Executive Director's Column: On the Move

Robert A. Wynbrandt, Executive Director & General Counsel

STS News, Winter 2018 -- And now for a change of pace. Regular readers of this space know that I typically devote its Winter edition version to an STS year in review/sneak peek at the year ahead from the staff’s perspective. Since Rich Prager has done such a great job referencing 2017 STS highlights and achievements, however, I’m going to take this opportunity to adjust the rearview mirror and look all the way back to 2002, a milestone year for the Society. This was the year when STS radically modified its Bylaws and its governance structure; when STS hired its very first employees; and the last time that STS moved its headquarters office—from 401 N. Michigan Ave. to 633 N. Saint Clair St. (the American College of Surgeons Building) in Chicago.

As we all transition from 2017 to 2018, the STS staff is also readying itself for a different kind of transition: the Society’s first headquarters move since 2002. As of this writing, we are on schedule to relocate to our new office space over the Presidents’ Day weekend in February. And while this headquarters relocation is only an elevator ride (or two flights of stairs) away, from the 23rd floor to the 21st floor, we may as well be moving to Cleveland.

This mega-project began with a recognition back in 2015 that the April 2018 expiration of our current lease would be coinciding with a time when our present office design would soon be stretched to the limit if the Society’s growth trajectory were to continue. And so began a journey that included the retention of real estate brokers at CBRE, office visits throughout Chicago, the retention of architects from GREC so that “test fits” could be performed with respect to competing locations, the critical assessment of economic and other considerations by senior management and ultimately the STS Board of Directors, the negotiation of a new lease with the College (once the Board concluded that “there’s no place like home”), the retention of contractors, the current demolition and construction project on 21 (the noise from which has made STS the darling of the building with ACS staff and other tenants, including the Hyatt hotel and its guests), and a massive document purging and digitization project now in gear (see my personal dumpster in the accompanying photo), etc., etc., etc.

There is much to look forward to in the new STS headquarters space on 21: a redesigned configuration that should accommodate further growth over an 11-year lease term, while retaining an open and spacious feel within identical square footage; efficiently designed work space that promotes employee health and collaboration; and an attractive, more colorful décor with enhanced STS branding.

STS First Vice President Keith Naunheim maintains a set of slides that illustrate the enormous increase in the population of health care administrators—as distinct from cardiothoracic surgeons and other physicians—over the past few decades, and I always get a little squeamish when he trots them out in light of the significant growth in the size of the STS staff since that last office move in 2002; the last thing that any of us want is the image of the Society’s staff as a bloated bureaucracy. I then remind myself that the number of STS employees has grown steadily over the course of the past 15+ years, from 9.5 to a budgeted 76 in 2018, solely as a function of the organization’s track record of successfully fulfilling its corporate mission: to “enhance the ability of cardiothoracic surgeons to provide the highest quality patient care through education, research and advocacy.” It is this level of success that has allowed us, among other things, to maintain annual membership dues at 2002 levels while the dues of other medical specialty organizations have skyrocketed.

And so, as Keith prepares to succeed Rich at the helm in the year ahead, I will resist the temptation to feel guilty about those slides and the STS staff growth that has prompted our forthcoming headquarters move. Instead, on behalf of the entire STS staff that works hard every day to fulfill that STS mission, I will express our gratitude for a terrific organization that employs us, our personal pride in its enormous achievements, and our best wishes to you and your families for good health and happiness throughout the year ahead. We look forward to seeing you in Fort Lauderdale at what promises to be a special 54th Annual Meeting, and also to welcoming you to your new headquarters space soon thereafter.