Executive Director's Column: On STS Initiatives and Transitions

Robert A. Wynbrandt, Executive Director & General Counsel
William F. Seward, Associate Executive Director

STS News, Spring 2014 -- As a brutal winter comes to an end in Chicago, the transition to spring is a welcome opportunity for us to review strategic and operational initiatives yet in store for the Society in 2014. In the latest installment of guest columns prepared by members of the STS management team, Bill Seward, the Society’s new Associate Executive Director, provides an overview of several key initiatives under way across the organization’s major functional areas. Bill joined us in September 2013, after a 14-year tenure at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, most recently serving as its Chief Operating Officer.

On the heels of an exciting 50th Anniversary meeting in Orlando, STS is pushing forward and launching a number of key organizational initiatives in 2014. The Society’s operational activities are grounded by a strategic plan and key performance indicators that serve as guideposts. Our extraordinary volunteer leaders, working in partnership with a committed STS staff, are advancing the Society’s mission "to enhance the ability of cardiothoracic surgeons to provide the highest quality patient care through education, research, and advocacy" by implementing innovative new programs and improving the member experience.

In Education and Member Services, we expect to implement an online Learning Management System later this year that will increase our capacity to deliver meaningful educational content to STS members in a web-based forum that is convenient and flexible. We are also rolling out new educational symposia. A 1.5-day extracorporeal membrane oxygenation course, May 30-31 in Chicago, will combine didactic and hands-on learning. This fall, we will host a course on thoracic endovascular aneurysm repair.

Following the election of G. Alexander Patterson, MD as Editor-Elect in Orlando, the Society is moving forward with a transition plan that includes the retention of an Annals editorial staff at the STS headquarters office in Chicago. The new editorial team will be integrated with the broader STS staff and work closely with Dr. Patterson, as well as Editor L. Henry Edmunds, MD and the existing editorial staff in Philadelphia, to ensure a seamless transition of operations when Dr. Edmunds’ term is completed early next year.

The Society also has plans for raising the bar with the STS National Database by implementing critical improvements and new functionality. Many of the coming changes are a result of the STS National Database Think Tank that was conducted last fall. An overarching goal is to reformat and simplify user reports through customizable web-based dashboards. We are also exploring options for incorporating surgeon-level quality metrics in harvest reports. In order for STS to maintain its leadership position in measuring quality and outcomes in cardiothoracic surgery, the Database must continue to evolve and change. Looking beyond 2014, the Council on Quality, Research, and Patient Safety is investigating how best to interface the STS National Database with electronic medical records. Certainly, partnering with colleagues from the American College of Cardiology to develop a unified cardiovascular data dictionary and e-specifications will be critical.

Meanwhile, the STS Research Center is advancing a number of important research projects and improving internal processes. The Task Force on Access and Publications is rolling out a new procedure for evaluating and supporting member-initiated research projects using STS National Database data. Fred Edwards, MD continues to take an active role in shaping the work of the STS Research Center. He has agreed to extend his tour of duty for 6 months while a national search for a new Director continues.

In the world of health policy and advocacy, the Society is advancing the ball in a complex and generally dysfunctional environment in Washington, DC. With the recent failure of Congress to pass meaningful Medicare payment reform, STS is leading the charge in developing alternative payment models for cardiothoracic surgery that focus on heart and lung cancer teams. Our goal is to gain approval from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation for a pilot project based on the successful Virginia Cardiac Surgery Quality Initiative. STS is also working with a diverse group of stakeholders in encouraging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to implement a National Coverage Determination for lung cancer screening. To that end, on April 30, STS Immediate Past President Douglas E. Wood, MD will testify at the MEDCAC meeting, "Lung Cancer Screening with Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT)," in Baltimore.

It is truly remarkable to witness the dynamic qualities of the STS organization. Apropos to the spring season, the Society continues to grow and change, providing the membership with much to look forward to in 2014 and beyond.