Fellowship Aims to Advance Women Surgeons

STS News, Winter 2020 — Through its charitable arm, The Thoracic Surgery Foundation (TSF), the Society  provides awards that enable cardiothoracic surgeons to become better clinicians and researchers. Several of these awards are named in honor of cardiothoracic surgery leaders whose accomplishments significantly improved patient care.

One such honoree is Carolyn E. Reed, MD, who became the first woman to serve as STS treasurer, chair of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and president of the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association. She died in 2012 and was posthumously elected as STS's first female president.

In 2013, TSF and Women in Thoracic Surgery jointly established the Carolyn E. Reed Traveling Fellowship. The award provides female cardiothoracic surgeons or residents with up to $10,000 for visiting another institution and learning a new skill or technology.

A dozen Reed fellowships have since been awarded, and recipients have traveled throughout the world to study esophageal disease, pectus excavatum, and more.

During her fellowship, Monisha Sudarshan, MD, MPH, FRCSC, received a tour of the Nobel house on the Karolinska Institute campus.

Esophageal Disease Research

2019 fellowship recipient Monisha Sudarshan, MD, MPH, FRCSC, a thoracic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, spent 3 weeks at the Karolinska Institute’s Esophageal Disease Research Center in Stockholm, Sweden. She applied for the Reed fellowship with the goal of developing the skills necessary to assemble her own clinical epidemiology research group and conduct population health studies on esophageal disease.

While at the Karolinska Institute, Dr. Sudarshan worked with Jesper Lagergren, MD, PhD, who leads the Center, to assess her research ideas and strengthen her methodology. Dr. Sudarshan learned about assembling the right group of people, securing funding, writing successful research grants, the limitations of population studies, and developing a strong focus for her research group.

She also attended a database management course that provided tips on how to be an organized researcher, including how to effectively structure a database, minimize errors, and save time.

“I learned not only how to conduct a productive research team, but also formed opportunities for collaboration in the future,” Dr. Sudarshan said. “This experience will enable me to increase my productivity and impact as a surgeon-scientist in esophageal disease.”

"This experience will enable me to increase my productivity and impact as a surgeon-scientist in esophageal disease."

Monisha Sudarshan, MD, MPH, FRCSC

Pectus Excavatum Repair

Another 2019 fellowship recipient, Crystal J. Erickson, MD, spent a week training with Dawn Jaroszewski, MD, MBA, in pectus excavatum repair at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.

“During my first 2 years of practice, I have seen a fair number of adult patients with pectus excavatum,” said Dr. Erickson, who is a cardiothoracic surgeon at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “There is no one in my local community outside my own group who performs pectus repair in this patient population, so while I had some familiarity with this procedure from my fellowship training, I wanted to maximize my exposure of the entire evaluation and treatment process.”

Fellowship recipient Crystal J. Erickson, MD (left center), with mentor Dawn Jaroszewski, MD, MBA (far left), and two fellow observing surgeons

She spent 2 days in the OR observing pectus cases, including Nuss bar removal, bar placement, and redo pectus repair, and then attended an educational course focusing on the Nuss procedure.

Dr. Erickson said the lessons learned during her Reed fellowship have already proved valuable for her practice.

“I’ve incorporated several of Dr. Jaroszewski’s techniques, including sternal elevation, bar sizing and bending, and bar stabilization,” she added.

Drs. Sudarshan and Erickson both encouraged their fellow women surgeons to apply for the Reed fellowship and advance their careers.

“The Reed award is an incredible opportunity to learn a new skill, meet a leader in cardiothoracic surgery, and spend meaningful time immersed in another environment to further one’s academic and clinical career path,” Dr. Sudarshan said.

Learn more about what TSF does and how you can donate at thoracicsurgeryfoundation.org.