Executive Director's Column: First Impressions of an Impressive Specialty

Elaine Weiss, JD
CEO/Executive Director

STS News, Summer 2019 — For most people, April 15 means IRS (tax day). For me, April 15 meant STS (first day on the job as Executive Director).

Paying my taxes can be painful; joining STS has been joyful.

For more than 25 years, I’ve worked on health care issues and/or been in the professional association management world. Combining my passion for both into one STS executive director position has been energizing, exhilarating, and only occasionally exhausting.

Today more than ever, navigating the changing health care landscape while simultaneously ensuring that STS membership value remains strong, represents a significant challenge.

Luckily, I savor a good challenge. And, as it turns out, STS produces a wealth of products, programs, and services that constitute a strong arsenal of tools to tackle the multiple issues that cardiothoracic surgeons face such as:

  • A daunting array of regulatory and reimbursement complexities
  • Rapidly emerging techniques and technologies
  • Evolving workplace and employment arrangements
  • Persistent legal liability pressures and increased media scrutiny
  • Greater emphasis on patient safety and quality improvement
  • Increases in both physician burnout and retirements
  • Maintaining a robust pipeline of diverse and talented young physicians

The professional challenges are clear. But in times of great challenge, the big question is whether STS is up to the task of facing these challenges and delivering for its members.

No surprise; I believe my response is that STS is perfectly poised to tackle the challenges of today and take on the issues of tomorrow.

First, STS physician leaders represent the titans of the specialty. The quality of our education through live programs, webinars, and podcasts involves cutting-edge issues and top-line experts. The clinical practice guidelines we develop, position statements we articulate, and mentoring we provide to the newest members of the specialty are powerful initiatives led by impressive professionals.

Our visibility in Washington continues to grow as we solidify relationships and interactions with key policy leaders on the Hill, CMS, and the FDA. And when it comes to the RUC—where the entire House of Medicine gathers and establishes the relative value of medical procedures to inform payment decisions—one of our own, cardiothoracic surgeon Peter Smith, leads the entire group.

(If this were the musical Hamilton, RUC meetings would definitely represent “the room where it happens.”)

STS is perfectly poised to tackle the challenges of today and take on the issues of tomorrow.

Nowhere is the STS arsenal more effective in bolstering the profession and its individual members than through the STS National Database. But even a gold standard program can become tarnished if not adequately polished.

So, a rigorous process to deliver the next generation database is under way. This will not be “your father’s database” but our “STS National Database 2.0.” (See page 1.)

Here at STS, we’re fine-tuning our operations, enhancing technology, and reaching out via social media to meet the changing needs of our members.

But at the end of the day, the value of an association for its members still remains the personal interaction with colleagues, mentors, leaders, and future leaders.

In today’s world when virtually everything is virtual, I truly believe that the joy of coming together to interact with professional colleagues who share a passion and pursuit of excellence cannot be replaced.

Artificial intelligence may be the wave of the future for the practice of medicine, but associations and the role they play on behalf of their members remains based in the traditional yet powerful personal connections one makes throughout his or her career. From finding that first job to fine-tuning your skills to mentoring the next big name in the specialty, STS is “the room where it happens.”

So, on April 15 I began my new journey. I’m thrilled to embark on this adventure and help bolster the Society as it serves a specialty that I quickly have come to respect and now proudly represent.

I stand ready to do my part in partnership with our terrific surgeon leaders, led by STS President Robert Higgins. I am excited to work together with my impressive new STS colleagues.

The good news is that April 15 no longer reminds me of the dreaded tax day. It now represents my anniversary with STS. The bad news is that I was so excited to begin my new role that I ended up filing for a tax extension.