Alumni Spotlight: Interventional Pulmonology Fellowship Brings Grads Together
From left to right: Interventional pulmonology fellows Sandip Saha, MD ’10, Dhaval Thakkar, MD ’11; and Amit Borah, MD ’10 at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
This year, just 35 fellowship positions were offered in interventional pulmonology—a specialty that focuses on staging lung cancer and managing other complex airway and pleural diseases. AUC graduates earned three of those positions: Sandip Saha, MD ’10, Dhaval Thakkar, MD ’11; and Amit Borah, MD ’10.
The three grads converged at what Dr. Saha describes as “boot camp” for new interventional pulmonologists: a full day of training at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, hosted by the American Association of Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology (AABIP). There, they got a crash course in advanced bronchological techniques and key procedures in the field—and had a small, unexpected AUC reunion.
“Most people don't know what interventional pulmonology is, as it’s a relatively new field,” said Dr. Saha, a Toronto native who matched at Yale University. “We were just so surprised and excited that AUC had so much representation here.”
The Path to Fellowship
Dr. Thakkar and Dr. Saha had known each other during medical school and kept in touch throughout interviews. But it was only when Dr. Borah happened to introduce himself at the training that they realized they had all been on campus together for a period of time when their semesters had overlapped. “It was the biggest coincidence,” said Dr. Saha.
After graduating, all three alumni completed an internal medicine residency and a pulmonary critical care fellowship before matching into an IP fellowship. Dr. Thakkar matched at Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts, and Dr. Borah at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey.
An interventional pulmonology (IP) fellowship has a strong surgical component as compared with general pulmonary medicine, including placing stents in the airway, putting in valves for patients with collapsed lungs, taking pleural biopsies, and more. That’s what initially drew Dr. Saha to the field.
“During residency I would go into the ICU or the OR just to assist on cases because I was always drawn to surgery,” he said. “Once I got my hands on a bronchoscope in fellowship, I started enjoying those procedures a bit more. From there I was able to visit Yale and observe their IP program, and the team was just fantastic. For any specialty, you have to make that effort to figure out if this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.”
Reliving AUC Memories
Looking back at his time at AUC, Dr. Saha has more than a few memorable moments that stand out. “I really enjoyed what St. Maarten had to offer, and I also went to England for a full year to do clinical rotations, which was the best year of my life,” he said. “Then after I graduated, I had the opportunity to come back to St. Maarten and serve as one of the first Clinical Education Fellows, helping students develop their clinical skills. That was a great experience—I’ve always enjoyed teaching.”
The best part, he said, was that some of those students eventually became residents at Providence when he started fellowship there.
“It was nice to work with everyone again in a different setting and see AUC across the map,” Dr. Saha said.