Get to Know: Colorectal Surgeon Sook Hoang, MD

At a Glance:

  • Title: Assistant Professor of Surgery
  • Fellowship: Colon and Rectal Surgery, Brown University
  • Residency: General Surgery, University of Massachusetts
  • Medical Degree: Pennsylvania State University

Sook C. Hoang, MD, joined the faculty at the University of Virginia Health System in October 2017, part of a team of colorectal surgeons that includes Charles Friel, MD, FACS, FACRS, and Traci Hedrick, MD, FACS, FACRS. The colon cancer surgery program at UVA has received the highest possible performance rating from U.S. News & World Report.

What drew you to colorectal surgery?
I was in my third year of medical school at Penn State, following an OB/GYN track, when I did a rotation in colon and rectal surgery with Walter Koltun, MD, one of the world leaders in the field. I fell in love with this specialty because colorectal surgeons treat so many different kinds of patients and patients of different ages. The variety is both satisfying and stimulating.

Why did you decide to come to UVA?
The community of colorectal surgeons is pretty close-knit. I knew Dr. Friel and Dr. Hedrick by their reputations and thought they would be amazing mentors for me. I was also impressed when interviewed here that I didn’t just speak to surgeons, but met with urogynecologists, oncologists, gastroenterologists and others. They all played a role in the decision to hire me. Almost every medical center talks about collaboration. UVA is a place that practices it.

Now that you are here, can you tell us how that collaboration makes a difference?
A great example is our multidisciplinary tumor board, which we hold each week. Anyone is welcome to bring in a case for discussion. When you do, you benefit from the knowledge and perspectives of experts in a wide variety of specialties. You gain a comprehensive view. Another advantages is that at the end of the discussion, all the specialists involved in a patient’s care are on the same page.

What new approaches is UVA developing to treat patients with colorectal conditions?
UVA received a grant from Virginia Department of Health to open a multidisciplinary high-resolution anoscopy clinic to screen for anal squamous cell cancer in high-risk HIV positive patients. Anal squamous cell cancer is preventable with close screening and surveillance, but the precancerous lesions often cannot be detected with a digital rectal exam. We are starting to see high-risk patients who are HIV positive, but as the clinic ramps up over the next six months, we will be seeing other patients at high risk for the disease.

Are there other conditions you treat that referring physicians might want to know about?
There is a group of us at UVA who are particularly interested in treating pelvic floor disorders. Many people with pelvic floor disorders go untreated. They are so embarrassed by the resulting incontinence that they cut themselves off from their friends and families. This is really sad because about 90 percent of the patients we see can be treated medically. When surgery is indicated, it will correct their symptoms and dramatically improve their quality of life. As a surgeon, it is very rewarding to make this kind of difference. Primary care physicians can play a vital role by encouraging their patients to see us.

How to you interact with referring physicians after you’ve seen their patients?
Our multidisciplinary approach extends to referring physicians. I always send a letter to them as soon as I’ve examined their patients, letting them know what I’ve done and what I’ve found. It’s a two-way street. I welcome their perspectives, their suggestions and questions. And I always make it a point to call after a patient has had surgery.

You’ve just been in Charlottesville for seven months. How are you enjoying it?
I moved here with my husband and my dog, and all three of us love it here. We are looking forward to going hiking this summer and exploring Charlottesville’s diverse cuisines.