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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  • #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.

  • #70: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Robert Higgins

    October 2, 2020

    In this inaugural episode, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Robert Higgins, STS Past President and surgeon-in-chief at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Listeners will discover that Dr. Higgins was just 5 years old when he lost his father—who was an African American general practitioner in the segregated South during the 1960s—in a tragic accident. Together, his mother and grandparents raised three “crazy, hell-raising boys,” sacrificing extraordinary things to afford them the best educational opportunities and encouraging them to always “excel in everything” they did. Dr. Higgins shares advice from his mother that he has never forgotten: “keep on keeping on”—a reminder that challenges in life should be embraced as “opportunities to persevere and show grit.”  “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.

  • #69: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Series Introduction

    October 2, 2020

    “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a new program from the Society designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks. Drs. David Cooke and Tom Varghese—both cardiothoracic surgeons themselves—will uncover the obstacles, triumphs, tradeoffs, and pivotal moments that have shaped their guests’ careers and personal missions. Episodes will feature the backstories of cardiothoracic surgeons from different backgrounds and in various career stages. These leaders and rising stars offer powerful, candid stories that are funny and fascinating, as well as heartbreaking and inspiring. 

    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.

  • #68: STS Summer Series: Controversial Cases in Mitral Disease–Surgical and Transcatheter Treatments

    September 25, 2020

    In this episode of the STS Summer Series, Gorav Ailawadi, MD, MBA, Tsuyoshi Kaneko, MD, and an expert panel debate the merits of surgical versus transcatheter treatments and review challenging mitral valve cases such as degenerative mitral regurgitation, mitral annular calcification, functional mitral valve regurgitation, and failed bioprosthetic mitral valve. Panelists include Vinay Badhwar, MD, Mayra Guerrero, MD, Robert L. Smith II, MD, Paul Sorajja, MD, Gilbert H. Tang, MD, MSc, MBA, and Dee Dee Wang, MD.

  • #67: STS Summer Series: Addressing the Cardiac Surgery Opioid Crisis

    August 28, 2020

    In this episode of the STS Summer Series, Rakesh C. Arora, MD, PhD, and Michael C. Grant, MD, MSE, moderate a panel of experts in Addressing the Cardiac Surgery Opioid Crisis. Two short presentations – Why Is This Even an Issue? by Daniel T. Engelman, MD, and Now What Do I Do? by Michael C. Grant, MD, MSE – explore the role of cardiac surgery as a contributor to the opioid epidemic. Then, the panel discusses alternative interventions for pain management and strategies to minimize opioid use in perioperative management of patients (both adult and pediatric) under cardiac surgical care. Panelists include: Daniel T. Engelman, MD, Michael S. Firstenberg, MD, Rita Karianna Milewski, MD, PhD, MSEd, and Nathalie Roy, MD.

  • #66: STS Summer Series: Pulmonary Metastasectomy

    July 31, 2020

    In this episode of the STS Summer Series, Bernard J. Park, MD, and Dirk E.M. Van Raemdonck, MD, PhD, moderate a multidisciplinary panel of experts in a discussion about Pulmonary Metastasectomy. The moderators begin by reviewing an STS Expert Consensus Document on Pulmonary Metastasectomy, published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. The panelists discuss the efficacy of local treatment vs. systemic therapy for metastases. Panelists include: Mara B. Antonoff, MD, Frank C. Detterbeck, MD, Michael Lanuti, MD, Andreas Rimner, MD, and Stephen B. Solomon, MD.