keep the heart strong so when therapy is complete patients do not have to worry about their hearts. This is a key component of survivorship.
What is your role in the cardio-oncology program?
I act as a gatekeeper, or portal, to get patients into the cardiovascular care system, so essentially I am a conduit to cardiac testing and treatment when necessary, while working with oncologists and helping patients understand what’s next in their course of treatment.
It is essential that the cardiologist and the oncologist work in an integrative fashion for the patient, and that decisions are not made in isolation. I can guide cancer patients to cardiac treatments that will help them be healthy enough from a heart standpoint to get the cancer treatment they need. We (cardiologists and oncologists) work together on the patients’ holistic care.
What would you want patients to know about you? What is your approach to patient care?
I would like patients to know that I want the best for the patient and their family – not just their heart. I want to understand what’s going on with their heart but at the center is always the patient. I have been involved in cardio-oncology for more than five years and have had the pleasure of teaching the next generation of physicians specializing in cardio-oncology and the privilege of contributing to the care of more than one thousand people with cancer. I believe wholeheartedly in a collaborative approach between the cardiologist, patient and oncologist.
In terms of cancer and heart disease, could you comment on whether cardiac patients have more cancer, and vice versa?
It’s a really wide range and the two are not necessarily linked. One factor to keep in mind is as the population grows older, the chances for both cancer and heart disease increase. Therefore, it is critical for survivors to maintain heart health, and important to emphasize exercise and follow-up care for this group. Patients who have received chemotherapy are particularly at high risk for heart failure.
How do you treat your patients concerning the emotional aspect of this program?
I tell my patients that I am here to help. I emphasize to them that knowledge is power. Getting a cancer diagnosis is bad enough, but then when a patient is told to go to a cardiologist, they feel even more overwhelmed. Going to see a cardiologist isn’t bad; it is going to help you be healthier in the long run.
How can a potential patient or referring physician be in touch to learn more or schedule an appointment?
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call: 401-444-5803 for Rhode Island Hospital and 401-793-7870 for The Miriam Hospital.