Career Development Blog

The STS Workforce on Career Development endeavors to provide early career cardiothoracic surgeons with the tools they need to succeed in the field. This blog features posts written by Workforce members on topics relating to the specific career needs of STS members in their first 7 years of practice. Additional blog entries will be added regularly, offering new topics and updated information. Contact STS Headquarters if you would like to contribute a blog article or suggest a topic for a future post. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Pro Tips for Every CT Surgeon Searching for that First Job—Part III

By Nahush A. Mokadam, MD | August 10, 2022

It is very likely that you will be presented with a potential contract or term sheet either during or immediately after the second visit.  

Pro Tips for Every CT Surgeon Searching for that First Job—Part II

By Nahush A. Mokadam, MD | August 2, 2022

Let’s face it, virtual interviews are now a part of our lives.  

Pro Tips for Every CT Surgeon Searching for that First Job—Part I

By Nahush A. Mokadam, MD | July 26, 2022

Congratulations, you are nearing the end of your training and now can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Leveraging and Maximizing Leadership Opportunities

By Brian A. Mitzman, MD | June 9, 2022

It’s time. After a marathon of training, you’re a couple years into practice. You finally feel comfortable as a clinical surgeon and each new case no longer gives you palpitations.  

Leading in the Operating Room

By Erin A. Gillaspie, MD, MPH | May 24, 2022

Surgery is an elegant, choreographed dance among anesthesiologists balancing physiology and scrub techs and surgeons seamlessly passing instruments while delicately manipulating tissue to achieve the goals of the surgery. 

‘Sift through the Noise’ and Reach Your Full Leadership Potential

By Melanie A. Edwards, MD | May 3, 2022

Cardiothoracic surgeons are natural leaders, yet rising to one’s full leadership potential requires an intentional approach to the development, and continued refinement of core leadership skills.

How to Integrate DEI as an Early Career Surgeon

By Luis A. Godoy, MD | April 5, 2022

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in medicine is of paramount importance. It is well known that a diverse medical workforce leads to better patient care, outcomes, and trainee education.

Introducing New Technology to an Institution

By Robert M. Van Haren, MD, MsPH | March 2, 2022

Early career surgeons are often in a position to bring new technology to an institution and following these steps can help ensure successful implementation. 

Taking Over for a Senior Partner

By Olugbenga T. Okusanya, MD | February 7, 2022

In the early phases of any career, there may be many challenges, with one of these being taking over a practice for a well-established senior surgeon. 

Good Surgeons, Bad Outcomes: Dealing with Difficult Situations

By Betty C. Tong, MD, MHS, MS | December 21, 2021

“Primum non nocere” or “first, do no harm” is a fundamental principle of the Hippocratic Oath. As thoracic surgeons, we have a unique opportunity to directly benefit patients through our skills and expertise. 

The Train Is at the Station

By Michael Maddaus, MD | October 14, 2021

During residency and at the start of our careers as physicians and surgeons, our natural, and understandable tendency, is on excellence in our care of our patients. It is, as it should be, a top priority. Unfortunately, our mental and physical health often takes a seat in the back of the train of our fast-paced lives, when in fact it should be at the front of the train, in charge.

Advancing Basic/Translational Science through Collaboration

By Joseph D. Phillips, MD | September 29, 2021

With the academic year now in full swing, students, residents and fellows are settling into their new roles and new faculty are taking up their positions. Because this year will be over before we know it, this is a great time to start planning for future research opportunities. For students and residents, research can be a great way to set yourself apart from other applicants searching for residency and fellowship positions. While there are excellent tracks for education, ethics, and outcomes research, I would like to focus on the benefits of basic and translational science.

The Bounce: Overcoming Setbacks in Your Life

By Thomas K. Varghese Jr., MD, MS | September 2, 2021

It’s been more than 500 days since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. We’re watching yet another surge of cases—this time in mostly the unvaccinated—shatter the fragile bed capacities in every health system. There are hints of normalcy and, yet, there are reminders that things will never be the same. This is a blog article about what steps you can take to establish stability in a seemingly uncontrollable situation, with a specific focus on your professional career.

"Ancora Imparo"

By Damien J. LaPar, MD, MSc | June 23, 2021 (Updated August 23, 2021)

“Yet, I am learning.” As cardiothoracic surgeons continuous training is critical to our own personal and professional success. In fact, failure to acquire new knowledge and skills, regardless of surgical experience, is to fail in realizing one’s true potential. 

Building Your Career Portfolio

Academic career development and advancement is a multifaceted and ongoing process for cardiothoracic surgeons. Preparing to seek promotion can be complex, time consuming, and both daunting and exciting. This new article series offers tips and insight on building your career portfolio for Promotion

Part 1: Academic Portfolio
By David D. Odell, MD, MMSc | April 27, 2021

Part 2: Educator’s Portfolio
By Erin A. Gillaspie, MD, MPH | April 27, 2021

Part 3: Clinical Portfolio
By Ibrahim Sultan, MD | May 14, 2021

Part 4: Social Media Portfolio
By Mara B. Antonoff, MD | May 14, 2021

Ergonomics in Surgery – The Athlete in the Operating Room

By Barbara C.S. Hamilton, MD, MAS, Tom C. Nguyen, MD, and Mohammed Dairywala | March 16, 2021
Cardiothoracic surgeons have a lot in common with elite athletes. This article identifies the parallels and addresses how the specialty has been slow to openly talk about the physical suffering that surgeons may endure. To obtain healthy ergonomics, three areas of focus are recommended: body positioning while operating, equipment considerations, and preparation and recovery outside of the operating room.

Personal Financial Wellness for New Attendings

By Olugbenga T. Okusanya, MD  | February 16, 2021
Personal finance is a topic that may be foreign or distressing to many cardiothoracic surgeons, particularly early careerists. Making a plan for your financial wellness as an early career surgeon will ultimately protect your assets, secure your future lifestyle, and relieve stress.

Establishing Clinical Collaboration

By Olugbenga T. Okusanya, MD  | January 4, 2021
The development of clinical collaborations requires patience, teamwork, and commitment, but that the benefits can serve both physicians and patients.

Fertility in Cardiothoracic Surgery

By Melissa M. Levack, MD | December 8, 2020
As more women enter the field of cardiothoracic surgery, many struggle with their desire to have children and the length of their surgical training. 

Getting Involved in Organizational Leadership: Why, When, and How

By Mara B. Antonoff, MD | November 24, 2020
A surgeon’s involvement in national and international medical specialty organizations can provide a community that may be lacking elsewhere, and participating on committees or workforces often leads to future opportunities.

Packing for Leadership Courses: What to Bring & What to Take Away

By Joseph D. Phillips, MD | October 20, 2020
Recognizing that surgeons are naturally called upon to be leaders in increasingly complex, team-based environments, a larger emphasis has been placed on fostering leadership capabilities for the current era at all levels. It is important to remember that leadership skills, like creating an anastomosis, take proper instruction and deliberate practice.

Get Involved, then Show Up and Do the Work

By Douglas E. Wood, MD | September 27, 2020
Over the years I’ve been asked many times, “Why should I get involved in STS?” Ironically, I have just as frequently been asked, “How can I get more involved in STS?”

Essential Elements of an Ideal Job

By Betty C. Tong, MD, MHS, MS | August 18, 2020
With the new academic year fully in progress, those of you in your final year of training are undoubtedly considering life beyond residency or fellowship. In addition to the busy demands of day-to-day life, you will have the added excitement and challenges of finding your first “real” job. In broad strokes, considering the four Ps may help you identify and determine your ideal job.

Developing Clinical Research through Collaboration

By Robert M. Van Haren, MD, MsPH | June 22, 2020
Cardiothoracic surgeons are used to leading and working in teams; conducting clinical research requires the same collaborative effort. Dr. Robert Van Haren outlines how obtaining access to essential resources, organizing the right team, and finding good help are key in order to produce successful clinical research.

The Pandemic's Byproduct: Work-Life Integration at Last

By Mara B. Antonoff, MD | May 20, 2020
Social distancing measures like working from home and virtual meetings have effectively mitigated the spread of #COVID19, but have also transformed how most surgeons conduct clinical, academic, and administrative responsibilities. Let’s not forget the lessons learned in this time. We have the technology, we have the Zoom links, let’s not delete them. We have achieved, at last, work-life integration. Let’s keep it for good.

Transitioning to the OR at Your New Institution

By Brian Mitzman, MD | May 18, 2020
Becoming an attending is an exciting step in a surgeon’s career, but adapting to the new role and setting can be challenging. This blog article offers advice and insight to trainees on the importance of developing a positive reputation, navigating internal politics, and the reality of self-doubt.  

How Leaders Make Decisions During Times of Crisis

By Thomas K. Varghese Jr., MD, MS | April 24, 2020
There comes a time in every leader’s job where a crisis emerges. In health care, when a crisis occurs, lives are at stake. But how does a leader make decisions? Even better, how does a leader make the right decisions in a world with constantly changing information and where the decisions often need to be made with incomplete information? The goal of this article is to detail some important steps in the decision-making process, with the current pandemic as a backdrop. The lessons learned, however, are applicable to any crisis situation, with the hope that we may remember them in the post-COVID-19 world.

Staying Grounded During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Erin A. Gillaspie, MD, Gabriel Loor, MD, and Mara B. Antonoff, MD | March 27, 2020
The new decade is off to a dramatic start. Across the globe, Australia was devastated by wildfires, and hitting us much closer to home, Nashville was simultaneously struck by four tornadoes, and Utah was shaken by earthquakes. Now we are faced with an invisible foe—COVID-19—which may have seemed far away to many of us at the time of the STS Annual Meeting in January, but now has turned into a worldwide pandemic.

Resilience and Overcoming Adversity

By Melanie A. Edwards, MD | December 17, 2019
Resilience is defined by Merriam Webster as both “the capacity of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress” and “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” On the surface, cardiothoracic surgeons are the embodiments of resilience. 

Transitioning into Practice: A Letter from Someone Still on the Other Side

By Clauden Louis, MD | November 1, 2019
Congratulations on becoming a credentialed cardiothoracic surgeon. I hope that you continue to find meaning in your work. You have and will continue to serve not only as an inspiration, but also as a bridge for trainees (like me) to the world of cardiothoracic surgery. 

The Lifelong Student

By Erin A. Gillaspie, MD, MPH | September 23, 2019
As surgeons, the number of years we accumulate for education and training adds up very quickly and makes up a large portion of our lives. Between undergrad, medical school, general surgery residency, and fellowship, I—like most of my colleagues—was in my 30s by the time I was applying for my first job out of training. 

Holding the Course or Moving on from Your First Job

By Gabriel Loor, MD | July 23, 2019
Starting your first job as a cardiothoracic surgeon is exhilarating. Yet only 60% of graduates report being satisfied with their first job and more than 70% leave their first jobs within 5 years. This blog post addresses potential reasons for job changes, the value of persevering before leaving too soon, and the benefits of moving on when it’s time. 

Scholarly Work in an Ever-Changing World

By Thomas K. Varghese Jr., MD, MS | May 5, 2019
Publish or perish;We’ve heard these words throughout our careers: If there is no record or proof your work has impact, does it matter? In this blog post, we’ll take a brief journey through the peer-review process and the changing dynamics of the academic world, as well as examine the variety of metrics for your scholarly work.

How Busy Surgeons Can Achieve Work-Life Integration

By Mara B. Antonoff, MD | January 23, 2019
For newly practicing cardiothoracic surgeons, concerns about work-life balance typically do not surface immediately; after all, most surgeons find that a faculty position brings greater time away from the hospital and more control of one’s schedule than what might have been experienced during training. 

Negotiating Your Second Contract: Know Your Worth

By V. Seenu Reddy, MD, MBA | December 14, 2018
Cardiothoracic surgeons change jobs for a variety of reasons, including economic factors, family needs, and practice opportunities. When embarking on your second job, it is critically important to “know your worth” and negotiate an appropriate contract.

Finding a First Job: Lessons Learned

By Damien J. LaPar, MD, MSc | November 8, 2018
The scenario is all too familiar. You’re in the homestretch of your surgical training, you’re tired, your character and constitution are hardened, and your loved ones can’t wait for you to take the next step. The importance and reality of finding your first job hits you like a ton of bricks, leaving you with several questions.

Finding a Niche

By Gabriel Loor, MD | August 13, 2018
Having a niche in cardiothoracic surgery as a junior faculty member is critical. Your recent training has given you experience with technologies and innovations to which your new employer may not have access, making you valuable to your team and your patients.

Building Your Digital Presence as a Surgeon

By Thomas K. Varghese Jr., MD, MS | July 19, 2018
We are in the early days of learning how one’s digital presence can affect his or her surgical career. Your patients and communities are online, constantly searching for the best information, and seeking to connect with the best and brightest.

Teaching as an Early Career Surgeon: The View from the Other Side of the Table

By Mara B. Antonoff, MD | May 14, 2018
A rather abrupt transition occurs upon taking a position in academic surgery. The new surgeon is no longer an official trainee; rather, he or she is now expected to teach the trainees. How do you relinquish control of your cases when you’re still learning yourself?

The Importance of Good Communication with Referring Physicians

By V. Seenu Reddy, MD, MBA | April 13, 2018
Cardiothoracic surgery is, by and large, a referral specialty. Whether one practices in the adult cardiac, congenital, or general thoracic spheres of our specialty, the key source of patients is usually through referring physicians.

Finding the Balance Between Clinical, Academic, and Administrative Responsibilities

By Damien J. LaPar, MD, MScMarch 19, 2018
Surgical training prepares residents and fellows to deal with multiple (often high-stress) situations. Finding the ability to balance one’s professional, academic, and clinical responsibilities becomes requisite—and the sooner this is achieved, the better.

Strategies for Obtaining Funding as a New Investigator

By David D. Odell, MD, MMSc | February 22, 2018
For surgeons beginning academic careers, developing a research portfolio is frequently a key metric of success. Yet many have significant concerns about finding adequate funding in an era where National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding is at an all-time low. However, early career investigators have a number of advantages, even in a competitive research climate.