Thoracic Surgery Service - Louisville VA Medical Center
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Louisville VA Medical Center


Thoracic Surgery Service

Thoracic and Foregut Surgery Service
Thoracic and Foregut Surgery
Message from The Thoracic Surgery section chief

We want to provide you, our veterans the optimal thoracic surgical experience utilizing the latest technology and techniques.  It is our mission to guide you through the process of obtaining a diagnosis and receiving treatment in a way that gets you back to your home and loved ones as soon as possible. 

We have many exciting projects and services coming to you in 2018.  The Thoracic Surgery service at the Robley Rex VA Hospital provides minimally invasive surgery. We are developing the Lung Cancer Screening program that will integrate with the Lung Nodule Evaluation Team.  We are excited for the opportunity and honor to serve you, our veterans.  Remember our team is here for you every step of the way.

Dr. William Wrightson, MD FACS
William Wrightson, MD FACS
Chief of Thoracic Surgery

What we do
Our surgeons provide state-of-the-art surgical techniques and cancer therapies, with a major focus in research of early diagnosis, better cancer staging, and prediction of recurrent disease in lung and esophageal cancer.  We take a multi-disciplinary approach to the treatment of lung cancer and esophageal cancer and other diseases of the chest, so we can streamline the patient experience with all thoracic specialists at the Robley Rex VA Medical Center. 

We treat a variety of Thoracic and Upper GI Tract procedures including:
  • Lung Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Benign tumors of the chest and lung
  • Pleural diseases (pneumothorax, infections)
  • Diaphragm paralysis
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Thymic Disease
  • Achalasia
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux
  • Paraesophageal and hiatal hernia
  • Gastric Tumors
Meet our team
We have a team of seasoned professionals here at the VA dedicated to provide comprehensive thoracic surgical care.  Each brings a unique skill set to provide you care that is second to none. 

Meet our team

Surgical Staff
The VA looks to provide the best care possible.  That is why we have expanded our practice to include the team of thoracic surgeons from the University of Louisville. 

Dr. Birkle
Victor van Birkle, MD
University of Louisville

Dr. Fox
Matthew Fox, MD
University of Louisville
Dr. Bowling
Roy Bowling, MD
University of Louisville
 Thoracic Surgery Staff
Terri Joiner, APRN
Terri Joiner, APRN
Thoracic Surgery Nurse Practitioner
No image
Jennifer Murphy, RN
OR team leader
Karen Coots, RN
Karen Coots, RN
Thoracic Clinic Nurse Representative
Jennifer Pendleton, RN
Jennifer Pendleton, RN
LNET and Lung Cancer Screening Navigator
As part of our mission to treat veterans, we are also charges with insuring the training of the next generation of surgeons.  You will find a full complement of residents and medical students who are working hard to provide support and while learning the art and science of medicine. 

Shine a Light on Lung Cancer
The Shine the Light on Lung Cancer is an annual event at the RRVAMC that focuses on education and understanding of lung cancer.  Thanks to all who attended and supported
Patient with Dr. Wrightson   Thoracic team
Dr. Wrightson discusses the tools of thoracic surgery with a Veteran (left).  The thoracic team shows their desire to “Change the way people learn about lung cancer” (right). 
Why should you come to the VA for thoracic surgery?
The VA is responsible for some of the greatest medical advances in thoracic surgery research the past 100 years
  • 1947: Developed and tested effective therapies for tuberculosis following World War II. Multi-center clinical trials led to development of the Cooperative Studies Program.
  • 1950: Concluded, in a paper by Dr. Robert Schrek of Hines, there is "strong circumstantial evidence" linking cigarette smoking with respiratory tract cancers.
  • 1956: Linked cigarette smoking with precancerous lesions.
  • 1960:  Invented the first clinically successful implantable cardiac pacemaker, helping many patients prevent potentially life-threatening complications from irregular heartbeats.
  • 1961:  Pioneered the concepts that led to development of computerized axial tomography (CAT scan).
  • 1984: Developed a transdermal nicotine patch to reduce the cravings for cigarettes.
  • 2015: A team of VA researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System looked at the possible health risks of electronic cigarettes, and found they damaged cells in ways that could lead to cancer. The damage occurred even with nicotine-free versions of the products.
  • 2015:  Lung-cancer screening—Another 2015 study, by researchers with the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Seattle, found that lung cancer screening can lower smokers' motivation to quit smoking.
Who to Contact for Assistance
If you have questions about any of the following areas, please feel free to contact us.

Appointments or scheduling
Thoracic clinic appointments are managed thru the VA Scheduling Clerks.  Your first appointment will typically be requested by your primary care provider or a specialty service. 

Scheduling a follow up appointment or make changes in appointment
Medical Support Assistant (MSA) 502-287-5168 (M-F 8am-3pm)

Scheduling a CT scan
Radiology Scheduling    502-287-5141

Pulmonary Function Testing
 502-287-4000  Extension 53189

Surgery scheduling and information
After you have been scheduled for surgery you will receive a packet of information regarding your surgery as well as a one on one education session with our Clinic Nurses.  They will teach you all the details related to your surgery (times, what to bring, where to go the morning of surgery etc.).
Look thru the information and bring questions on the day of surgery.  You also may have procedures or tests scheduled before surgery.  If you have questions regarding these tests or your clinic visit feel free to contact us.

More information about your upcoming surgery
Surgical Triage Nurse  502-287-5646
Terri Joiner, APRN   502-287-5273

Questions related to your anesthesia appointment or preoperative studies
Surgical Triage Nurse  502-287-5646
Terri Joiner, APRN  502-287-5273

Lung Cancer Screening
Lung cancer screening is available to patients at the highest risk of having a lung cancer.  You can contact your primary care provider for more information.  If you are already in Lung Cancer Screening and have a question these can be directed to:

Contact your primary care provider
Lung Cancer Screening Navigator, Jennifer Pendleton, 502-287-6777

Lung Nodule
When lung nodules are found and they meet certain criteria, they are managed by the Lung Nodule Evaluation Team (LNET).  This group of doctors from a variety of specialties’ including thoracic surgery, pulmonary medicine, oncology and radiology, meet weekly to find the best management options for you.  Questions can be addressed by our Lung nodule and Screening coordinator.

Jennifer Pendleton, RN  502-287-6777

Issues after surgery
While we hope to never have problems or issues after surgery, sometimes you need someone to contact for guidance.  Please review your discharge instructions and information packet you received prior to your surgery.  Medical problems including home medication refills or other medical issues unrelated to your surgery will still be managed by your primary care provider.   If you still need help please contact us.

If this is an emergency call 911 or go to the emergency room nearest you.

Non-emergent problems or questions
Triage Nurse     502-287-5646    (M-F 8 am to 3 pm)

Contact Info


  • 800 Zorn Ave, Louisville, KY 40206

Contact Number(s)

  • 502-287-6804

Hours of Operation

  • 8:00am-4:00pm M-F