Loretta Erhunmwunsee, M.D., is a thoracic surgeon and an assistant professor in City of Hope's Division of Thoracic Surgery. She was among 21 women selected nationwide to participate in the Carol Emmott Fellowship Class of 2023. The fellowship is for exceptional, innovative women leaders who are making an impact in their communities and institutions and serving as advocates for equity in health care.
Dr. Erhunmwunsee graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Emory University in Atlanta and received her medical doctorate from Harvard Medical School in Boston, graduating magna cum laude. She continued her postgraduate training at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, completing a general surgery internship, followed by a residency in general surgery, after which she served as chief resident. This was followed by a residency in cardiothoracic surgery, also at Duke.
Board-certified in general and thoracic surgery, Dr. Erhunmwunsee has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including being appointed Vice Chair of the NCCN DEI Directors Forum in 2023. In 2009, she received the World Congress on Lung Cancer Young Investigator’s Award. She was chosen as an NIH/NMA Academic Career in Medicine Fellow in 2015, and was chosen as a Feagin Leadership Scholar from Duke University in 2014. Dr. Erhunmwunsee is also the recipient of the Peter C. Pairolero Scholarship Award which she received in 2015 from the General Thoracic Surgical Club.
She sees patients with lung, esophageal and mediastinal tumors. Her research focuses on eliminating health inequity in thoracic oncology patients.
2016-present, American Board of Thoracic Surgery - Active
2013-present, American Board of Surgery
2005, M.D., Doctor of Medicine, Magna Cum Laude, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
2000, B.A., Chemistry and Music, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
2012-2015, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
2011-2012, Chief, General Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
2006-2011, General Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
2005-2006, General Surgery Intern, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
2023-present, Associate Professor, Division of Thoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, City of Hope, Duarte and South Pasadena, CA
2019-present, Assistant Professor, Division of Health Equities, Department of Population Sciences, City of Hope, CA
2015-present, Assistant Professor, Division of Thoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, City of Hope, Duarte and South Pasadena, CA
Loretta Erhunmwunsee, M.D., assistant professor, Division of Thoracic Surgery and Division of Health Equities, is a health disparities researcher who focuses on evaluating the impact of social determinants on lung cancer risk, biology and screening.
Supported by cancer center pilot funding and an institutional K12 grant, she has led research that found that nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients who reside in areas with high levels of air pollution (PM2.5) have increased rates of an aggressive tumor mutation — TP53, which is linked to worse survival (Erhunmwunsee, et al., CEBP 2021). Additionally, her studies have determined that several measures of neighborhood disadvantage increase the risk of KRAS somatic mutations, another marker of aggressive NSCLC biology.
Previous work has shown a link between neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and survival of NSCLC patients as well (Erhunmwunsee, et al., Cancer 2012). She also works with the Black Women’s Health study to explore the link between neighborhood SES and NSCLC risk in Black women who have never smoked. These studies suggest that adverse neighborhood conditions (pollution, disadvantage, SES) may explain why marginalized groups have worse lung cancer outcomes.
Dr. Erhunmwunsee has also received funding from AstraZeneca to implement a Lung Cancer Screening (LCS) program at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in Los Angeles County. The study has shown that focused education of FQHC providers, staff and medical assistants improves provider comfort in discussing LCS and their ability to identify eligible LCS patients. This intervention has led to a greater than 1,000-fold increase in LCS referrals at the community sites. A comprehensive systematic review on racial and socioeconomic disparities in lung cancer screening was recently written as well (Sosa, et al., CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2021). Dr. Erhunmwunsee’s future plans include:
(1) Investigating the link between systemic racism-related factors and NSCLC mutational signature timing
(2) Creating models to predict those at high risk for nonadherence to LCS
On Health Equities
The research conducted by Dr. Erhunmwunsee and her team showed that low socioeconomic status is an independent prognostic factor for low survival rates in patients with non-small cell lung and esophageal cancers. Patients who lived in areas with high poverty levels, low median incomes and low education levels had higher mortality rates.
Through her research, Dr. Erhunmwunsee strives to better understand why ethnic minorities and underserved populations have worse outcomes and poor quality of life in early stage lung cancer. She and her team used previous work to design an intervention to address disparities. This line of work also involves improving the uptake of lung cancer screening in high risk populations.
Awards & Memberships
2021, Selected by the Los Angeles Business Journal as Top Doctor 2021
2015, Peter C. Pairolero Scholar – General Thoracic Surgical Club
2014, Feagin Leadership Scholar, Duke University Medical Center
2014, Leaders in Medicine Concentration, Duke University Medical Center
2014, NIH/NMA Academic Career in Medicine Fellow
2014, AATS Graham Foundation Intuitive Surgical Fellowship
2009, World Congress on Lung Cancer Young Investigator’s Award
2005, Co-moderator, Harvard Medical School Class of 2005 Graduation Day
2003, Harvard Aesculapian Club Inductee
2003, Sarnoff Endowment for Cardiovascular Science Research Fellowship
1999, Phi Beta Kappa
1996, Woodruff Scholarship, Emory University Full Merit-Based Scholarship
Vice Chair of the NCCN DEI Directors Forum
Women in Thoracic Surgery, Active Member
Society of Thoracic Surgery, Active Member
American Association for Cancer Research, Active Member
Erhunmwunsee L, Wing SE, Shen J, Hu H, Sosa E, Lopez LN, Raquel C, Sur M, Ibarra-Noriega P, Currey M, Lee J, Kim JY, Raz DJ, Amini A, Sampath S, Koczywas M, Massarelli E, West HL, Reckamp KL, Kittles RA, Salgia R, Seewaldt VL, Neuhausen SL, Gray SW. The Association between Polluted Neighborhoods and TP53-Mutated Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2021 Jun 4 :cebp.1555.2020. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-1555. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34088750.
Sosa E, D'Souza G, Akhtar A, Sur M, Love K, Duffels J, Raz DJ, Kim JY, Sun V, Erhunmwunsee L. Racial and socioeconomic disparities in lung cancer screening in the United States: A systematic review. CA Cancer J Clin. 2021 May 20. doi: 10.3322/caac.21671. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34015860.
Erhunmwunsee L, Seewaldt VL, Rebbeck TR, Winn RA. From COVID-19 to cancer, watching social determinants decide life: When will we stop spectating? J Natl Med Assoc. 2021 Mar 13:S0027-9684(21)00029-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2021.02.003. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33726916.
Chau B, Ituarte PH, Shinde A, Li R, Vazquez J, Glaser S, Massarelli E, Salgia R, Erhunmwunsee L, Ashing K, Amini A. Disparate outcomes in nonsmall cell lung cancer by immigration status. Cancer Med. 2021 Apr;10(8):2660-2667. doi: 10.1002/cam4.3848. Epub 2021 Mar 18. PMID: 33734614; PMCID: PMC8026917.
Liu J, Hui C, Ladbury C, Waddington T, Erhunmwunsee L, Raz DJ, Kim JY, Salgia R, Chenery S, Pearlstein D, Schwer A, Amini A. Improved Survival Outcomes in Medically Fit Patients With Early-Stage Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Undergoing Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy. Clin Lung Cancer. 2021 Jan 19:S1525-7304(21)00006-1. doi: 10.1016/j.cllc.2021.01.003. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33712362.
Frankhauser DE, Jovanovic-Talisman T, Lai L, Yee LD, Wang LV, Mahabal A, Geradts J, Rockne RC, Tomsic J, Jones V, Sistrunk C, Miranda-Carboni G, Dietze EC, Erhunmwunsee L, Hyslop T, Seewaldt VL. Spatiotemporal strategies to identify aggressive biology in precancerous breast biopsies. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Syst Bio Med. 2020 Oct.
Blakely AM, Hu H, Wong FL, Raz D, Erhunmwunsee L, Kim JY, Sun V. Deterioration in health-related quality of life is associated with lower lung resection rates in older adults. J Geriatr Oncol. 2020 Sep 12.
Blakely AM, Hu H, Wong FL, Raz DJ, Erhunmwunsee L, Sun V, Kim JY. Deterioration in health-related quality of life diminishes benefit of lung cancer resection in older adults. Clin Lung Cancer. 2020 July 3.
Erhunmwunsee L, Bhandari P, Sosa E, Sur M, Ituare PHG, Lui NS. Socioeconomic, rural, and insurance-based inequities in robotic lung cancer resections. Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery. 2020 June; 5.
Mambetsariev I, Wang Y, Chen C, Nadaf S, Pharaon R, Fricke J, Amanam I, Amini A, Bild A, Chu P, Erhunmwunsee L, Kim JY, Munu J, Pillai R, Raz DJ, Sampath S, Vora L, Qiu F, Smith L, Batra SK, Massarelli E, Koczywas M, Reckamp K, Salgia R. Precision Medicine and Actionable Alterations in Lung Cancer: A Single Institution Experience. PLoS One. 2020 Feb 11 ; 15(2):e0228188. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228188. eCollection 2020. PMID: 32045431
Lafaro KJ, Raz DJ, Kim JY, Hite S, Ruel N, Varatkar G, Erhunmwunsee L, Melstrom LG, Lee B, Singh G, Fong Y, Sun V. Pilot study of a telehealth perioperative physical activity intervention for older adults with cancer and their caregivers. Support Care Cancer. 2019 Dec 16. doi: 10.1007/s00520-019-05230-0. PMID: 31845007
Cohen RG, Kumar SR, Lin J, Reddy RM, Kane L, Bagley J, Juarez A, Fleischman F, Farkas EA, Hackmann AE, Grubb KJ, Reddy S, Erhunmwunsee L, Villamizar NR, Masood MF, Griffin M, Boden N. The Disparity Between Public Utilization and Surgeon Awareness of the STS Patient Education Website. Ann Thorac Surg. 2019 Nov 19. pii: S0003-4975(19)31700-X. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2019.09.074. PMID: 31756317
Erhunmwunsee L, Backhus LM, Godoy L, Edwards MA, Cooke DT. (2019) Report from the Workforce on Diversity & Inclusion - Society of Thoracic Surgeons Members' Bias Experiences. Ann Thorac Surg. 2019 Nov;108(5):1287-1291. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2019.08.015. PMID: 31520637
Wu Gx, Ituarte PHG, Ferrell B, Sun V, Erhunmwunsee L, Raz DJ, Kim JY. (2019) Causes of Death and Hospitalization in Long-term Lung Cancer Survivors: A Population-based Appraisal. Clin Lung Cancer. 2019 Aug 30. pii: S1525-7304(19)30256-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cllc.2019.08.007. PMID: 31591032
Sun V, Raz DJ, Erhunmwunsee L, Ruel N, Carranza J, Prieto R, Ferrell B, Krouse RS, McCorkle R, Kim JY. (2019) Improving family caregiver and patient outcomes in lung cancer surgery: Study protocol for a randomized trial of the multimedia self-management (MSM) intervention. Contemp Clin Trials. 2019 Aug;83:88-96. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2019.07.002 PMID: 31279090
Shinde A, Horne ZD, Li R, Glaser S, Massarelli E, Koczywas M, Erhunmwunsee L, Reckamp KL, Weksler B, Salgia R, Beriwal S, Armini A. (2019) Optimal adjuvant therapy in clinically N2 non-small cell lung cancer patients undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy and surgery: The importance of pathological response and lumph node ratio. Lung Cancer. 2019 Jul;133:136-143. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2019.05.020. PMID: 31200820
Hill A, Gong J, Wilczynski S, Mirza R, Erhunmwunsee L, Salgia R. (2018) Complete Pathologic Response When Adding Pembrolizumab to Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy in Stage IIIA Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer. J Oncol Pract. 2018 Sep;14(9):569-571. doi: 10.1200/JOP.18.00127. Epub 2018 Jul 25. PubMed PMID: 30044685.
Sun V, Kim JY, Raz DJ, Chang W, Erhunmwunsee L, Uranga C, Ireland AM, Reckamp K, Tiep B, Hayter J, Lew M, Ferrell B, McCorkle R. (2018) Preparing Cancer Patients and Family Caregivers for Lung Surgery: Development of a Multimedia Self-Management Intervention. J Cancer Educ. 2018 Jun. 33(3):557-563. doi: 10.1007/s13187-016-1103-5
Eng OS, Kim JY, Ruel N, Raz DJ, Erhunmwunsee L, Melstrom LG, Chao J, Woo Y, Kim J, Sun V. (2018) Quality of Life, Symptoms, and Self-Management Strategies After Gastroesophageal Cancer Surgery. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2018 May 10. pii: S0885-3924(18)30234-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2018.05.001. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29753100.
Eng OS, Nelson RA, Konstantinidis I, Chao J, Erhunmwunsee L, Raz DJ, Kim JY. (2018) Disparities in survival after trimodality therapy for esophageal adenocarcinoma. Dis Esophagus. 2018 Mar 8. doi: 10.1093/dote/doy020. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29534155.
Erhunmwunsee L, Gulack BC, Rushing C, Niedzwiecki D, Berry MF, Hartwig MG. (2017) Socioeconomic Status, Not Race, is Associated with Reduced Survival in Esophagectomy Patients. Ann Thor Surg. 2017 July; 104 (1): 234-244.
Raz DJ, Clancy SL, Erhunmwunsee L (2017) Surgical Management of the Radiated Chest Wall and Its Complications. Thorac Surg Clin. 2017 May;27(2):171-179. doi: 10.1016/j.thorsurg.2017.01.011. Epub 2017 Mar 1. Review. PubMed PMID: 28363372; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5380165.
Castleberry AW, Bishawi M, Worni M, Erhunmwunsee L, Speicher PJ, Osho AA, Snyder LD, Hartwig MG. (2017) Medication Nonadherence After Lung Transplantation in Adult Recipients. Ann Thorac Surg. 2017 Jan;103(1):274-280.
Sun V, Raz DJ, Ruel N, Chang W, Erhunmwunsee L, Reckamp K, Tiep B, Ferrell B, McCorkle R, Kim JY. (2017) Multimedia Self-management Intervention to Prepare Cancer Patients and Family Caregivers for Lung Surgery and Postoperative Recovery. Clin Lung Cancer. 2017 Feb 2. Epub ahead of print.
Waldron NH, Dallas T, Erhunmwunsee L, Wang T, Berry MF, Welsby IJ. (2017) Bleeding risk associated with eptifibatide (Integrilin) bridging in thoracic surgery patients. J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2017 Feb;43(2):194-202.
Ratings & Reviews
Ratings and reviews below are gathered from the Press Ganey Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CG CAHPS) survey. CG CAHPS is a standardized survey that is used to measure a patient's experience in the physician office setting. Ratings are an average of all responses to questions about a provider's care, with five stars being the highest.
Show respect for what you say
Spend enough time with you
Rate provider 0-10
Recommend this provider office
Provider explain in way you understand
Provider listen carefully to you
Know important info medical history
Dr. E. Is wonderful! She shows her care for me as an individual, not just a number. - Verified patient
Dr. Loretta is a superb listener and I would recommend her to anyone who had a lung issue as I do. I asked her to help me get a referral to a neurosurgeon at City of Hope and I got a call with that appointment today--[...]--as well as the appointment for the Pulmonologist to follow my condition. - Verified patient
I have only been to City of Hope one other time, so it was so nice that when my friend and I were trying to find our way around, we were offered maps and directions each time we left one office to go to another location. - Verified patient
My experience with City of Hope has been very good so far thank you so much - Verified patient
I would recommend you to anyone needing excellent Health Care - Verified patient