President's Column: Embracing International Collaboration

Sean C. Grondin, MD, MPH, FRCSC

STS News, Winter 2022 — The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has a longstanding history of impactful interactions and collaborations with surgeons and associations based outside North America. These partnerships include, but are not limited to, providing global leadership in cardiothoracic surgery education, research, and quality initiatives.

As a means of recognizing and enhancing these partnerships, the STS Board currently includes a Canadian Director (Dr. Marc Ruel), as well as two international Directors (Drs. Alan Sihoe and Rafa Sádaba). These Board members provide invaluable perspectives that help guide STS in developing educational curricula and directing patient care initiatives. Expanding collaborative activities with our international colleagues and associations has been a key priority in 2021, leading to consideration of adding a third International Director position to the STS Board in 2022.

Great examples of STS efforts to expand global educational relationships come from the STS Workforce on International Meetings (chaired by Dr. Wilson Szeto). Populated by surgeon leaders with diverse international backgrounds, this Workforce has provided exemplary leadership in developing cardiothoracic surgery educational content addressing the specific needs of surgeons, trainees, and allied health professionals around the globe.

The following is a brief overview of several important activities currently occurring in conjunction with our valued international partner organizations.

Europe

The European Society of Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons (EACTS) and STS share a commitment to professional excellence in the field of cardiothoracic surgery.

This joint commitment to cardiothoracic surgeons, allied health professionals, and patients, led STS and EACTS to forge a 5-year strategic partnership in 2019. The agreement seeks to provide joint innovative educational programming during both organization’s annual meetings, as well as participation by STS in the inaugural EACTS Aortic Forum that was held in Bologna, Italy, during November 2021. In addition, the two organizations also are exploring collaboration on quality initiatives involving outcomes registry coordination and/or variable harmonization.

STS and the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons (ESTS) also have exchanged programs at their respective annual meetings for several years. These well-attended sessions have led to stimulating discussions on patient care. Future meetings with ESTS leadership are planned to expand our collaborations in other areas such as online teaching.

Asia

We highly value our collaborations with Asian cardiothoracic surgery organizations such as the Asian Society for Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery (ASCTVS). Participation in our respective meetings has been strong, with co-sponsored programs planned for the STS Annual Meeting in Miami Beach and the ASCVTS Annual Meeting in Nara, Japan.

In the fall of 2021, a virtual meeting cosponsored by STS and Chinese cardiothoracic surgery associations was hugely successful, with additional webinars and meetings planned for 2022.

Latin America

Through the STS leadership of Drs. Joe Bavaria and Vinod Thourani and EACTS representatives, successful Latin America Cardiovascular Conferences were held annually from 2017-2020. Due to COVID concerns, the 2020 meeting was postponed and subsequently shifted to a free virtual meeting in 2021, which was highly regarded and involved 459 participants from 63 countries. The organizing team looks forward to presenting an in-person meeting in late 2022.

The in-person 2020 STS/EACTS/ESTS Latin America General Thoracic Surgery Conference also was postponed due to COVID. Despite this minor setback, the desire to collaborate remained strong, resulting in a highly attended virtual Latin America Thoracic Surgery Symposium this past November, attracting 452 attendees from 71 countries.

Africa

Along with the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, ASCVTS, EACTS, and the World Heart Federation, STS was a founding member of the Cardiac Surgery Intersociety Alliance (CSIA), which was established as a result of the 2018 Cape Town Declaration. The Declaration called for significantly expanding access to rheumatic heart disease treatment in developing countries. CSIA has identified two pilot sites in Africa that it hopes to nurture into sustainable programs where underserved patients can receive surgical therapies for rheumatic heart disease.

Canada

Interactions between STS and the two cardiothoracic organizations in Canada, the Canadian Association of Thoracic Surgeons (CATS) and Canadian Society of Cardiac Surgeons (CSCS) continue to grow.

The three organizations have exchanged distinguished speakers at their respective society meetings and have co-sponsored traveling fellowships for both attending staff and trainees. CATS also has been working with STS to harmonize variables in their respective outcomes databases and further expand the power of these registries to improve patient care.

Furthermore, efforts by STS leaders and major cardiothoracic surgery centers in Canada seek to expand the footprint of the STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database in Canada. These ongoing collaborations will remain strong under the current leadership of these organizations, with additional collaborations on the way such as the STS Coronary Congress, which is planned to take place in Ottawa in the spring of 2022.

Summary

In alignment with one of the key priorities in the STS Strategic Plan, expanding educational and research/quality collaborations with our valued international surgical colleagues has been an ongoing Society emphasis. I invite you to look out for future co-sponsored meetings, joint webinars, and shared programming at association meetings, as well as collaborations that involve the writing of clinical practice guidelines, expert consensus documents, and editorials.

I also invite you to join me and our colleagues from around the world at the STS Annual Meeting, January 29-31, in Miami Beach, Florida (see page 12). I look forward to this opportunity to be together again, sharing our global experiences, interactions, and perspectives; I hope you do, too.

It has been a pleasure serving you as STS President.