Annual Meeting Prepares Surgeons to Stay Relevant in Evolving Practice Environment

STS News, Fall 2019 — As the practice of cardiothoracic surgery rapidly changes, so do the focus, content, and educational strategies for the STS Annual Meeting.

"The STS meeting routinely provides the largest collection of cardiothoracic surgical translational science of any meeting worldwide," said David Tom Cooke, MD, chair of the STS Workforce on Annual Meeting. "That means we are able to take what’s hot off the presses with regard to evidence-based information and learn how to rapidly apply that to our own clinical practices for the benefit of our patients and our communities."

Annual Meeting program planners considered nearly 1,000 scientific abstracts for presentation in New Orleans.

Annual Meeting program planners, including Dr. Cooke and Program Task Force Vice Chair Jennifer S. Lawton, MD, met in September at the Society’s Chicago Headquarters, choosing scientific abstracts for presentation and helping to ensure that the educational program covers all facets of the specialty, as well as maximizes use of technology and interactive learning. 

Vibrant Location

The meeting will take place Saturday through Tuesday, January 25-28, in New Orleans, Louisiana. STS last held its Annual Meeting in "The Big Easy" in 2001; the Society was supposed to return in 2006, but plans changed after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city and the meeting moved to Chicago.

"New Orleans is a fantastic city that’s recovered from devastating circumstances and is now vibrant and exciting," said STS President Robert S.D. Higgins, MD, MSHA. "We’ll be there during the Mardi Gras season, and I invite everyone to come and take advantage of all the city has to offer."

Hot Topics and Trends

In terms of educational content, an emphasis will be placed on information designed to help surgeons stay relevant, such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) in low-risk patients, building a thoracic robotics program, artificial intelligence/machine learning approaches for risk prediction, and training residents today so that they can thrive in 2030. 

No matter their area of practice, attendees will find plenty of innovative research, thought-provoking lectures, pro/con debates, hands-on activities, and how-to videos.

In addition to TAVR, adult cardiac surgeons can expect discussions on high-risk donors (such as those with hepatitis C), infective endocarditis, failure to rescue, and more.

"In the structural heart space, we’re seeing more innovation and interest in the area of catheter-based mitral valve therapies," said Wilson Y. Szeto, MD, chair of the STS Council on Meetings and Education. "In the field of thoracic aortic surgery, innovative technology, including branched endografts—both in the aortic arch and thoracoabdominal aorta—are going to be highlighted."

"Science, education, research, mentorship, and networking all come together at the STS Annual Meeting."

Robert S.D. Higgins, MD, MSHA

Attendees also won’t want to miss the ischemic session on Monday, January 27. After an abstract presentation on how surgical experience impacts operative mortality following reoperative cardiac surgery, two cardiothoracic surgeons will debate whether a surgeon’s age matters when it comes to patient outcomes.

Planners for the general thoracic sessions have made an effort to include more esophageal content in the program based on feedback from attendees. Sessions on managing esophageal surgery complications and esophageal cancer will feature invited lectures and case presentations, while an abstract-based session will look at en-bloc esophagectomy, robotic-assisted giant paraesophageal hernia repair, and more.

Additional general thoracic sessions include lung transplantation, disparities in lung cancer treatment, and research utilizing large outcomes databases.

(From left) Carl L. Backer, MD, and Jonathan M. Chen, MD, chose abstracts for presentation at the congenital heart surgery sessions.

Hot topics for congenital heart surgeons include lymphatic intervention after congenital heart surgery and fetal cardiac intervention. Similar to the adult cardiac surgery abstracts, more congenital abstracts are looking at transcatheter interventions.

"With broader transcatheter indications, TAVR technology is now more applicable to our adult congenital patients," said Jonathan M. Chen, MD, a member of the Program Task Force.

The program also will feature several sessions focusing on critical care, enhanced recovery after surgery, and the multidisciplinary team—ensuring that everyone who plays a role in patient care will find relevant content.

New Keynote Lecture and Symposium

The Society is introducing a new named lecture in honor of Vivien T. Thomas, the surgical technician who worked with Alfred Blalock, MD, and pioneered the anastomosis of the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery, among other accomplishments.

"We’re proud to recognize a person of color who was not a physician, but who was responsible for training young surgeons to be great technicians," Dr. Higgins said. "Vivien Thomas helped get our field off the ground in the late 1940s, and his contributions went unrecognized for many years. We now have an opportunity to do so at a national forum."

The first Vivien T. Thomas Lecture will be given on Sunday by Clyde W. Yancy, MD, vice dean for diversity and inclusion and chief of the Division of Cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He also is a past president of the American Heart Association. This lecture will complement the Ferguson Lecture on Monday and the Lillehei Lecture on Tuesday.

In addition, a new Vivien T. Thomas Symposium will explore the importance of a diverse workforce and pipeline programs to support workforce diversity, discuss available resources for promoting diversity and inclusion at one’s institution, and identify strategies for mitigating unconscious bias.

Important Database Updates

The Annual Meeting also will feature the latest information on the next generation STS National Database. With the new dashboards scheduled for release in early January (see page 1), Database participants will be able to try out the improved tools before the Annual Meeting begins. An overview of how to best utilize the new functionality will be provided at Monday’s plenary session.

And during a 2-hour session on Sunday, speakers will discuss how their institutions utilize the Database, the impact of the Database in reimbursement and regulatory affairs, how public reporting is evolving to meet the needs of patients and providers, and more. 

"Science, education, research, mentorship, and networking all come together at the STS Annual Meeting," Dr. Higgins said. "I’m looking forward to it and hope that all members of the surgical team can join us."

STS U and Tech-Con Held on Saturday

The Annual Meeting program has been reorganized so that STS University and Tech-Con take place on Saturday, January 25—without any other competing meeting programming. Both are ticketed events with additional fees.

STS University: Choose from among 10 exciting, hands-on courses offered twice on Saturday morning. Options include a new course on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation cannulation, as well as sessions on percutaneous transseptal access for mitral valve repair and replacement, transcatheter aortic valve replacement, and robotic lobectomy. 

Tech-Con: Tech-Con—now offering the option to earn CME—will focus on innovative techniques and novel approaches to treating vexing clinical problems. New to the Tech-Con program are Lunch and Learn sessions for both adult cardiac and general thoracic surgery, during which industry experts and surgeon moderators will share information on the latest available and upcoming technology.

Register Early and Save

Registration is online only at You have until November 19, 2019, to register for the Annual Meeting at early bird rates—don’t miss this opportunity to save! Your registration fee includes:

  • Access to more than 70 educational sessions showcasing the latest research and techniques in cardiothoracic surgery
  • Entrance to the STS Exhibit Hall, where you can learn about the newest products and services available
  • The opportunity to earn continuing medical education (CME) or perfusion credit
  • Complimentary access to Annual Meeting Online, a web-based video presentation of most Annual Meeting sessions that will allow you to earn additional CME credit 

Please note that STS members are not automatically registered for the meeting. If you have questions, contact Experient at 800-424-5249 (toll free), 00-1-847-996-5829 (international callers), or