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.

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


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.