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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  • #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.

  • #77: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. David Tom Cooke

    December 11, 2020

    In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. David Tom Cooke from UC Davis Health. Listeners will learn that Dr. Cooke grew up in Oakland, California, with parents who were both educators. So how then did he decide on a career in medicine? A health scare that his mom experienced and an episode of "The Six Million Dollar Man" both inspired young David. “Ever since then, I knew I wanted to be a surgeon.” Dr. Cooke also shares valuable leadership advice, explaining that any good leader must be “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” For Dr. Cooke, that sometimes means being the only person in the room who looks like him or caring for patients who think he is an “orderly” and not the surgeon. Hear what he says about these situations and how he handles them. “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.

  • #76: STS COVID Series—Next Steps in Eradicating COVID-19: Emerging Treatments and Vaccines

    December 11, 2020

    In this episode of the STS COVID webinar series, Joseph A. Dearani, MD, Melanie A. Edwards, MD, and a panel of infectious disease experts from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Mayo Clinic, and The University of Texas address the latest developments in the fight against COVID-19. Topics include monoclonal antibody treatment, FDA approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, ethical and equitable vaccine deployment, and strategies to combat vaccine resistance. Panelists include Andrew D. Badley, MD, Deborah L. Birx, MD, and Trish M. Perl, MD, MSc. 

  • #75: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Leah Backhus

    November 27, 2020

    In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews STS Director-at-Large Dr. Leah Backhus from Stanford Health Care. Listeners will learn how positive labels “slapped on” Dr. Backhus at a young age help buoy her throughout her journey, but she cautions that such labels can be good and bad and explains why. Dr. Backhus also shares that after an “unwelcoming reception” into neurosurgery, she chose a career in cardiothoracic surgery. This experience helped her realize that mentors “do not have to look like you, they just need to get you.” “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.

    Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.

  • #74: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Doug Mathisen

    November 13, 2020

    In this episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Doug Mathisen, STS Historian and Past President. Listeners will discover fascinating personal details about this surgeon leader, including how playing sports helped him learn important teamwork and leadership skills that later translated into his career as a surgeon. Dr. Mathisen compares the surgical locker room to an athletic locker room, saying that it has the “same sort of camaraderie” and everyone works hard to not let down their “teammates.” He also shares that one of the greatest thrills of his life was meeting professional boxer Muhammad Ali, who has always been his favorite athlete. “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.

    Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.

  • #73: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Joanna Chikwe

    October 30, 2020

    In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Joanna Chikwe, chair of the Cardiac Surgery Department in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. Listeners will learn that Dr. Chikwe grew up in Birmingham, England, with a Nigerian father who “came to Britain with coins in his pocket and a lot of ambition” and a Welsh mother from a coal mining town. After high school, Dr. Chikwe spent 2 years studying art in Italy. This experience helped her realize that art was “always going to be a great hobby,” but medicine was her lifetime passion. “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.

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

    Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.

  • #72: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Richard Prager

    October 16, 2020

    In this episode, Dr. David Tom Cooke interviews Dr. Richard Prager, STS Past President and director of the Frankel Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan. Listeners will learn that Dr. Prager was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and as a young boy, longed to be just like Jackie Robinson. His career aspirations shifted after the experience of joining his physician father on house calls and carrying the “big leather doctor bag” and portable EKG machine, as well as a summer hospital job washing walls and cleaning patients’ rooms. Dr. Prager shares that he chose cardiothoracic surgery “because it was the hardest thing I could think of to do.” “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.

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

    Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.

  • #71: STS Summer Series—Surgical Specialties at Risk: How Medicare Cuts to Surgery Will Affect You and Your Patients

    October 7, 2020

    In this episode of the STS Summer Series, Keith S. Naunheim, MD, and a panel of experts in health policy, advocacy, and public relations discuss the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plans to cut reimbursement for cardiothoracic surgeons and its likely negative effect on patients. The panel reviews a short history of Medicare reimbursement rates and shares the advocacy efforts underway to prevent these cuts, including opportunities for STS members to get involved in grassroots efforts. Panelists include: Francis C. Nichols III, MD, Alan M. Speir, MD, Liz Dahan, MA, MBA, and Noah Kristula-Green.