By Kim Millen / Photography by STAN GODLEWSKI
It was a long and winding road for Anil Magge, M.D., to discover his niche in interventional pulmonary medicine and return to Connecticut to start up a program at Saint Francis Hospital. But now that he’s found both the perfect location and specialty, there’s no place else he’d rather be.
“The people brought me back to Connecticut. We’re different from New York, and we’re different from Boston,” said Dr. Magge. “We have a grit and grind, and my patients here in the greater Hartford area work hard for everything they have. To be able to serve them is a major part of why I came back.”
Born in Manchester, raised in South Windsor, graduated from UConn School of Medicine and back in Connecticut for about a year now, Dr. Magge is making headlines, and making a name for himself in the medical world. Most notably, he performs a lung valve procedure for individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema which helps those patients return to active, fulfilling lives. And he hit the 250-procedure mark with the robotic bronchoscopy platform, the Ion endoluminal system, in just 10 months, the fastest in Connecticut. Even still, he believes the best is yet to come. “I love what I do,” said Dr. Magge. “I think we make a huge impact on patients’ lives here at Saint Francis with the types of procedures we can perform.”
Finding His Specialty
Interventional pulmonary medicine is a relatively new specialty, emerging about two decades ago. Typically, these departments are found in major hospitals, because, as Dr. Magge said, “you can make a big impact on a patient when they’re acutely sick.”
Interventional pulmonologists focus on the procedural aspects of pulmonary medicine—such as lung nodules or lung masses—and work with patients with advanced COPD and emphysema. It wasn’t always a path Dr. Magge planned. He was originally a chemistry major and worked in a microbiology lab for a year after college trying to figure out what he wanted to do for a career. He ultimately decided to pursue medicine and got into UConn School of Medicine. Medical school ended up lasting six years, since Dr. Magge decided to add two years of research on top of his regular studies. One of those research years was in the epidemiology lab focusing on minority patients with triple negative breast cancer. “That’s really where my interest in oncology started, and I knew at that point I wanted to pursue internal medicine,” stated Dr. Magge.
He was thrilled to remain at UConn for his internal medicine residency and found himself drawn to the critical care aspect. After enjoying a year focusing on teaching as chief resident, he knew he wanted to further explore pulmonary and critical care at UConn.
“Pulmonary and critical care fellowship really combined my interest and passion for procedural medicine, such as bronchoscopy and chest tubes, while also focusing on respiratory issues, such as lung cancer,” added Dr. Magge. “Cancer patients are a special type of population. Their questions need to be answered, and we need to answer them quickly. I felt that as an interventional pulmonologist, I could achieve that.”
He made the move to Boston to focus on interventional pulmonology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital and underwent a year of rigorous training to learn all advanced procedures of the airway, lung, pleura (lining of the lung and chest walls) and esophagus. After that training was complete, he was offered the chance to start his own program at Saint Francis Hospital and jumped at the opportunity.
“Very few physicians can say they had the opportunity to start their own program and I thought it would be a great challenge,” said Dr. Magge. “It also allows me to bring in a specialty that wasn’t here and really provide patients with the type of care they would get at the major Boston hospitals, here in Connecticut.”
Calling the Nutmeg state home again puts Dr. Magge close to his parents in South Windsor as they age and gives him the chance to be a present uncle to his sister’s children. “I get such joy in taking them out to get Legos or ice cream,” he commented. “But I can really make all of this work because of my wife, who also works in health care as a hospitalist, and her incredible support.”
Valve Procedure Making Headlines
For patients suffering from severe emphysema or COPD, everyday tasks become anything but ordinary. Patients have to plan everything around how far they may have to walk and, in many cases, if they can bring their oxygen along. Dr. Magge has been performing a relatively new procedure that stops air flow to the most damaged parts of the lung, instead, forcing oxygen to the healthier areas. Known as a bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (BLVR), it is a non-surgical procedure that takes about an hour and requires no incisions. Dr. Magge places an average of four valves in the airways, allowing oxygen out, but not in, from the damaged area.
“This is a minimally invasive procedure and a big way to help these patients,” explained Dr. Magge. “It’s really rewarding, because I can see a very sick patient and make a significant impact on their health.”
The American Lung Association estimates more than 15 million Americans suffer from COPD, 3.5 million of them with emphysema. There is no cure for the progressive and life-threatening disease, and Dr. Magge emphasizes the valve procedure is still not a cure, but a new technique to help with quality of life. “Patients still need to exercise, follow rehabilitation instructions and use their inhalers, but some patients are indeed able to come off oxygen all together. We really want to help those patients who are suffering, and there haven’t been many options out there,” said Dr. Magge. “So, this is another step in the right direction.”
Early detection is key in any cancer, especially in cases involving the lungs, where so many patients hear “lung cancer” and think “death sentence.” Dr. Magge stated that is no longer the case, and there have been huge strides even in just the past couple of years in screening and biopsies. The Ion system has been part of that. Ion is a robotic platform made by Intuitive that allows Dr. Magge to get to hard-to-reach areas of the lung for a biopsy.
Some compare the functionality of using the robotic technology to the look and feel of a video game. The bronchoscope is driven by a track ball and scroll wheel system, providing lots of stability. “It’s really made a huge impact in getting to peripheral nodules deep in the lung. If we can get to them and get a biopsy then we can make a huge difference very quickly.”
While he’s performed hundreds of these procedures, the numbers don’t matter to Dr. Magge, who said he’s focused instead on the impact this innovation has on eliminating delays and expediting patient care. “Every patient deserves a quick diagnosis and treatment. We want to minimize the anxiety for the patient and their family, especially if they have kids. We understand how scary it can be so if we can shorten the time from diagnosis to treatment, whether that be surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, that’s huge.”
“All these advanced procedures are great, but for patients I think the biggest thing they want to see is, can my doctor do this quickly and accurately, and get me to treatment? And, we can,” concluded Dr. Magge. “We’re a big hospital, but with a small hospital feel. I know all the providers, and I knew with this opportunity I could come here and make an impact with my training.”
It’s about treating the whole patient, with a commitment to cutting-edge, innovative doctors and procedures. That’s the care Saint Francis Hospital can provide.