Surgery: James O. Finnegan, M.D.
He's Seen War and Much More As a Veteran Thoracic Surgeon
Decades ago, James O. Finnegan, M.D., left his stateside surgical residency to volunteer as a Navy surgeon treating combat-wounded Marines in Vietnam. He yearned for surgical experience and found it in an operating hut surrounded by sandbags four-and-a-half feet high.
James O. Finnegan, M.D.
The young Dr. Finnegan joked with those who piled the sandbags, pointing to his sternum. "Hey guys, those bags are four and a half feet but I'm six-one, so what helps me from here up?"
The sandbags didn't help enough (he was wounded) but his surgical career was power-launched with so many procedures that he came back to skip a year of residency at the University of Pennsylvania.
Now the matured Dr. Finnegan brings his vast experience (more than 7500 operations) to Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center as a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center Surgical Associates [3MB PDF].
"What does he bring to Lourdes that is different? He is bringing 40 years of expertise in thoracic oncology," said his associate and son, surgeon Matthew Finnegan, M.D.
Among the capabilities of the elder Finnegan, who practiced in Pennsylvania until 2000, are: lung surgery, including video-assisted thoracic biopsies of lung lesions; esophageal surgery, including benign and malignant disease; management of infectious disease within the chest, including chest cavity and wall infection; and cardiac surgical wound management.
Dr. Finnegan performed many of his early surgeries as a Navy surgeon with the 3rd Marine Division in an underground bunker while North Vietnamese incoming artillery pounded the storied Khe Sanh combat area. From the mid 70s to 2000, he performed primarily heart and lung (cardiothoracic) surgery, for which he is board certified. He also is board certified in general surgery.
On the subject of board certification, Dr. Finnegan spoke of something that puzzles him in this Internet era when more information than ever is available to patients.
"I've been operating and board certified in two specialties for 35 years and I can count on one hand the number of times when anybody asked me if I was board certified," he said, spreading the fingers of one hand.
"Despite all the media and hype about checking your doctor, maybe five times in my life someone has asked me 'Are you board certified?'."
Dr. Finnegan has strong opinions on the need for patients to check out the background of a surgeon, just as he insists that the only way to maintain surgical skills is to operate frequently. "There is no substitute for going in every day and operating to maintain the vision, the three-dimensional assessment of the anatomy, the judgment and the hand movements," he said.
As a straight-talking veteran surgeon who suffered shrapnel wounds from incoming mortar, Dr. Finnegan views modern medicine with a critical eye. He has taken an objective look at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center and offers high praise for both the nursing staff and those responsible for the comprehensive computer system.