John Lyons, III, MD, FACS, is a surgical oncologist at Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group Surgeons Group of Baton Rouge.
Dr. Lyons earned his medical degree and completed his residency at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He went on to complete a research Fellowship in cancer angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels that promote the growth of solid cancer tumors) and a clinical fellowship in surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is the only fellowship-trained surgical oncologist in Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group.
Profession Passed Down Through Generations
Dr. Lyons’ grandfather was old-school family physician and surgeon in Louisiana. He played a major role in Dr. Lyon’s decision to become a surgeon.
“He was a jack of all trades,” Dr. Lyons says. “My grandfather would take an individual’s appendix out and then treat the person for asthma. He would fix your mother’s hernia and then care for her high blood pressure. This was normal at the time. He was the community’s doctor and surgeon who was capable of anything.”
Since his grandfather’s era, the world of medicine has changed and become more complex and sub-specialized. Instead of having one surgeon do all procedures, each provider has specialty training in treating specific conditions. While Dr. Lyons doesn’t work in several different fields, he believes that his attraction to surgical oncology was in part due to his grandfather’s influence.
“Cancer care doesn’t end after treatment—you see these patients forever,” Dr. Lyons. “We continue following up and monitoring them. You get to know these patients and their families very well, which is comparable to how my grandfather had established relationships with his patients.”
Choosing Baton Rouge
Coming from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the world’s largest private cancer centers, Dr. Lyons had his choice of working at top institutions across the country. He chose to practice in Baton Rouge, which he believed had a strong but understated medical community.
“I didn’t think another surgical oncologist was needed in Houston, Atlanta or New York,” Dr. Lyons says. “But I knew I could make a difference in Baton Rouge. Most people aren’t aware of the immense amount of talent and comprehensive offerings we have right here in this wonderful community.”
Dr. Lyons works with other talented physicians who came from well-known institutions and brought their expertise back to Louisiana to improve cancer care in the state. Louisiana has high rates of cancer mortality, which Dr. Lyons hopes to reverse.
Providing Less Invasive Cancer Treatment
Dr. Lyons stresses surgery as the best option to cure patients with solid cancers. Robotic surgery allows for oncologic procedures to be completed with smaller incisions. As a result, patients often have a faster recovery. The robot also allows for better visualization than traditional open surgery.
“My job is to evaluate a cancer patient and see if surgery is appropriate,” Dr. Lyons says. “If so, the next step is to see if surgery can be done with a minimally invasive or robotic approach. Oftentimes it can.”
Dr. Lyons performed the first robotic-assisted liver resection in southeastern Louisiana using the da Vinci Surgical System. He uses robotic surgery for several types of cancer, including melanoma and cancers of the colon, pancreas and liver.
Rocking On for Cancer
Despite difficulty coordinating busy schedules, Dr. Lyons and his family still make time for each other and enjoy travel, exercise and water sports. Dr. Lyons has a special interest in films about pilots and aircraft, his favorite movie being “The Right Stuff”, a 1983 classic about several test pilots who became the Mercury Seven.
Dr. Lyons also plays guitar in a rock and roll band with seven other healthcare providers. They’ve held three benefit concerts, called “Rock for Spots,” in the past few years, raising money in support of treating skin cancer.
“Many people don’t know about the musical aspect in my life,” Dr. Lyons says. “But it’s a fun outlet for us and we get to use it for a greater cause.”