Cardiothoracic surgeons are wise to pay attention to their public images.
Medical specialties and their national societies also have to be mindful of their images. A negative image of a specialty impacts the interests of prospective trainees (i.e., the lifeblood of a profession), how its health policy positions are perceived by legislators and regulators, and most importantly how they are viewed by patients and prospective patients—the ultimate consumers of their services. Lest we forget, it was also not that long ago when the image of cardiothoracic surgery was not so rosy (see declining numbers of residency applications, William Hurt in “The Doctor,” etc.).
In furtherance of its image, not to mention its organizational mission for which “the highest quality patient care” is the endgame, the Society recently began to address a number of broad social issues that have significance for the well-being of the specialty. STS action in three such arenas started with important member surveys: on diversity and inclusion, on opioid use in cardiothoracic surgical procedures (see page 2), and on gender bias and sexual harassment. While some of our members might deem such issues as counterintuitive—or even inappropriate—for focus by an organization such as ours, STS is not alone among national medical specialty societies in taking an active interest in these topics; a specialty society that is sensitive to cultural norms and alert to its own culture serves its public image, reflects well on its members, and is emblematic of the STS core value of professionalism. To that end, this column is both a thank you note to those who have participated in these surveys and a plea for the time and attention of all our readers for participation in our future surveys of this nature. You will be hearing much more on all of these fronts.
One final comment about image that you’re likely to hear consistently from public relations professionals: the image that one seeks to cultivate must be authentic or it will lack credibility. Thus, astute readers of this space will note that the photographic image accompanying this column no longer reflects the 40-something-year-old me, but rather the 60-something-year-old me, thanks largely to the public shaming to which I was subjected by then-First Vice President Keith Naunheim prior to our 2018 Annual Meeting. This updated headshot is provided to enhance my own credibility (“if he’s misleading us about what he looks like, who knows if he’s otherwise misleading us?”) and as a commercial for a terrific innovation introduced by STS Director of Marketing and Communications Natalie Boden on the exhibition floor in Fort Lauderdale. If you did not take advantage of this free opportunity at our 2018 Annual Meeting, please be assured that we will repeat it next year in San Diego; I encourage you to stop by. In fact, you can consider your free headshot an STS return on your membership investment, to the benefit of your image.