President's Column: Let’s Celebrate the First 50 Years and Set a Foundation for the Next 50

STS News, Spring 2013

Douglas E. Wood, MD

It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as STS President in this landmark 50th anniversary year. A half century ago, pioneers and visionaries in our specialty dreamed of a specialty society that represented all of cardiothoracic surgery, and all cardiothoracic surgeons. They dreamed of a “home for the specialty” that was both comprehensive and inclusive. Those leaders—Paul Samson, Robert Ellison, J. Maxwell Chamberlain, Ralph Alley, and others—organized and led that first STS “Founders Meeting” in 1963. Now, just 50 years later, we are a vibrant specialty and a dynamic and growing society. STS is the largest cardiothoracic society in the world, with more than 6,600 members, and has broad international involvement, with members from 85 countries and partnerships with many of our international “sister societies.” The breadth and scope of STS activities in 2013 is a tribute to our founders and past leaders, and I am humbled when I think of how their contributions have brought us to where we are today.

This past year has been a seminal year under Jeff Rich’s leadership as President. The National Coverage Determination (NCD) for TAVR has simultaneously secured reliable decision making and technical expertise to help assure high quality care for our patients undergoing percutaneous valve procedures, while solidifying the principles of the “Heart Team” in the care of patients with heart disease and a spectrum of therapeutic choices. This effort has also further expanded the collaboration and partnership between STS and the American College of Cardiology, who worked together on securing the NCD, and now have developed an important registry for transcatheter valve therapy (TVT Registry™) that provides physicians, payers, and regulators with a tool for monitoring outcomes and helping us provide the highest quality of care to our patients.

I am lucky to have “learned the ropes” of being the STS President this year under the tutelage of Jeff Rich who has been instrumental in effecting many of these changes. And the Executive Committee will severely miss the daily contributions and ongoing leadership as Past President Mike Mack rotates off the leadership team. Other changes at the senior leadership level see Walter Merrill and Richard Shemin completing terms as Directors-at-Large, and Jennifer Nelson complete her term as the first Resident Director on the STS Board. But we are lucky to have impressive new talent filling those roles, with Emile Bacha, Joe Bavaria, and David Jones stepping into Director-at-Large positions, and Cameron Stock taking on the responsibility of the Resident Director. We also are fortunate to have Shinichi Takamoto joining the Board to fill the second International Director seat that the membership created at the 2013 Annual Meeting. The most important leadership change this year is the election of Mark Allen as the new Second Vice President. Mark has provided STS with thoughtful and experienced leadership over many years and through a large number of positions, most recently as a Director-at-Large on the Board. Mark’s knowledge, engagement, and strong leadership help assure us that the Society is in very good hands for the next several years.

I am always amazed and impressed by the dedication, breadth, and depth of the STS volunteer leaders, now filling 280 positions on committees and workforces, and selected from an enthusiastic and engaged “bench” of over 500 nominees (including 161 self-nominees). This degree of member involvement is a major reason for the continued growth and success of our Society, with expanding programs in education, research, and advocacy. But the other half of that success is the amazing staff of dedicated professionals running our Society and fulfilling our mission every day under the direction of Rob Wynbrandt. Their expertise and partnership with our physician volunteers is truly the engine that drives the STS mission “to enhance the ability of cardiothoracic surgeons to provide the highest quality patient care through education, research, and advocacy.”

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary year, this is an opportunity to recognize and revere the leaders that had the vision to create STS and then gave much of their professional lives to making it the home for cardiothoracic surgery in the United States. Those of us who have been entrusted by the membership to lead the Society in 2013 are lucky to stand on the shoulders of these giants who pushed and guided us to where we are today. But 50 years is also an opportunity to look forward—1 year, 20 years, or even another 50 years. Let’s not just celebrate this year, but set a foundation for the specialty and the Society for the years and decades to come. We live in great times of change, and with those changes are opportunities for us to evolve and grow. We are in the right place and with the right people to make those changes for the betterment of our patients, our specialty, and our health care system.