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A New Role

Dr. Madhavi Gorusu, MD, MBA, was recently appointed as Director of Medical Oncology for Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s new Medical Oncology and Infusion Center, a part of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute (HHCCI).  The 3000-square-foot infusion center, which is located in the main tower building of the hospital, opened in fall of 2020. Accompanying this new facility, the addition of Dr. Gorusu will provide leadership to expand the range of oncology services in Litchfield County. Dr. Gorusu provides care to patients with many different types of tumors but she says she has developed a passion for treating lymphoma, myeloma, and breast cancer in particular. Prior to this, Dr. Gorusu maintained a private practice for 14 years in Avon, CT and was affiliated with the Hartford Healthcare system. She is board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology, and Medical Oncology, and recently completed a Master’s in Business Administration degree from the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Gorusu says, “Medical oncology deals with treating solid tumors and blood cancers.” Cancer is caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. Sometimes, the normal orderly process of cell division, growth, and death breaks down, causing abnormal or damaged cells to grow and multiply when they shouldn’t. This abnormal growth can result in the development of a tumor in almost any part of the body.

Treatment of solid tumors can involve multiple modalities — surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted treatment, and immunotherapy. As the scientific world has developed a better understanding of how the normal steps of cell division, growth, and death breaks down to result in cancerous tumors, it has been able to develop new therapies. There have been several advances in recent years, especially in the areas of targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

Dr. Gorusu makes the complexities of these therapies easier to understand. She explains that a patient’s tumor can be tested to identify its unique mutation profile. Then, if therapies exist that target those particular mutations, a patient’s treatment regimen can be designed to combat their unique tumor profile. This process of developing a unique regimen is called “precision oncology treatment.” Its potential benefits include a greater chance of success in destroying the tumor while minimizing the side effects from treatment.

Dr. Gorusu also explains that under normal circumstances, our body’s immune system helps protect us from developing cancer by killing the abnormal cells at their earliest stage. However, many cancer cells have the ability to make our bodies’ immune systems ineffective. She describes this behavior as the cancer cells “having the ability to put the brakes on the immune system.” Conversely, she describes immunotherapy as “medicines that can take the brakes off and unleash the patient’s own immune cells to combat the cancer.” She finds these advances in treatment and the potential they offer patients thrilling.

With so many treatment options, a comprehensive and well-coordinated approach to cancer treatment involving multiple disciplines is needed. This coordination usually takes place at what is referred to as a “tumor board,” which is a group of doctors and other health care providers that meets regularly to discuss cancer cases and share expertise. The purpose of the tumor board is to determine the best possible cancer treatment and care plan for an individual patient.

As part of the larger Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s Medical Oncology patients’ cases are discussed at a system-wide tumor board. The patient’s medical team is guided by the best scientific and medical evidence as regularly reviewed by the Cancer Institute’s Disease Management Teams, who coordinate with their Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center colleagues to establish standardized treatment guidelines across all the HHCCI locations so that patients receive a consistent and high level of care no matter where they are located.

In addition to the oncologists and nurses who provide care at the Medical Oncology and Infusion Center at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, there are other services to support the patients’ needs such as social workers, nutritionists, and nurse navigators who assist in coordinating a patient’s care. Dr. Gorusu is enthusiastic about expanding the available services and providing  more access to quality care for patients with cancer in the Northwest region of CT.

Oncology as a Career Choice

Both of Dr. Gorusu’s parents were physicians in India, where she grew up. Her father’s dedication made a deep impression on her, and she knew she wanted to be a doctor from a young age. “The love he had for his patients, the reciprocation he received from them was something amazing to me growing up,” she says. Dr. Gorusu developed her interest in oncology during medical school and her internal medicine residency, which coincided with a time of new advancements in the field of oncology.

Dr. Gorusu had heard good things from her peers about the medical training available at The University of Connecticut. She completed her three-year residency in internal medicine and her three-year fellowship in hematology and oncology at UConn. That training included rotations at the three major area hospitals of the time— John Dempsey, Hartford, and Saint Francis Hospitals. She describes this time as “one of the best experiences in my education.” She liked the area and the people so much that she opted to stay in CT after completing her training. She chose to go on to complete an MBA at the University of Connecticut School of Business.

Beyond Treating Patients

In addition to her role as Director of the Medical Oncology and Infusion Center, Dr. Gorusu serves on the Board of Directors for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Hartford Chapter. She served as President of the CT Association of Physicians of Indian Origin from 2018 to 2020 and remains on their Board of Directors.

She is also active with UConn Women in Business, a student-run organization at the University of Connecticut that seeks to foster the development of skills that aid in the success of undergraduate students in their pursuit of business. Earlier this year, The Hartford Business Journal named Dr. Gorusu a 2021 Woman in Business Honoree. She was one of only 25 women in the state to be honored.

Dr. Gorusu is also a mother of two, a son who is in high school and a daughter in college. Each plays a musical instrument, and she enjoys attending their performances. Dr. Gorusu also has a love of Indian classical art forms, especially dance, which she participates in during her spare time.

Margaret M. Burke, Pharm.D., BCPPS, is a freelance medical writer with more than 25 years of clinical pharmacy experience, including board certification as a pediatric pharmacotherapy specialist. She lives in Manchester.

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