retirement planning
There are many profound changes and considerations during the early stages of your career. Planning for retirement is one that needs your time and attention now. 
4 min read
Olugbenga Okusanya, MD
New research presented at STS 2024 found that patients with postoperative PE had increased 30-day mortality, reintubation, and readmission rates.
Feb 14, 2024
The education of medical students and residents is critical for the future growth and improvement in the field of cardiothoracic surgery. Early career cardiothoracic surgeons need to be involved in helping the next generation of surgeons establish and advance their careers. In this article, learn about ways you can get involved.
4 min read
Robert M. Van Haren, MD

At a standing-room-only presentation at STS 2024, STS Past President Dr. Mike Mack and Dr. Cherie Erkman presented data from the STS’ first annual survey on surgeon compensation. 

The first-of-its-kind survey, conducted in October 2023, was designed to help US-based cardiothoracic surgeons understand their value and make informed career decisions using reliable benchmarks specific to the specialty. 

“There is a lot of data out there on what cardiothoracic surgeons are paid, but that data is all over the place,” said Dr. Mack, chair of the Compensation Taskforce appointed by STS President Tom MacGillivray. “Understanding compensation begins with accurate data. That was the genesis behind conducting the survey.”

Nearly 850 STS members participated in the survey, a 27% response. Participants provided information on their total annual compensation, including salary and compensation related to RVUs/productivity – which represents about 80% of compensation – and other services provided. The survey also captured subspecialty, career stage, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, service area, and employment model. 

The survey affirmed expected pay differences between specialty, practice, career stage, and geography, as well as gender pay disparities between men and women surgeons, according to Dr. Erkman. Her analysis revealed that women cardiothoracic surgeons earn between 64 to 84 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn, depending on their specialty.

While cardiothoracic surgeons provide tremendous value to the patients and institutions they serve, it has been a challenge to understand that value and translate it into fair compensation, explained Dr. MacGillivray. “This survey gives us a starting point,” he said. “We need to understand where there are disparities and inequities, and then fix them.”

“I’m proud of STS and Dr. MacGillivray for taking action to help us better understand compensation in our specialty and shine a light on pay disparities,” said Taskforce member Dr. Shanda Blackmon. “This gives women surgeons the knowledge and power we need to advocate for ourselves.”

The limited sample size produced some regional variability, Dr. Mack said, and the data do not reflect that cardiothoracic surgeon residents and fellows are compensated far less than attending surgeons during their many years of training. 

“Cardiothoracic surgeons train for an average of 15 to 16 years and start their first attending job at age 34 or 35,” Dr. Mack explained. “Many accumulate significant debt during medical school and training.” A recent Thoracic Surgery Residents Association survey found that 53% of residents have more than $200,000 in debt.

Workload is not reflected in the report, Dr. Mack said, but US-based cardiothoracic surgeons work 65 to 80 hours per week, sometimes more, performing both scheduled and emergency operations. 

STS is working with consulting firm Gallagher, an expert in physician compensation and valuation services, to collect and analyze data, and produce an annual compensation report. Data collected by Gallagher is confidential and will not be shared with STS, explained Dr. MacGillivray. 

The 2023 Cardiothoracic Surgeon Compensation Report will be available in early February. STS members who participated in the survey will receive it at no cost. Members, nonmembers, and institutions interested in purchasing the report can add their name to the interest list.

“The Society plans to conduct the compensation survey annually. We encourage US cardiothoracic surgeons to participate every year so the report provides the most accurate data, and so they can receive the report for free,” said Dr. Mack.

Jan 28, 2024
3 min read
The award recognizes STS members who advance the Society and specialty.
Jan 28, 2024
STS award recognizes outstanding scientific contributions to cardiothoracic surgery.
Jan 28, 2024
Late-breaking research presented at the 2024 STS Annual Meeting resulted in a new risk model for isolated tricuspid valve surgery.
Jan 28, 2024
Jennifer C. Romano, MD, MS, was elected president of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons today at STS 2024 during the Society’s Business Meeting.
Jan 28, 2024

SAN ANTONIO (January 28, 2024) — A study of pediatric heart surgery centers across the United States has demonstrated that, when it comes to successful surgery, it’s not just the size of the program that matters in determining quality outcomes. 

Jan 28, 2024

SAN ANTONIO (January 28, 2024) — Despite national guidelines recommending surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) for patients under age 65 with severe aortic stenosis, many hospitals are still opting for a nonsurgical approach in patients under 60—possibly with poorer survival rates. 

Jan 28, 2024

During this session, investigators unveiled findings from the largest multicenter study of post-arterial switch operations (ASO) that resulted in increased survival rates for adolescents and adult patients – as well as an increase in the potential for these patients to require cardiac reoperations to address arterial switch related complications that arise later in life.

At day two's presentation on “Burden of Reoperative  Cardiac Surgery among Adolescents and Adults Who Have Undergone Prior Arterial Switch Operation: Society of Thoracic Surgeons Database Analysis,” Bret Mettler, MD, from Johns Hopkins University, examined a multi-year assessment of the prevalence and types of cardiac surgical interventions in patients who previously underwent ASO using data from the STS National Database. 

“Anatomical repair of transposition of the great arteries (TGA) and related anomalies by arterial switch operation (ASO) achieves a normal anatomic and physiologic cardiac configuration,” said Dr. Mettler.  “And as survival rates have increased, so have the potential for these patients to require cardiac reoperations to address resulting ASO-related complications.”

As most reoperations involved multiple procedures, the presentation examined how a hierarchical stratification of procedure categories was established, with each eligible surgical hospitalization assigned to the single highest applicable hierarchical category.
Dr. Mettler's presentation also examined implications for surgical counseling, post-operative clinical surveillance, and therapeutic management. An analysis of the role of procedural prevalence, timing, categories, trends, and the growing number of reoperations was discussed.

Jan 28, 2024
2 min read

An engaging presentation on day two of STS 2024 focused on how socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with inferior patient survival following heart transplantation, while closely examining how future efforts and national policy changes are needed to improve longitudinal follow-up care and address systemic barriers to necessary healthcare. 

"Sara Sakowitz, MS, MPH at STS 2024"
Sara Sakowitz, MS, MPH, examines how socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with inferior patient survival following heart transplantation at STS 2024. 

“Hospital Volume Does Not Mitigate the Effect of Community Socioeconomic Deprivation on Outcomes of Heart Transplantation” was given as part of the J. Maxwell Chamberlain Memorial Papers Perioperative and Critical Care Surgery session. 

Sara Sakowitz, MS, MPH, from UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, reported on the independent association between neighborhood area deprivation and survival following heart transplantation, showing that patients who live in socioeconomically deprived communities demonstrate inferior long-term outcomes.
“These disparities were not mitigated by receiving care at high-volume heart transplantation centers and have persisted over the last two decades,” said Ms. Sakowitz. “Our study findings underscore the need to improve access to and engagement with longitudinal follow-up care, remove barriers to medication and appointment non-adherence, and directly address the underlying and systemic root causes of community-level inequities in transplant outcomes.“

This talk demonstrated the need for a team-based, collaborative approach to solve the issue. Clinicians and hospitals should consider implementing certain programs for their own communities – including expanded patient navigator services, social support groups, and clinical pharmacy services.

Jan 28, 2024
1 min read