Podcast Episodes

The Society's podcast, Surgical Hot Topics, features leaders in cardiothoracic surgery discussing important issues in the field. Please note: The comments included in these episodes are that of the individuals involved and not necessarily that of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Find episodes here, or subscribe via the links below:

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  • #87: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Ourania Preventza

    March 5, 2021

    In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Ourania Preventza, from Baylor College of Medicine. The awe-inspiring journey of Dr. Preventza—an internationally known expert in aortic surgery—started in Athens, Greece, where she grew up and later attended medical school. Her father, who was a judge, always wanted her to go to law school, but Dr. Preventza thought that medical school would be “more challenging and competitive.” Listeners will learn that she eventually moved to the US—not knowing anyone—for her surgical residency. She describes feeling like an “outsider” and shares that being a “woman and a foreigner with an accent” made it especially difficult to navigate her studies in another country. But her grit, resilience, determination, and daily calls with her family, kept her going. Hear the personal details of why Dr. Preventza chose cardiothoracic surgery—an “amazing, evolving field” and her insights into diversity and inclusion efforts that she thinks help “cultivate a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness.”  “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.

  • #86: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Sidhu Gangadharan

    February 19, 2021

    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.

  • #85: STS 2021: Thomas B. Ferguson Lecture

    February 8, 2021

    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. 

  • #84: STS 2021: Vivien T. Thomas Lecture

    February 8, 2021

    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. 

  • #83: STS 2021: C. Walton Lillehei Lecture

    February 8, 2021

    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 encourage 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. 

  • #82: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Melanie Edwards

    February 5, 2021

    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.

  • #81: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Doug Wood

    January 22, 2021

    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.

  • #80: Beyond the Abstract: STS 2021 and Recommendations for Hosting a Virtual Surgical Meeting

    January 18, 2021

    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.

  • #79: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Shanda Blackmon

    January 8, 2021

    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.

  • #78: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Tom Varghese

    December 28, 2020

    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.