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Surgical Hot Topics

Author: The Society of Thoracic Surgeons

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Listen to leaders in cardiothoracic surgery discuss hot topics in the field. Founded in 1964, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons is a not-for-profit organization representing more than 7,600 surgeons, researchers, and allied health care professionals worldwide.

Please note: The comments included in these episodes are that of the individuals involved and not necessarily that of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
152 Episodes
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In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Bartley Griffith, professor of surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and the first surgeon to successfully transplant a genetically modified pig heart into a human patient. In the episode, we learn about his upbringing in Pittsburgh and his upward trajectory in academia. Hear about his hilarious first attempts while learning to perform heart transplants, his mentors in Pittsburgh, and his move to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dr. Griffith discusses the first animal-to-human heart transplant, the work he and his team did in preparation, and how they shattered the barriers around xenotransplantation. Finally, Dr. Griffith talks about the growth opportunities he sees in cardiac surgery and how innovation can shape the future.    “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. The podcast series is supported by AstraZeneca. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Rian Hasson—assistant professor of thoracic surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. We learn about her upbringing in Riverside, California, with her parents and twin sister and how her love of reading shaped her from a young age. Dr. Hasson discusses her journey through medical school and how she came to decide upon thoracic surgery, as well as what was important to her in finding her place. Finally, she talks about the “I” of inclusion, being a woman and mother in the field, and her ideas about the future of thoracic surgery.    “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. The podcast series is supported by AstraZeneca. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Sara Pereira—professor of surgery at University of Utah. In the episode, we learn about her upbringing on a ranch in Cupertino, her pathway to a career in medicine, and her thoughts on leadership and the issues impacting trainees in the workforce. Hear Dr. Pereira discuss her childhood and her plans to pursue a degree in math, before she found herself sitting at her mother’s bedside in the hospital, which influenced her to change course to medicine. She details how she came to choose cardiac surgery, and how she struggled to “do it all” while following her true passion.  “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. The podcast series is supported by AstraZeneca. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. David Cooke interviews Drs. Fatima Wilder and Asishana Osho—both first-year faculty at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital respectively. In the episode, we learn about their upbringings and how that paved the way for their current work. Dr. Wilder spent a lot of her childhood in the General Assembly for the United Nations, and it helped shape her view of people and relationships, as well as provide a perspective of how vast the world really is. Meanwhile, Dr. Osho came to the US from Nigeria to attend a small liberal arts college. He discusses how this education helped shape his interactions with people. Listen as they share why they both wanted to become surgeons, their experiences being the first black faculty within their individual divisions, their goals for working with their communities in Boston, the considerations of raising a family as a cardiothoracic surgeon, and where they see the specialty going in the future.  “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. The podcast series is supported by AstraZeneca. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Jessica Donington—professor of surgery and Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Chicago. A globally recognized expert in the management of lung cancer, Dr. Donington shares how her love of science and her childhood as one of eight shaped her and her career. In the episode, she tells stories of her upbringing in New Jersey, details how her home life influenced her drive for mentorship, and explains how she pushed the boundaries of her career from early on.  “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. The podcast series is supported by AstraZeneca. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Hassan Tetteh—a US Navy Captain, Associate Professor of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, and adjunct faculty at Howard University College of Medicine. An artificial intelligence strategist for the Department of Defense and skilled cardiothoracic and transplant surgeon, Dr. Tetteh has completed more than 20 marathons and authored several books. In the episode, he shares stories of his upbringing in Brooklyn, New York, and details how military service has helped shape his life. He also discusses the importance of “paying it forward” in his career and his observations on how artificial intelligence is shaping the CT surgery specialty.  “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. The podcast series is supported by AstraZeneca. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Daniela Molena—a thoracic surgeon and Director of Esophageal Surgery at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, as well as the newly elected President of Women in Thoracic Surgery. Listeners will learn about her upbringing in a small Italian town and her training at one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious schools while simultaneously working as a classical dancer and competing on a national game show. Dr. Molena shares how her medical journey brought her to the United States—which required repeating much of her European training—and the importance of finding a community of supporters at each step.  “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.  Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Mark Orringer—a general thoracic surgery pioneer who developed the transhiatal esophagectomy, the most prevalent surgery for esophageal cancer. Listeners will learn about his upbringing in Pittsburgh and the work ethic learned from his immigrant father, plus his time at Johns Hopkins—including the involvement of his wife, Susan, in creating a welcoming environment for scores of faculty, fellows, and trainees. Dr. Orringer shares his memories of the esteemed Dr. Vivien Thomas, of traveling to England to work with Dr. Ronald Belsey, a renowned esophageal surgeon, and how working with Belsey changed the trajectory of his career. Listen as he shares his work developing the transhiatal esophagectomy, what he thinks is important in making a good CT surgeon, and the importance of the cardiothoracic surgery specialty.  “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.  Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus talks with Haytham Kaafarani, MD, MPH, associate professor of trauma and critical care at Massachusetts General Hospital and chief patient safety officer and medical director for The Joint Commission. They discuss Second Victim Syndrome, the often-dramatic psychological impact of an adverse event on the physician—typically operative and one for which the surgeon often feels directly responsible. Dr. Kaafarani is an international expert on second victim due to his direct personal experience with the psychological impact of adverse events, as well as his role in two seminal studies of Second Victim Syndrome in surgeons.  Listen as Drs. Maddaus and Kaafarani share insights on the emotional toll that an adverse event can take on the life of a surgeon and talk about the importance of peer support for a better recovery. They explore how Dr. Kaafarani became an expert regarding Second Victim Syndrome and how he developed his 5-step peer support program. This discussion will help listeners reflect on their own experiences with major adverse events and understand their part in boosting institutional support.  “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from the Society designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus talks with Steve Magness about a reimagined idea of toughness and how to help others be tough through compassion, connection, and humanity. Magness is a world-renowned expert on performance and author of the book Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness. His work breaks down the myth of what real toughness is and identifies four pillars of becoming tough as an individual: Ditch the facade and embrace reality Listen to your body Respond instead of react Transcend discomfort Listen as the conversation explores the ways in which toughness and resilience equip individuals with the skills to succeed and become their best selves.  “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from STS designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Steve Magness, author of Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness, can be reached via stevemagness.com. Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus speaks with Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. Porath has dedicated her career to understanding the business and personal impacts of how people treat one another in the workplace, and how the influence of leaders plays a huge role in happiness and engagement at work. The need for human connection is part of our genes. But Porath identifies today’s modern technologies and self-sufficient mindset as disconnecting factors that lead to increases in anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Her book, Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, documents the financial implications of poor leadership and suggests a variety of solutions. Her newest book, Mastering Community: The Surprising Ways Coming Together Moves Us from Surviving to Thriving, tells of the importance of workplace connection and feelings of value, belonging, and understanding. Listen as Dr. Maddaus and Porath discuss the need, at work and at home, to foster relationships built on connection and support, and how this can make all the difference, especially when times are hard.    “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from the Society designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Christine Porath can be reached at christine.porath@gmail.com. Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus talks with Marcus Buckingham, global researcher and New York Times bestselling author. Buckingham’s work focuses on unlocking people’s strengths, increasing their performance, and defining a better future for how people work. During this podcast episode, the two discuss finding and untapping one’s “wyrd,” which is described in detail in Buckingham’s latest book, Love+Work. Each person’s “wyrd”—from an ancient Norse term describing an individual’s unique spirit—informs how that person perceives the world and guides them to the things they truly love to do. Failing to tap into the “wyrd” and losing touch with that love is a recipe for burnout and angst. Listen as Dr. Maddaus and Buckingham discuss how to move through the demands of life and discover love in the details of one’s work, which inevitably leads to being a better team member and a happier self.  “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from the Society designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Marcus Buckingham can be reached via marcusbuckingham.com. Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus interviews Commander Rich Diviney, a retired US Navy Seal officer and author of The Attributes, 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance. Drawing from his 20-plus years of experience in the Navy, Diviney came to understand that even individuals at the highest levels of physical and mental capabilities can sometimes fail to perform in specific situations. He determined that an individual’s ability to succeed is determined by attributes, not skills. Attributes—like patience, resilience, situational awareness, and adaptability—inform behaviors, and each person has a unique combination of attributes that dictates how they behave, react, and perform. Diviney shares how his time with the Navy Seals helped him develop his strongest attributes and how others can come to understand their own. Through careful examination of these attributes, people can build better relationships and teams and ultimately unlock their potential. “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from the Society designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Rich Diviney, author of The Attributes, 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance, can be reached online at theattributes.com. Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus talks with Dr. Brian Little, a world-renowned psychologist and an expert on personalities. Dr. Little has written three bestselling books on personality, has a TED Talk called “Who Are You, Really?” that has been viewed more than 20 million times, and was voted a favorite professor at Harvard University for 3 consecutive years. Together, they discuss the importance of self-awareness and how understanding our own personality traits can help us make better, more meaningful connections with those around us, both at work and at home. Learn about the Big Five Personality Traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism; and the profound impact they can have on how our lives unfold and flourish. Listen as Drs. Maddaus and Little share examples of these different personality traits and provide insights into how we can harness the unique qualities which truly allow us to be our best selves.  “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from the Society designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Dr. Little, author of, Me, Myself and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-being, can be reached via email. Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus interviews Dr. Amy Edmondson—a scholar of leadership, teaming, and organizational learning. Best known for her groundbreaking work on psychological safety in the workplace, Dr. Edmondson is the author of seven books and is ranked as one of the most influential management thinkers. What is psychological safety? According to Dr. Edmondson, it is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for inter-personal risk-taking. In other words, she says, “Think of it as felt permission for candor.” Dr. Maddaus reflects on the surgical culture in which fear and anxiety have been the accepted drivers of high expectations and excellence. The concept of psychological safety, though, has shown him a different way, and together with Dr. Edmondson, he discusses a “recipe for magic”—the magic for better outcomes, better problem-solving, and a more flexible and rapid ability to adapt and create for the future. Listeners will hear Dr. Edmondson explain that if you change the nature and quality of the conversations in your team, your outcomes will improve exponentially. Psychological safety, she explains, is the core component to unlock this. A leader’s job—whether at the top of an organization or somewhere in the middle—is to create a safe space for people to speak up, make mistakes, and bring their full selves to work.  “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from the Society designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Dr. Edmondson can be reached at amycedmondson.com and @AmyCEdmondson. Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus has an insightful, don’t-miss conversation with Dr. Paul Conti, a psychiatrist and expert in trauma. Dr. Conti discusses psychological trauma: what it is and its far-reaching, profound effects on the mind and body. Listeners will learn that trauma changes the functioning of the brain and alters the lens in which we see ourselves and the world around us. Trauma also spreads like a virus and affects people in our orbit, including our loved ones and colleagues. But there are major challenges in untangling complex problems and recognizing trauma. Dr. Conti talks about shame as the biggest obstacle to healing from trauma and offers solutions for how—as a society—we can start to change the stigma of mental health and allow more people to ask for and receive help. Importantly, Dr. Conti shares his deeply moving personal experiences with trauma. So set aside any preconceived notions you have about trauma and give this episode a listen. “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from the Society designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Dr. Conti, author of Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic, can be reached at DrPaulConti.com.   Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this episode, Dr. Michael Maddaus interviews Brad Stulberg—an internationally known expert on human performance, wellbeing, and sustainable success. He also authored the bestselling book, The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds—Not Crushes—Your Soul. In this provocative and practical conversation, Brad shares a healthier, more sustainable model for success. He explains that at the heart of this model is groundedness—a practice that values presence over rote productivity, accepts that progress is nonlinear, and prioritizes long-term values and fulfillment over short-term gain. “The Resilient Surgeon” is a program from the Society designed to inspire cardiothoracic surgeons to be their best selves, in and out of the OR, using scientifically proven tools and recovery strategies of the world’s top performers. Brad can be reached at bradstulberg.com and @bstulberg.  Learn more about STS wellness efforts at sts.org/wellness.
In this final episode of Season 2, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Ed Chen from Duke University in North Carolina. Described as an experienced leader with “exceptional maturity” and a reputation for “respectful and thoughtful engagement,” Dr. Chen generously shares his personal experiences and insight. While he is Taiwanese, Dr. Chen was born in Tokyo (where his parents were attending university), moved to Taiwan, and eventually landed in the US. His hometown? Athens, Georgia, he said, while sharing that he is a die-hard fan of University of Georgia football. Importantly, Dr. Chen explains that he is a “better person and surgeon” because he was able to travel and have different global experiences. Even as a young boy, he knew his future was in medicine. “I remember being fascinated with the circulatory system which was featured on this TV special called ‘The Body Human.’” In fact, his younger brother also became a surgeon. Dr. Chen credits good mentors with encouraging him to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. He attended Duke University School of Medicine, and 30+ years later, he has returned to Duke to lead cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. According to Dr. Chen, cardiothoracic surgery is thriving, but the specialty also is challenged by complex patients, changing training paradigms, and limited resources. “In order to survive as a specialty, we must be resilient, flexible, and collaborative—all while remaining committed to the patients and our learners,” he advises. Don’t miss the stories, experiences, and valuable advice from this leading light in cardiothoracic surgery. Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode of Season 2, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Cherie Erkmen, from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Erkmen grew up in Colorado with devoted parents who encouraged and inspired her to consider a career in medicine. Interestingly, her mom was unofficially a “storm chaser;” officially, she was an atmospheric researcher for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who studied how pollution impacts storm patterns and the connection between air pollution and lung cancer. Through her mom, Dr. Erkmen “gained a lot of courage and vicarious experience.” She remembers having only a “vague” idea of being a doctor when she was growing up. However, along with a cheering section of parents and siblings, Dr. Erkmen had the support to “think big.” In this fascinating conversation, she also shares that her dad’s battle with lung cancer motivated her to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. An active member of the STS Workforce on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Erkmen discusses the importance of listening to what the community needs and creative initiatives that she leads through Temple University. “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Allan Pickens, a leading thoracic surgeon from Emory University in Atlanta. Listeners will discover interesting personal details such as Dr. Pickens, along with his five siblings, grew up on a farm in a rural Alabama town. That farm is where he began shaping his extraordinary work ethic. With parents who strongly encouraged good grades and required college after high school, Dr. Pickens always made schoolwork a priority. A high performing student, he was recruited in 6th grade to participate in a special program through the Macy Foundation. This is when Dr. Pickens was first inspired to pursue a career in medicine. Eventually he decided on cardiothoracic surgery. “I enjoy the technical components of surgery and the immediate impact on patient care, and I’m fascinated by chest physiology.” Dr. Pickens shares that growing up in rural Alabama did not provide much opportunity for physician mentorship, especially for minorities. “Finding mentors took some work,” he says. Dr. Pickens discusses some of the challenges he’s faced, and how these personal experiences motivated him to “want to give back” and “be involved in the educational process” for underrepresented individuals. “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity. Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.
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