October 6, 2021
5 min read

Sean C. Grondin, MD, MPH, FRCSC

STS News, Fall 2021 — Since assuming the role of STS President, one question that I have been asked frequently is “How is a member chosen for a volunteer STS leadership position?”.

In this article, I would like to provide answers to that question by describing the current selection processes for various STS leadership positions. I also will highlight some of the initiatives being undertaken to review and, where appropriate, amend existing processes for filling leadership roles.

Officers and Board Members

Each year at the annual STS Business Meeting, the Chair of the Nominating Committee presents a slate of Officers and Board members nominated to fill vacant positions for member approval. Upon approval, an STS Officer (e.g., Secretary, Treasurer, Second Vice President) is appointed to a 1-year term; a Director-at-Large is typically appointed for a 3-year term, with eligibility for a 3-year renewal (for a potential total of 6 years).

By way of background, the STS Nominating Committee is composed of the five most recent STS Past Presidents and the current STS President, who serves as an ex-officio, nonvoting member. Through its six members’ diverse experiences and broad knowledge accumulated over many years of STS service and leadership, the Committee is tasked with nominations to the STS Board, as well as the yearly nomination of the STS Treasurer, Secretary, Second Vice President, First Vice President (President-Elect), and President. All Committee members are invested fully in nominating an effective, representative STS leadership team best able to represent our cardiothoracic surgeon community and our patients.

With this as a foundational goal, the Committee takes into consideration many criteria when making nominations for Board and Officer positions such as the relevant leadership experience of nominees within and outside STS in areas such as education, advocacy and governmental affairs, quality, database/registry expertise, and global outreach. In addition, broad expertise in clinical areas relevant to STS such as structural heart, transplant, esophageal and mediastinal surgery, robotics, aortic disease, and thoracic oncology, as well as experience in novel surgical techniques, are considered in the selection process.

While the slate of candidates is prepared by the Nominating Committee based on criteria previously outlined, the nominees also are vetted through the lens of diversity, which includes but is not limited to gender, ethnicity, practice type (private practice vs. academic setting), discipline (cardiac, general thoracic, and congenital), and geography.

Workforce and Committee Members

The selection of individuals for STS leadership roles, including Standing Committee and Workforce members/Chairs and Council Chairs, is voted on each December by the Executive Committee based on a slate developed by the STS First Vice President, with significant input from the STS President, Secretary, and senior STS Staff. Per STS Bylaws, Workforce members are appointed to an initial 3-year term and are eligible for a 3-year renewal. To maintain efficient functionality, most workforces have 10-20 members and typically 1-3 vacant positions are open for appointment each year.

To appoint new Standing Committee or Workforce members, input is sought from the responsible Standing Committee, Workforce, and/or Council Chair(s). Nominations also may be received from STS members at large, as well as through the STS Self-Nomination Process. On average, a total of 25 nominations for consideration are received for each open Standing Committee or Workforce position.

Improve the Appointment Processes

Significant efforts are under way to revisit our internal selection processes to help ensure that we are identifying and utilizing the full array of expertise and experience to provide effective leadership today and in the future.

  1. Presidential Task Force Appointed – A Presidential Task Force led by Drs. Doug Mathisen and Richard Prager and made up of a diverse group of leaders has been created to review the current nomination processes and policies. As well, this group is reviewing the current STS governance structure, including Workforce and Council composition, to ensure appropriate alignment of their respective activities to streamline efficiency, minimize overlap of responsibilities, and improve reporting. Recommendations from this Presidential Task Force are due to be presented to the STS Board in November.
  2. Expanding the candidate pool of cardiothoracic surgeon leaders – STS is reviewing existing resources and developing new STS tools to help identify individuals with specific interests or skills to fill specific leadership roles. For example, creating a list of physicians who self-nominated in the past but were not appointed to a Workforce could potentially serve as a valuable resource for Workforce Chairs in selecting members to populate their respective task forces in the future. Also, the Women in Thoracic Surgery (WTS) “Find an Expert” resource designed to enhance the process of identifying qualified women for STS leadership positions has been proposed and is being reviewed by STS leadership.
  3. Reviewing individual STS surgeon leader involvement and limiting participation where appropriate are very practical ways to enhance the breadth of member participation and expand leadership opportunities. A detailed review of Standing Committee, Workforce, and Task Force membership is under way.
  4. Ensuring the diversity of STS leaders – STS leadership is committed to all forms of diversity as a means of enhancing the organization’s ability to represent the profession more fully. As such, efforts are under way to obtain additional STS membership data on diversity in areas related to underrepresented minorities and gender diversity as part of a process to establish “where we are now” and “where and how we can improve.” Enhancing engagement with stakeholder organizations such as WTS and the Association of Black Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeons, as well as seeking ongoing assistance from the STS Workforce on Diversity and Inclusion to help guide decisions on relevant issues also is being prioritized to help ensure that a variety of viewpoints and experiences are represented.

Through these initiatives, our objective is to evaluate these procedures in a transparent manner with a goal towards improving our longstanding approach of selecting STS leaders. We recognize that organizations should reflect not only the current membership but also the future membership, and that proportional representation of groups does not automatically infer equitable representation.

STS is very thankful for the members who have served and are currently dedicating their valuable time and expertise as volunteer leaders to support our activities.

Being an active member and volunteer leader of STS has been among the most rewarding aspects of my professional life. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in exploring STS leadership opportunities to use the self-nomination process or seek mentorship from an STS leader in your area of interest or expertise.