January 3, 2019
3 min read

STS News, Winter 2019 -- Despite many years of clinical training, most cardiothoracic surgeons aren’t provided with sufficient education in a key area of career development—optimizing their value to their organizations.

Speakers at the upcoming Practice Management Summit during the STS Annual Meeting in San Diego on Sunday, January 27, will seek to close that knowledge gap, helping attendees understand their value and obtain appropriate compensation.

“We certainly don’t get this education in our training, so we’re ill-prepared when starting our careers,” said Frank L. Fazzalari, MD, MBA, Chair of the Workforce on Practice Management. “The landscape is evolving very quickly, so cardiothoracic surgeons must adapt.”

A major change in the employment environment over the last few years has been the increasing number of surgeons employed by hospitals rather than private practices. During the Summit, attendees will learn how to weigh factors in their local areas when making decisions regarding their employment arrangements.

The US government also has made a number of recent changes that impact reimbursement for cardiothoracic surgical procedures. The Summit will provide an overview of STS efforts to advocate for regulations and programs that fairly compensate surgeons for their work.

Expanding Roles

With a greater push for health care quality over quantity, how do surgeons continue demonstrating their value to the hospital administration?

“The work Relative Value Unit model does not value the presence of a cardiothoracic surgeon on a hospital staff,” said Workforce member Paul S. Levy, MD, MBA. “Compensational value has to be shown in other ways.”

“We certainly don’t get this education in our training, so we’re ill-prepared when starting our careers.”

Frank L. Fazzalari, MD, MBA

One option is to take a more active role in hospital administration—a path that is especially suitable for surgeons, given their leadership in the operating room. Of course, that means knowing how to negotiate a contract with suitable compensation for these efforts.

“Surgeons may not have a lot of experience with contract negotiation,” Dr. Fazzalari said. “It can be difficult to know whether you should accept what you’re offered or walk away.”

Attendees will hear from a health care attorney on the potential landmines to avoid and important components to address.

Answering the Tough Questions

An important component to this Summit is giving surgeons an opportunity to ask the questions that they may not feel comfortable asking in the workplace, including questions about salary.

“We’ll provide hard numbers regarding what you can expect in compensation,” said Dr. Levy. “We’ll also share what employers look for when recruiting. The Summit will help you best position yourself for success.”

View the full agenda for the Summit in the Program, Registration, and Housing brochure at sts.org/annualmeeting.

Get Tips on Excelling Early in Your Career

A new Annual Meeting session on Monday, January 28, will focus specifically on career advice for cardiothoracic surgeons in their first 7 years of practice. Speakers will explain how to balance clinical and research responsibilities, establish a strong mentor-mentee relationship, and connect with colleagues and patients on social media.

The session also will feature ample time for group discussion on hot-button issues facing early career surgeons, including dealing with a difficult job, what to do when you’re in over your head, and developing a niche.

“This is often a critical time in one’s career, and it can be difficult to access information on navigating challenges outside of the operating room,” said Vinay Badhwar, MD, Chair of the Workforce on Career Development. “We’ll answer all burning questions, no matter how simple or complex.”

See page 12 for information on registering for the Annual Meeting.