Walter Longo, MD, MBA, is Yale Medicine's director and chief of Colon and Rectal Surgery. He is one of four surgeons who is board-certified specifically in colorectal cancer. He cares for patients who are 19 and older, using surgical and nonsurgical approaches to treat problems ranging from hemorrhoids to Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis, as well as anal, colon, and rectal cancers.
Colorectal care has changed dramatically with the use of minimally invasive surgery, as well as chemotherapy, radiation, and biologic medicines, Dr. Longo says. More research is focused on better drug delivery for treating inflammatory bowel disease and less invasive surgical techniques for all afflictions. "For a lot of problems that were chronic and sometimes ending in mortality, we are now improving survival and quality of life," he says. In some cases, surgeons can take more conservative approaches to treating conditions for which surgery used to be the only solution, he says.
Dr. Longo chose to become a doctor because he wanted to pursue a life of service. "My father was a surgeon. I watched his life, and I admired the fact that he changed people's lives for the better. Being a surgeon is a calling. You can have people who are very sick, and you can perform an operation and quickly improve their quality of life. I like colorectal surgery because you can take care of simple things, complex illnesses, benign disease, and cancer. It gives you a whole spectrum."
Many of Dr. Longo's patients come to him with problems they find difficult to talk about. "As a doctor, you have to listen and say, 'I really appreciate what you're going through, and I know this is more common than you think. You're here because you're either concerned about having a disease or you're sick, and we're here to make you better.' "
Dr. Longo is a professor of gastrointestinal surgery, and of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive services for Yale School of Medicine.