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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  • #133: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Ed Chen

    April 28, 2022

    In this final episode of Season 2, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Ed Chen from Duke University in North Carolina. Described as an experienced leader with “exceptional maturity” and a reputation for “respectful and thoughtful engagement,” Dr. Chen generously shares his personal experiences and insight. While he is Taiwanese, Dr. Chen was born in Tokyo (where his parents were attending university), moved to Taiwan, and eventually landed in the US. His hometown? Athens, Georgia, he said, while sharing that he is a die-hard fan of University of Georgia football. Importantly, Dr. Chen explains that he is a “better person and surgeon” because he was able to travel and have different global experiences. Even as a young boy, he knew his future was in medicine. “I remember being fascinated with the circulatory system which was featured on this TV special called ‘The Body Human.’” In fact, his younger brother also became a surgeon. Dr. Chen credits good mentors with encouraging him to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. He attended Duke University School of Medicine, and 30+ years later, he has returned to Duke to lead cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. According to Dr. Chen, cardiothoracic surgery is thriving, but the specialty also is challenged by complex patients, changing training paradigms, and limited resources. “In order to survive as a specialty, we must be resilient, flexible, and collaborative—all while remaining committed to the patients and our learners,” he advises. Don’t miss the stories, experiences, and valuable advice from this leading light in cardiothoracic surgery. 

    "Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.

  • #132: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Cherie Erkmen

    April 14, 2022

    In this episode of Season 2, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Cherie Erkmen, from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Erkmen grew up in Colorado with devoted parents who encouraged and inspired her to consider a career in medicine. Interestingly, her mom was unofficially a “storm chaser;” officially, she was an atmospheric researcher for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who studied how pollution impacts storm patterns and the connection between air pollution and lung cancer. Through her mom, Dr. Erkmen “gained a lot of courage and vicarious experience.” She remembers having only a “vague” idea of being a doctor when she was growing up. However, along with a cheering section of parents and siblings, Dr. Erkmen had the support to “think big.” In this fascinating conversation, she also shares that her dad’s battle with lung cancer motivated her to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. An active member of the STS Workforce on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Erkmen discusses the importance of listening to what the community needs and creative initiatives that she leads through Temple University. “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.

    Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.

  • #131: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Allan Pickens

    March 31, 2022

    In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Allan Pickens, a leading thoracic surgeon from Emory University in Atlanta. Listeners will discover interesting personal details such as Dr. Pickens, along with his five siblings, grew up on a farm in a rural Alabama town. That farm is where he began shaping his extraordinary work ethic. With parents who strongly encouraged good grades and required college after high school, Dr. Pickens always made schoolwork a priority. A high performing student, he was recruited in 6th grade to participate in a special program through the Macy Foundation. This is when Dr. Pickens was first inspired to pursue a career in medicine. Eventually he decided on cardiothoracic surgery. “I enjoy the technical components of surgery and the immediate impact on patient care, and I’m fascinated by chest physiology.” Dr. Pickens shares that growing up in rural Alabama did not provide much opportunity for physician mentorship, especially for minorities. “Finding mentors took some work,” he says. Dr. Pickens discusses some of the challenges he’s faced, and how these personal experiences motivated him to “want to give back” and “be involved in the educational process” for underrepresented individuals. “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.

  • #130: Management of Type B Aortic Dissection: Takeaways from the STS/AATS Guideline

    March 18, 2022

    In this episode of the STS Webinar Series, a panel comprising several coauthors of the STS/AATS Clinical Practice Guideline on the Management of Type B Aortic Dissection discuss the key takeaways from this comprehensive, up-to-date summary of the state of the evidence. Discussion topics include: optimal medical therapy as the recommended treatment for patients with uncomplicated TBAD, thoracic endovascular aortic repair for patients with complicated hyperacute, acute, or subacute TBADs and favorable anatomy, and conditions under which open surgical repair is the preferred treatment option, including for patients with connective tissue disorders. Participants include Edward P. Chen, MD, Thomas G. Gleason, MD, Dawn S. Hui, MD, Thomas E. MacGillivray, MD (moderator), and Himanshu J. Patel, MD.

  • #129: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Sharon Ben-Or

    March 17, 2022

    In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Sharon Ben-Or—the first female President of the Eastern Cardiothoracic Surgical Society. This inspirational leader shares remarkable, thought-provoking details about her journey into medicine. She credits her uncle with opening her eyes to the possibility of medical school. Listeners will learn that while on a family trip, Dr. Ben-Or skipped the skiing and spent the day with her uncle who was studying for the MCAT. Why cardiothoracic surgery? A clerical error, she explains. When considering a surgical subspecialty, Dr. Ben-Or was interested in the pancreas and liver, so she “signed up” for surgical oncology. But someone mixed up the paperwork, and she ended up on the thoracic oncology rotation. “I loved it,” she said. Dr. Ben-Or also generously shares how her 2017 breast cancer diagnosis “completely changed” her approach to patients and helped her better understand and empathize with patients’ feelings of fear and anger. She is in the process of rebuilding her life—"a new life”—because “so many things have changed.” Don’t miss the stories, experiences, and valuable advice from this leading light in cardiothoracic surgery. Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.

  • #128: Dos and Don'ts of the Mobile ECMO Team

    March 4, 2022

    In this episode of the STS Webinar Series, a multidisciplinary panel shares their expertise in establishing and maintaining an effective mobile ECMO unit. In addition to optimal staffing, logistical details, and contingency plans for transport, the panel discusses findings from research on ECMO-facilitated resuscitation and contraindications for deploying the mobile ECMO unit. Participants include Cory Alwardt, PhD, Anna L. Ciullo, MD (moderator), J.W. Awori Hayanga, MD, MPH (moderator), Hitoshi Hirose, MD, Jeffrey Javidfar, MD, and Demetris Yannopoulos, MD.   

  • #127: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Jenna Romano

    March 3, 2022

    In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Jenna Romano, from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Health. Listeners will discover fascinating personal details about this surgeon leader, including that she considers herself a “lifer Midwesterner;” while in college, her plan was to become a veterinarian (thanks to Dr. Bob Bartlett, that plan changed); and she was the first in her family to “dip” her toe into the medical field. Throughout her unique, “rare as a unicorn” journey, Dr. Romano has overcome stigmas and changed paradigms, and she’s done this by confidently wearing her emotions on her sleeve. “I don’t hold back. If there’s something I believe could be different or better, I speak up—for better or for worse,” she shares. At the time of this episode recording, Dr. Romano had just been named Second Vice President for The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), putting her in line for the STS Presidency. She will be the first woman to hold this position. Still “trying to catch her breath” over the exhilaration surrounding the new role, Dr. Romano explains what went through her mind and the first thing she did after receiving the phone call inviting her to accept the position. And what about the future of cardiothoracic surgery? Dr. Romano says the specialty is “not going away,” but will need to be more flexible and dynamic in the years ahead. “Just think—when you see a more diverse picture going forward, how much more greatness we’re going to achieve.”

    “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.

  • #126: Coronary Revascularization Guideline: Why STS and AATS Did Not Endorse

    February 18, 2022

    In this episode of the STS Webinar Series, senior leaders from STS and the American Association for Thoracic Surgery discuss the concerns that informed the decision not to endorse the 2021 Guideline for Coronary Artery Revascularization published in December by the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions. Concerns discussed include: the devaluation of both coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) as a treatment option and the evidence supporting bypass surgery as a preferred approach in select high-risk patient populations, and the superior long-term benefits of CABG versus percutaneous coronary intervention in decreasing repeat reintervention. Panelists include: John H. Calhoon, MD, Leonard N. Girardi, MD, Shaf Keshavjee, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Thomas E. MacGillivray, MD, Joseph F. Sabik III, MD, and Lars G. Svensson, MD, PhD. 

  • #125: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Raja Flores

    February 17, 2022

    In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Raja Flores, from Mount Sinai in New York City (NYC). With generous detail, Dr. Flores describes his “jagged line” to cardiothoracic surgery, while crediting luck and his supportive mom for much of his success. He shares how he “grew up poor” in NYC with neighborhood friends who turned to drugs and often ended up in jail. For Dr. Flores, though, personal experiences during repeated trips to the emergency room as a kid sparked his interest in medicine. He opens up about his passion for improving lung cancer survival—an area that has “a lot of room for improvement.” Dr. Flores explains that 80% of people living in NYC public housing are living with serious health hazards and exposures, but there is no “political activity” to improve the conditions. This reality fueled Dr. Flores’s motivation to launch a run for NYC mayor in 2021. “I wanted to bring awareness and effect change on a greater scale,” he shares. While unsuccessful, his campaign as “a son of New York City and mayor for all people” was organized and run by four medical students. Hear, too, what Dr. Flores says about the cardiothoracic surgery specialty “exploding” in years to come.

    “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.

  • #124: Bronchoscopy: Electromagnetic, Robots, & Ablation

    February 11, 2022

    In this episode of the STS Webinar Series, an international panel of surgeons shares their experiences with electromagnetic and robotic approaches to bronchoscopy, as well as ablation of lung cancers. Topics include: a comparison of two robotic platforms currently available for bronchoscopy, electromagnetic navigation for nodule localization, and the use of bronchoscopic microwave ablation for patients ineligible for stereotactic body radiation therapy. Participants include Hiran C. Fernando, MD (moderator), Douglas J. Minnich, MD (moderator), Calvin S.H. Ng, MD, FRCS(CTh), Janani S. Reisenauer, MD, Benny Weksler, MD, MBA, and Kazuhiro Yasufuku, MD, PhD, FRCSC.