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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.
86 Episodes
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In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Sidhu Gangadharan from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. Listeners will discover fascinating personal details about this surgeon leader, including how his experience working for a “rough and tumble” boss at a New Jersey gas station inspired him to become a surgeon. Dr. Gangadharan also shares that before starting medical school he spent some time “traipsing around.” This included moving to the East Village in Manhattan, letting his hair grow down to the middle of his back, walking around in a ripped, black trench coat and combat boots, and playing music in clubs until late at night. He eventually attended Dartmouth Medical School and went on to build a program at Beth Israel that is a world leader in diagnosing and treating tracheobronchomalacia. Once called a “little brown kid,” Dr. Gangadharan recognizes that oftentimes, experiences that you’re having are “highly dependent” on factors such as the color of your skin, your last name, and your religion. It’s important to spend “active energy thinking about how to create equity and an even playing field.” Hear what else he has to say about the diversity and inclusion efforts that he is leading at Beth Israel. “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. Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.
Three prestigious surgeons on three continents provided their “Personal Reflections from COVID-19” during the STS Annual Meeting Thomas B. Ferguson Lecture. The surgeons shared their experiences and thoughts about the pandemic and how it has affected them, their families, institutions, colleagues, and their patients. Craig R. Smith Jr., MD, offered his view from Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, Enrico Ruffini, MD, provided his perspective from the University of Torino in Italy, and Alan D.L. Sihoe, MD, MA, FRCSEd, described his experiences at Gleneagles Hospital in Hong Kong—an area that was the epicenter of the horrific SARS outbreak in 2003. 
Quinn Capers IV, MD, presented the Vivien T. Thomas Lecture during the STS Annual Meeting. In his lecture, “The Long Shadow of Racism and Racial Bias in the Lack of Diversity,” Dr. Capers discussed the factors that contribute to racial disparities in the medical field. He also outlined specific points when “gatekeepers” such as school counselors and admissions faculty, as well as mentors and role models, can hold the keys to life-changing moments that help shape successful careers. In addition, he presented strategies that are practically applicable, by both institutions and individuals, to combat racial disparities. Dr. Capers is the associate dean for faculty diversity and vice chair for diversity and inclusion in the Department of Internal Medicine at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. 
Paul G. Yock, MD, MA, presented the C. Walton Lillehei Lecture during the STS Annual Meeting. In his lecture, “The (Radically) Changing Landscape of Medical Technology Innovation,” Dr. Yock encouraged participants to view innovation as a discipline—one that can be taught, practiced, and recreated. He acknowledged, though, that comprehensive innovation can be difficult in the health care setting because it involves multiple stakeholders. He likened the “user” in this scenario to an “eight-headed monster.” Dr. Yock said that to manage this complexity, the biodesign process should utilize the overarching principles of “identify,” “invent,” and “implement,” which—like design thinking—places the invention step in the middle. Dr. Yock is the founder and director of the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign in California. 
In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Melanie Edwards from Integrated Health Associates in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Listeners will learn about Dr. Edwards’s experiences as a woman of Jamaican descent who spent many of her formative years in Canada. Her family eventually moved back to Jamaica where she finished high school at 16 years old. An ambitious Dr. Edwards went to college shortly thereafter, eager to start her undergraduate studies and get to medical school as soon as possible. Dr. Edwards shares that as a young child, she wanted to be a pediatrician, but by college, she was more enamored with surgery, and so she dug her heels in and “surgery ended up being fascinating and wonderful—everything that I hoped it would be.” Hear also what Dr. Edwards says about the importance of a team in cardiothoracic surgery and how having a strong group behind you is like having a “battalion at the ready.” “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. Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews STS Past President Dr. Doug Wood. Described as the “embodiment of the academic quadruple threat—with excellence in clinical work, research, education, and leadership,” Dr. Wood is considered a giant in cardiothoracic surgery who is responsible for building a world-class Center of Excellence in thoracic surgery at the University of Washington. Listeners will learn that a combination of a fluke, luck, and a “secret” $35 application, as well as a teacher who cared about him and parents who supported him, landed Dr. Wood at Harvard University from a farm in rural Michigan. Dr. Wood also shares how “Take It to the Limit” was not just a famous Eagles song, the rallying cry for his Harvard rowing team, and the name of his STS Presidential Address, but it also was how he decided to live his life. And, you don’t want to miss what Dr. Wood says about taking cardiothoracic surgery “to the limit,” how the “macho” specialty has not been a favorable career path for women, and how diversity—with its “different viewpoints and lived experiences”—makes us stronger. “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. Dr. Wood’s STS Presidential Address is available as an article in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery and as a video.
Hosted by Thomas K. Varghese Jr., MD, MS, the “Beyond the Abstract” program explores the “whys” behind articles in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery and discusses next steps with authors and thought leaders. In the latest episode, Juan A. Crestanello, MD, and Brian Mitzman, MD, join Dr. Varghese to discuss “the Year of the Pandemic” and how it disrupted every aspect of lives around the world, including the ability to attend in-person gatherings and academic conferences. The authors share some of the exciting and innovative features planned for STS 2021—which are expected to be unlike anything the cardiothoracic surgery specialty has seen to date. Also discussed in this episode are best practices and other considerations for virtual meetings such as interactivity, virtual etiquette, resource inequality, spontaneity, technical needs, and social components. Read the related Annals articles online: STS 2021: The Annual Meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons and The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) Virtual Conference Taskforce: Recommendations for Hosting a Virtual Surgical Meeting.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Shanda Blackmon from the Mayo Clinic. Listeners will learn that Dr. Blackmon initially pursued a career in art, selling her paintings in the gallery where she worked. A conversation with her mom convinced Dr. Blackmon that it was time to explore another career, so she decided to become a pediatrician. Eventually, she pivoted and headed into surgery—a “more challenging and difficult” choice, but a “better fit.” In addition to being a powerhouse thoracic surgeon, Dr. Blackmon is considered a super mom, which is an important part of her identity. The greatest gift to her children is “the daily dedication to my patients,” she says. How does Dr. Blackmon do it all? Superior organizational skills, including making a lot of lists. Hear also what she says about the power of sponsorship and “following your bliss.” “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. Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.  
In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Tom Varghese from the University of Utah. Dr. Varghese shares captivating details of his “very unique life.” He was born in India, moved to the US a few months after his first birthday, and returned to India during his high school years—making him an immigrant in two countries. After medical school, Dr. Varghese came back to the US for surgical residency. Hear about how he embraced the “challenging” experience of being a foreign medical graduate and the important lessons learned. Also, don’t miss the story of how Dr. Varghese became a “social media influencer” and how he contributes to the conversation by creating, curating, and amplifying. “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. Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. David Tom Cooke from UC Davis Health. Listeners will learn that Dr. Cooke grew up in Oakland, California, with parents who were both educators. So how then did he decide on a career in medicine? A health scare that his mom experienced and an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man both inspired young David. “Ever since then, I knew I wanted to be a surgeon.” Dr. Cooke also shares valuable leadership advice, explaining that any good leader must be “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” For Dr. Cooke, that sometimes means being the only person in the room who looks like him or caring for patients who think he is an “orderly” and not the surgeon. Hear what he says about these situations and how he handles them. “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. Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.
In this episode of the STS COVID webinar series, Joseph A. Dearani, MD, Melanie A. Edwards, MD, and a panel of infectious disease experts from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Mayo Clinic, and The University of Texas address the latest developments in the fight against COVID-19. Topics include monoclonal antibody treatment, FDA approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, ethical and equitable vaccine deployment, and strategies to combat vaccine resistance. Panelists include Andrew D. Badley, MD, Deborah L. Birx, MD, and Trish M. Perl, MD, MSc.
In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews STS Director-at-Large Dr. Leah Backhus from Stanford Health Care. Listeners will learn how positive labels “slapped on” Dr. Backhus at a young age help buoy her throughout her journey, but she cautions that such labels can be good and bad and explains why. Dr. Backhus also shares that after an “unwelcoming reception” into neurosurgery, she chose a career in cardiothoracic surgery. This experience helped her realize that mentors “do not have to look like you, they just need to get you.” “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. Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.
In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Doug Mathisen, STS Historian and Past President. Listeners will discover fascinating personal details about this surgeon leader, including how playing sports helped him learn important teamwork and leadership skills that later translated into his career as a surgeon. Dr. Mathisen compares the surgical locker room to an athletic locker room, saying that it has the “same sort of camaraderie” and everyone works hard to not let down their “teammates.” He also shares that one of the greatest thrills of his life was meeting professional boxer Muhammad Ali, who has always been his favorite athlete. “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. Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.
In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Joanna Chikwe, chair of the Cardiac Surgery Department in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. Listeners will learn that Dr. Chikwe grew up in Birmingham, England, with a Nigerian father who “came to Britain with coins in his pocket and a lot of ambition” and a Welsh mother from a coal mining town. After high school, Dr. Chikwe spent 2 years studying art in Italy. This experience helped her realize that art was “always going to be a great hobby,” but medicine was her lifetime passion. “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) 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.
In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Richard Prager, STS Past President and director of the Frankel Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan. Listeners will learn that Dr. Prager was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and as a young boy, longed to be just like Jackie Robinson. His career aspirations shifted after the experience of joining his physician father on house calls and carrying the “big leather doctor bag” and portable EKG machine, as well as a summer hospital job washing walls and cleaning patients’ rooms. Dr. Prager shares that he chose cardiothoracic surgery “because it was the hardest thing I could think of to do.” “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) 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.
In this episode of the STS Summer Series, Keith S. Naunheim, MD, and a panel of experts in health policy, advocacy, and public relations discuss the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plans to cut reimbursement for cardiothoracic surgeons and its likely negative effect on patients. The panel reviews a short history of Medicare reimbursement rates and shares the advocacy efforts underway to prevent these cuts, including opportunities for STS members to get involved in grassroots efforts. Panelists include: Francis C. Nichols III, MD, Alan M. Speir, MD, Liz Dahan, MA, MBA, and Noah Kristula-Green.
In this inaugural episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Robert Higgins, STS Past President and surgeon-in-chief at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Listeners will discover that Dr. Higgins was just 5 years old when he lost his father—who was an African American general practitioner in the segregated South during the 1960s—in a tragic accident. Together, his mother and grandparents raised three “crazy, hell-raising boys,” sacrificing extraordinary things to afford them the best educational opportunities and encouraging them to always “excel in everything” they did. Dr. Higgins shares advice from his mother that he has never forgotten: “keep on keeping on”—a reminder that challenges in life should be embraced as “opportunities to persevere and show grit.”  “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) 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.
“Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a new program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. Drs. David Cooke and Tom Varghese—both cardiothoracic surgeons themselves—will uncover the obstacles, triumphs, tradeoffs, and pivotal moments that have shaped their guests’ careers and personal missions. Episodes will feature the backstories of cardiothoracic surgeons from different backgrounds and in various career stages. These leaders and rising stars offer powerful, candid stories that are funny and fascinating, as well as heartbreaking and inspiring. 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.
In this episode of the STS Summer Series, Gorav Ailawadi, MD, MBA, Tsuyoshi Kaneko, MD, and an expert panel debate the merits of surgical versus transcatheter treatments and review challenging mitral valve cases such as degenerative mitral regurgitation, mitral annular calcification, functional mitral valve regurgitation, and failed bioprosthetic mitral valve. Panelists include Vinay Badhwar, MD, Mayra Guerrero, MD, Robert L. Smith II, MD, Paul Sorajja, MD, Gilbert H. Tang, MD, MSc, MBA, and Dee Dee Wang, MD.
In this episode of the STS Summer Series, Rakesh C. Arora, MD, PhD, and Michael C. Grant, MD, MSE, moderate a panel of experts in Addressing the Cardiac Surgery Opioid Crisis. Two short presentations – Why Is This Even an Issue? by Daniel T. Engelman, MD, and Now What Do I Do? by Michael C. Grant, MD, MSE – explore the role of cardiac surgery as a contributor to the opioid epidemic. Then, the panel discusses alternative interventions for pain management and strategies to minimize opioid use in perioperative management of patients (both adult and pediatric) under cardiac surgical care. Panelists include: Daniel T. Engelman, MD, Michael S. Firstenberg, MD, Rita Karianna Milewski, MD, PhD, MSEd, and Nathalie Roy, MD.
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