Physician Spotlight: Angela Buonagura, MD

October 1, 2022
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Oncologic breast surgeon, Angela Buonagura, MD dressed in scrubs smiling standing next to operating table.

Returning to her hometown during the pandemic height, oncologic breast surgeon Angela Buonagura, MD, balances the emotional toll with the joys of how far we’ve come in cancer care. She feels naturally drawn to taking care of patients with breast cancer. As a woman, she feels and understands the deep emotional stress of such a scary diagnosis, not to mention the trauma from enduring the visible changes of breast surgery, treatment side effects and their prolonged, residual impact. Candidly, Buonagura admits the work she does is very stressful most days.  But perhaps it’s her grateful inner spirit that keeps her going: “Throughout my 21 years in practice, I have seen huge changes. Changes for the better. We are helping so many more patients now, often with a complete response to malignancy. It’s the only way I have been able to sustain working with such a difficult diagnosis.”

“We’ve come so far,” Buonagura emphasizes.

Time back on our side

Early in her career, the timetable - from diagnosis to treatment plan, to treatment - was just too long.  And sadly, in many cases, the patient response was lackluster. Now, with a greater sense of urgency that patients deserve - within 7 days of diagnosis - we schedule follow-up appointments, have verbal discussions, and complete any additional diagnostic tests.  And in most cases, on the same day, all clinical disciplines meet with our patients to craft a personalized, succinct, multi-step plan.  This time-saving approach sets our clinical teams up for optimal outcomes, and equally importantly, brings a peace of mind to our patients and their families.

Tools in the toolbox

For years, the oncologic community simply did not have the medical research nor the arsenal of options for our more aggressive cases. In her two-plus decades of practicing as an oncologic surgeon, Buonagura attributes groundbreaking techniques, treatments and therapies to the recent explosion of genetic research and clinical trials.

Teamwork makes the dream work

More heads are better than one, especially when they are working together at the same time, under one roof.  St. Tammany Health System’s approach accelerates multidisciplinary treatment planning (surgical oncology, genetics, medical oncology, and radiation) in the clinic with our patients – same day, most times.

Focus on value

“Doing what is best” for cancer patients means value - improved outcomes, less complications, better survival chances. In turn, the cost curve of a notoriously expensive field of healthcare will bend.  Embracing multidisciplinary, evidence-based approaches and protocols, combined with continuous and collaborative monitoring through our tumor conference, undoubtedly lowers total cost of care. Furthermore, St. Tammany’s integrative, high-risk experts focus on supporting patients and survivors manage a host of challenges that breast cancer treatment can create - hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, joint aches, neuropathy (numbness), lymphedema (swelling), and emotional difficulties.

Life outside work

Angela Buonagura, MD, a New Orleans native, trained at LSU, practiced in Arkansas for 10 years, and now lives on the Northshore where she spent most of her formative years. She’s happily married to her “sweetheart” Matthew, and they have a daughter Mary Katherine, age 10. She acknowledges how difficult and demanding her work can be at times, constantly struggling with work-life balance - but she’s grateful for her family’s understanding and compassion. She extends that same gratitude to her team for their support and dedication, too. At the end of the day, she finds comfort in the warmth, kindness, and appreciation through her interactions with others, labelling that her “booster shot to keep going.” To help “let go,” Buonagura enjoys tennis, reading, piano, swimming, travel, biking, hiking, and watching movies. She loves Indiana Jones, Top Gun… and last but not least, Star Wars.  No doubt, for Angela Buonagura, MD, the force is with her, too.

Angela Buonagura, MD with her husband and daughter outside.
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