President's Column: Seeing STS Through a New Lens

Richard L. Prager, MD, President

STS News, Winter 2018 -- As my STS presidential term draws to a close, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the experiences that this unique role has offered. A year of weekly calls with surgeon and staff leaders, monthly executive Committee calls, tri-annual Board meetings, and many other STS and related association meetings throughout the world have allowed me to gain further perspectives on the impact that a professional medical specialty society has—not only on its members, but also on the health care profession, the government, and the general public.

Inherent in its core mission, STS works on behalf of cardiothoracic surgeons. It must always be aware of and understand the opportunities and the responsibilities of our specialty, the education that we need to stay relevant, how to work with governmental agencies, and the need to improve data acquisition and database efficiencies—all while being ever mindful of our overriding obligations to our patients.

These are complicated times worldwide and, over the past year, it has become very clear to me that professional societies have many of the same challenges—challenges that involve the realities of post-graduate education, relationships with industry and other health care entities, efforts to enhance quality and efficiency in health care, and providing benefits of value to their members.

Visibility in Washington

This past year, STS remained a highly visible and important society in Washington, DC, strengthened by the STS National Database, the Society’s reputation for quality measurement, and our development of a quality-based payment program. Our voice as the leader in the cardiothoracic surgical community, as well as the medical community at large, was heard during Congressional hearings, physician reimbursement meetings, and member “Fly-Ins” facilitated by our Government Relations staff.

Speaking on behalf of myself and many of my colleagues, we are most appreciative of the attention that our Government Relations staff gives to the myriad issues that cardiothoracic surgeons face. We also are grateful to all of the STS members who take time to meet with their elected officials so that the health care we provide will benefit our patients and be fairly quantified and valued.

Relevant Education

The Society’s educational platform both in the US and worldwide continues to expand. With our EACTS colleagues, we held a very successful fall educational meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, and are planning additional meetings in South America with EACTS and ESTS for both cardiac and general thoracic surgeons. Our ECMO and robotics meetings remain successful, and we took a very important step into the critical care arena by offering our first multidisciplinary cardiovascular and thoracic critical care conference in Washington, DC, last fall. This critical care meeting included surgeons and advanced practice teams of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse first assistants, perfusionists, and clinical pharmacists—all of whom play a critical role in the care and management of our patients and will play an increasingly larger role in our Society’s workforces and task forces.

Database Expansion

We also are thrilled about adding the Intermacs Database to our portfolio. Our colleagues at NHLBI and UAB greatly facilitated discussions about the registry and its future, and plans are under way for an Intermacs meeting in Chicago this spring.

The importance of our databases to you, our patients, our federal partners, and our institutions cannot be underscored enough. Understanding the effort required to obtain and enter data, the Society is looking at new technologies for easier data acquisition and entry, as well as for Database version upgrades and data field improvements.

This past November in Boston, STS surgeon and staff leaders met with congenital heart surgery leaders to discuss updates and enhancements for the Congenital Heart Surgery Database, as well as to discuss public reporting. We also are working with the Task Force on Quality Initiatives to share methodologies used by three-star composite programs that could help other sites improve their own composite scores.

None of these accomplishments would have occurred without physician voices.

In addition, we are continuing discussions with the Department of Defense for potential participation in the Adult Cardiac Surgery Database, as well as with the health care analytics company Avant-Garde (see Spring 2017 issue) so that ACSD participants have an opportunity to learn more about costing methodologies at their institutions.

As I step back to review this past year, I must thank my physician colleagues for their time and commitment, noting that none of these accomplishments would have occurred without physician voices. I also thank the STS staff in Chicago and Washington for keeping the lights on all of the time so that we could accomplish goals that often require long hours of administrative leadership. Having societies such as STS facilitate cardiothoracic surgeons’ ambitious goals greatly enhances our specialty.

My thanks to all who help STS and other societies throughout the world, and I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year.

I look forward to seeing you in Fort Lauderdale at our 54th Annual Meeting.