Bhavana “Tina” Bhatnagar, DO, is the director of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the WVU Cancer Institute at Wheeling Hospital. Dr. Bhatnagar is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She performed her internship and residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and completed a fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at the University of Maryland’s Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Dr. Bhatnagar, who is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in internal medicine, hematology, and medical oncology, knew from an early age that she wanted to take care of cancer patients.
“My initial interest was sparked by the human-interest stories I would read about in magazines or see on shows like 20/20, which highlighted the lives of people with cancer,” she said. “There was an intangible aspect to these stories that resonated with me and made me want to help these people.”
Later, cancer became more personal as she watched friends and family members go through their own journeys with cancer, and she always wished she had the skills, knowledge, and expertise to do more for them.
“During my training and pre-clinical years, the interactions I had with patients and family members, particularly those struggling with blood cancers such as acute leukemia, ultimately directed my career path from both a clinical and research perspective,” Dr. Bhatnagar said. “Not only did I want to care for these patients and their families directly, but I was also deeply passionate about finding ways, through clinical research, to improve their care.”
She said, as it currently stands, cancer management has become much more personalized in the era of precision medicine. “Now that we are better able to really ‘drill down’ into the biologic underpinnings of each person’s cancer, this has allowed for the development of more targeted and better tolerated treatments that are customized to attack each person’s cancer. I believe we will continue to see growth in the area of targeted therapies, oral therapies, and immune therapies across a wide variety of cancers.”
There are also a lot of efforts now directed toward cancer screening and prevention, which she believes will allow for earlier detection, as well. Advances in screening and management are also on the horizon.
Dr. Bhatnagar arrived at Wheeling Hospital just before the announcement of the creation of a Regional Cancer Center. She saw a tremendous amount of opportunity for growth and for the development of programs and care pathways that improve both quality of and access to care.
“I have a lot of ideas in mind to achieve this, but one of my main priorities is to develop a robust and productive clinical trials and research program here in the community,” she said. “I am also very interested in developing specialty clinics and programs dedicated to survivorship, genetics counseling, and the young adult cancer population. The development and adherence to guideline concordant clinical care pathways will also be critically important as we grow, and, of course, since I am primarily a practicing hematologist, I’d like to raise awareness of blood disorders and blood cancers, and ultimately develop a strong hematologic malignancies program.”
Asked if there were any patients or cases that stand out, Dr. Bhatnagar said, “In some way, I believe that all the patients we care for leave their mark on our lives and careers. Each patient story is unique and comes with a valuable lesson that carries over to the way we care for future patients. However, I think for most oncologists, there will always be some patients who stand out, for one reason or another, and whose stories are indelibly etched into memory.”