Find the latest updates on STS member job changes, promotions, and accomplishments.

de Souza Will Advance Robotics in Tampa

Rodrigo de Souza, MD, has joined the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine as an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery. Dr. de Souza, who previously taught at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is employed to develop minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery at Morsani and the Heart and Vascular Institute at Tampa General Hospital. He has been an STS Member since 2022.

Dubeau Named First TSF Resident Director

Carolyn Dubeau, MD, has been appointed to serve a two-year term on the board of The Thoracic Surgery Foundation, STS’s charitable arm, as its very first resident director. Dr. Dubeau, currently in her third year of training at UT Health San Antonio, plans to pursue a path in congenital cardiac surgery. She became a Resident/Fellow Member of STS last year.

Cohen Directs Cedars-Sinai Cardiac Surgery Program

Robbin Cohen, MD, MMM, now serves as director of the Cedars-Sinai Cardiac Surgery Program at Huntington Health in Pasadena, CA, an affiliate of the Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles. An STS Member and volunteer since 1993, Dr. Cohen serves as chair of STS’s Workforce on Media Relations and Communications, vice-chair of the Standards and Ethics Committee, and is a member of the Workforce for Patient Safety.

Yang Is Frankel Research Professor at University of Michigan

Bo Yang, MD, PhD, has been named the inaugural Frankel Research Professor in Aortic Surgery at the University of Michigan. Dr. Yang joined the university’s Department of Cardiac Surgery in 2011 after a fellowship at Stanford University. A 2015 Thoracic Surgery Foundation Research Grant recipient and an STS member since 2010, Dr. Yang specializes in complex aortic repair.

Bhora Appointed as Hackensack Regional Chair

Faiz Y. Bhora, MD, FACS, was recently onboarded at Hackensack Meridian Health as the inaugural Regional Chair of Surgery for the New Jersey central region. Dr. Bhora previously was system chief of thoracic surgery and director of thoracic oncology at Nuvance Health and chief of thoracic and robotic surgery in the Mount Sinai Health System. He has been an STS Member since 2005.

Toker Takes Helm at West Virginia University

Alper Toker, MD, has been named professor and chief of thoracic surgery at the West Virginia University (WVU) Heart and Vascular Institute and the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery in the WVU School of Medicine. Dr. Toker joined WVU in 2019 and has served as interim chief of Thoracic Surgery for the last several months. An STS Member since 2021, he leads the tracheal surgery program and the thoracic surgical oncology program.

Fiedler, Scrimgeour Make History on All-Female Transplant Team

STS Members Amy Fiedler, MD, and Laura Scrimgeour, MD, were part of a historic heart transplant team at the University of California, San Francisco, in which the surgeon, anesthesiologist, surgical fellow, perfusionist, nurses, and patient were all women.

"I go to work every day because I love cardiac surgery," Dr. Fiedler told the TODAY show, who picked up their story. "To be able to be a part of something bigger that can hopefully inspire the next generation of individuals—be it boys, girls, people of color—for anyone to look at us and say, 'There's no barriers and I can do this,' that's really what makes it worth it."

Apr 20, 2023
3 min read

STS award honors game-changers in cardiothoracic surgery research

Jan 22, 2023
Whether they know from the start that they’ll emulate their parents’ careers—or they fight tooth-and-nail to carve a different path—there seems to be something in the genes of cardiothoracic surgeons that pulls their children toward their calling.   Hal and Sophia Roberts For Harold “Hal” G. Roberts Jr., MD, and Sophia H. Roberts, MD, Barnes Jewish Hospital and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, is a cornerstone, an alma mater, and a workplace.  Last year, Dr. Hal Roberts joined the Barnes Jewish Heart and Vascular Center, transitioning from a South Florida private practice. He arrived a celebrated member of the surgical team, with more than 20 years of surgeries under his belt, a patent for a 3D mitral annuloplasty ring, the first publication to describe a modification of the Cox Maze IV right atrial lesion set, and a reputation for performing the first TAVR procedure in Broward County, Florida. And another singular distinction: Sophia’s dad.  “On ‘Take Your Child to Work Day,’ cardiothoracic surgeons can pretty much blow it out of the water by bringing their kid to the OR,” Sophia reflected. “Seeing the team dynamic and the real leadership that comes with being the attending surgeon had a lasting impact on me.”  Dr. Sophia Roberts adds that although her siblings didn’t go into medicine, they also considered the experience to be special—and fundamental to understanding their dad as a person.  “I tend to be a bit quieter than baseline,” she explained, “and that initially made me concerned for my ability to lead an operative team.” But observing her father, in addition to other attending surgeons and their diverse personalities, helped to assuage that concern. “I imagine that my leadership style will channel components of my dad and my other mentors,” Sophia said. “Particularly those who lead without being the loudest person in the room.” Dr. Sophia Roberts is a third-year resident at Washington University, and she’ll soon be assuming a senior resident role. Before Dr. Hal Roberts accepted the job, he made sure that he had Sophia’s blessing, because they’d be working in the same program.    Sophia has explored many facets of surgery during her training, but her father says that, just as he did, she found that she enjoyed caring for cardiac surgical patients the most.  “As far as Sophia deciding to go into cardiothoracic surgery, I was very flattered, but I made quite sure that she realized what she was getting into,” Dr. Hal Roberts said. “Cardiac surgery can be a physically and emotionally draining field, but it does give me great satisfaction in knowing that the quality and quantity of my patients’ lives are favorably impacted by the care I render.”  The new position at Barnes Jewish has afforded the elder Dr. Roberts the opportunity to teach—a realm he entered relatively late in his career. He calls it his greatest satisfaction, saying, “I have been amazed at how much fun this really is.”  For her academic development, Sophia is working through a fellowship in cardiovascular device innovation. “Delving into engineering is new terrain for me, and I am excited to carry our new devices from concept to pre-clinical testing,” she said, adding, “It’s pretty surreal to have a single dream for so long and then realize you’re living it.”  Dr. Hal Roberts hopes that his daughter will have exposure to classic as well as novel surgical approaches. “Though there will be more and more minimally invasive techniques on the horizon, I always think there will be a role for some of the basic procedures, like coronary artery revascularization, that we have been effectively doing for years.”  David and John Cleveland “We’re both extremely pragmatic, to both benefit and fault at times,” says John Cleveland, MD, of himself and his father, David C. Cleveland, MD, MBA. The elder Dr. Cleveland is an associate professor of surgery at the Heersink School of Medicine, part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He’s a giant in congenital heart surgery, having served as chief of pediatric cardiac surgery for the Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, New York, the Children’s Hospital at Medical City Dallas in Texas, and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. At St. Joseph’s, he founded the Eller Congenital Heart Center and served as its executive director.  As a kid, John Cleveland was acutely aware of the demands of his father’s profession, which often pulled the elder Dr. Cleveland away from time with his wife and three children. He missed some of his kids’ big milestones, from music recitals to winning touchdowns, because he was working to save the lives of “other people’s kids.”  Even so, John was drawn to a surgical career himself—but he was determined to find a course that wouldn’t cause him to miss out on moments with his own budding family. He leaned toward reconstructive plastic surgery.   John’s internship years brought an encounter that for most would be incandescent: He helped treat a man who had been mauled by a grizzly bear. But while his fellow trainees were thrilled at the opportunity to perform a potentially once-in-a-career reconstruction, John realized that he didn’t feel the same rush.   Plastic surgery wasn’t for him, he now understood—and he was just weeks away from starting a plastic surgery residency. Luckily, he was able to slide into a surgical rotation in a different specialty.  “In the operating room, a veteran doctor threw question after question at the rookie,” recounted a feature by the American Heart Association. “Even as the queries became more complex, John—who’d never studied this area, much less trained in it—aced the quiz. The look on the veteran doctor’s face sent John a clear message.”  The area was cardiac surgery. Specifically, pediatric cardiac surgery. And John was a natural.  Since those days, Drs. John and David have developed a deeper understanding of one another—and of how they both lamented the moments they missed.  “I have been surprised by the manner in which my career has allowed me to see my father from a different perspective,” John reflected. “Now that I am a dad myself, working in the same field, I have come to better terms with the demands that this job places on you and how much it can compete with family life. It has certainly increased my empathy and understanding of how my dad had to do things growing up.”  It has also helped John approach his career decisions with a savviness for work/life balance that wasn’t as feasible for his dad.  Dr. David Cleveland was often a lone ship in his profession, having at most one surgical partner to cover for him in an emergency. Dr. John Cleveland landed a fellowship at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) in California, which has a large surgical staff that he described as virtually interchangeable because of their top-notch skillsets.  “I am entering my fourth year as an attending and have taken over as the program director for our congenital heart surgery training program,” Dr. John Cleveland said. “I’m looking forward to continue matching high-quality applicants that our group of surgeons can mold into excellent technicians as well as thoughtful bedside physicians who care for children with congenital heart disease.”  As his career and family have blossomed, John has happily stayed with CHLA, and it allows him the freedom to be present for moments like birthdays and softball games.  The senior Dr. Cleveland recently celebrated a milestone of his own. He has retired from clinical practice, and he’ll now have the time to not only make memories with his kids and grandkids but also to pick up a research project for which he completed pilot data before the pandemic. He and John are working collaboratively. “We are transplanting genetically modified pig hearts into infant baboons with the intention to translate this to clinical care of neonates and infants as a bridge to cardiac allotransplant,” Dr. John Cleveland said. “The current technology used to bridge this fragile patient population is fraught with complications and risk. We believe xenotransplant will prove to be safer and a more appropriately tailored option for these small children.”  The research is funded, Dr. Cleveland said, and it’s slated to kick off this month. If you know of a unique member experience that should be featured in STS News, contact stsnews@sts.org.
Jan 4, 2023
7 min read
Imam Takes Over as Lagonne Chair Mohammed N. “Mo” Imam, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at NYU Long Island School of Medicine. From 2016 to 2022, Dr. Imam was chair of cardiothoracic surgery and executive director of The Heart Institute in Staten Island, New York. His areas of expertise include coronary bypass grafting, minimally invasive valve surgery, transcatheter aortic valve procedures, surgery for arrythmia, mitral valve repairs, minimally invasive aneurysm repair, and lung cancer surgery. He has been an STS Member since 2003. Wilder Joins Staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Fatima G. Wilder, MD, has joined the Thoracic Surgery Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Wilder was a cardiothoracic surgery fellow at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. An STS Member since 2016, she serves on the STS Workforce on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.   Guy Brings Robotic Expertise to Georgia T. Sloane Guy, MD, MBA, is the new director of Minimally Invasive & Robotic Cardiac Surgery at Gainesville’s Northeast Georgia Physicians Group and Georgia Heart Institute. Dr. Guy will be the first-ever robotic heart surgeon to perform procedures at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville. Previously, he served as vice chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery, clinical director of cariac surgery, and director of minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has chaired the STS Task Force on Robotic Surgery, and he has been an STS Member since 2006. Szeto Assumes Endowed Chair at Penn Wilson Y. Szeto, MD, has been selected for the Julian Johnson II endowed chair at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. Dr. Szeto joined the Penn faculty in 2015, and in 2017 he was appointed vice chief of clinical operations and quality in the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery. Currently serving as secretary of the STS Board of Directors, he has been an STS Member since 2007. Send news about yourself or a colleague to stsnews@sts.org. Submissions will be printed based on content, membership status, and space available.
Jan 3, 2023
2 min read
STS News, Fall 2022 — Whether they were called to the specialty by heritage or by destiny, these parent-child duos represent the evolving arena of cardiothoracic surgery in real time. Surender Reddy Neravetla, MD, and Soumya Reddy Neravetla, MD  At Springfield Regional Medical Center in Ohio, Surender Reddy Neravetla, MD, has earned accolades for his more than 10,000 valve repairs, beating-heart surgeries, and minimally invasive lung resections, as well as a most distinctive trophy: King of Dad Jokes. Dr. Surender Neravetla’s daughter, Dr. Soumya Neravetla, shares her father’s passion for preventative education and community outreach. Despite Dr. Neravetla encouraging his daughter, Soumya Reddy Neravetla, MD, to try out different career paths, Soumya found herself gravitating time and again toward cardiothoracic surgery. And when veteran surgeon Lofton N. Misick, MD, left the Springfield center for a position in Texas in 2016, Soumya stepped in to take on some of the workload. The plan was to stay “for a little while.” She’s still there. “I’ve been busy!” she said. “Launched a TAVR program and a lung screening program in Springfield. Met with the governor of Ohio about lung cancer. Served in multiple board positions with the Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), Association of Telugu Medical Graduates of USA.” She served as president of AAPI’s physician’s section from 2021–2022, and she is currently the chair of the hospital’s Cancer Committee and Department of Surgery. The Drs. Neravetla may be the first father-daughter cardiothoracic surgeon pair to have operated as a team. Soumya referred to heart transplant pioneers, the late Norman E. Shumway, MD, PhD, and his daughter Sara J. Shumway, MD, who now serves as professor and vice chief of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. “It’s my understanding that the Shumways never worked together, but I believe she’s the first daughter to follow her young father in this path. Dr. (Vinod) Thourani once pointed out to me that we may be the first father-daughter duo to actually work together,” Soumya said. Clearly, a passion for preventative medicine and public health also runs in the family. The senior Dr. Neravetla is a longtime champion of bringing health education to underserved communities. He’s the author of the 2012 book Salt Kills and its 2014 follow-up, Salt: Black America’s Silent Killer, and he maintains a public blog on prevention issues, explaining current medical literature in plain language. Dr. Soumya Neravetla says that she and her father are both calm but fun to work with in the OR. “My father, however, is the king of dad jokes—he has a trophy to prove it—resulting in my appropriate eye rolls.” A grassroots advocate for the American Heart Association’s positions on disease prevention, Dr. Surender Neravetla works with local health fairs and culture festivals, churches and social clubs, schools and city halls, lecturing and initiating vital conversations with the community. “Cardiac surgery is going through a tough transition, largely due to the rapid growth of technology,” the senior Dr. Neravetla said. “The patients under our care are at a later stage in the disease process; the surgeries and post-op care are increasingly complex. All the while, cardiac surgeons are facing increasing scrutiny. This poses significant difficulty for the younger surgeons—especially women—to get established and be respected in their field.” Dr. Soumya Neravetla says that she was surprised at just how deep the disparities run. “Even though you know about it, it’s still surprising to see how dramatic the difference is for female surgeons in the real world.” She’s also startled by the lack of awareness surrounding lung cancer, despite it being the number one cancer killer in men and women. While she and her dad are both relatively quick-handed, “my father is one of the fastest surgeons you’ll ever see,” said Soumya. “On the other hand, I’m known for my small incisions, and though we both do a broad range of open and robotic surgeries, the endovascular space is my playground.” As she monitors technologies in cardiac, vascular, and thoracic applications, Dr. Soumya Neravetla spearheads lung cancer screening and awareness in Dayton, serving on the Ohio Partners for Cancer Control lung committee. Her team also is preparing to launch another TAVR program at Kettering Health Dayton in Ohio. “It’s always exciting to develop a program from infancy and watch it mature,” she said.  Undoubtedly, her dad feels that, to a superb degree, about his daughter. Richard M. Engelman, MD, and Daniel T. Engelman, MD In 1968, when Richard M. Engelman, MD, was a resident at New York University, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) was in its infancy. Patients remained intubated for at least a day, were on mandatory bedrest for a minimum of 48 hours, and didn’t begin rehabilitation—which involved only limited ambulation—until 72 hours later. The senior Dr. Engelman (right) pioneered “Fast-Track” recovery after surgery, and his son Daniel continued to advance perioperative care through the ERAS Cardiac Society. “Discharge was routinely 1 to 2 weeks after surgery, and patients were encouraged to remain sedentary for the next 4 to 6 weeks,” Dr. Engelman said. “These practices remained the standard for cardiac surgical perioperative care for decades, and morbidity following surgery was not inconsequential.” With increased evidence supporting the success of mindful perioperative care, Dr. Engelman formed a team to introduce the “Fast-Track” approach to cardiac recovery in the early 1990s. This method involved a coordinator-led multidisciplinary team, who paid close attention to intravenous fluid intake, controlling atrial arrythmias, normalizing gut function, and getting patients quickly up and walking. Fast-Track dramatically reduced extubation times, ICU stays, and overall time in the hospital, all with improved outcomes for the patient. Richard’s son, Daniel T. Engelman, MD, picked up the torch in 1999, when he became a Board-certified surgeon after graduating from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. “As my career progressed, I noticed waning interest in the Fast-Track protocols popularized by my father, coincident with increasing provider concern about patient-reported outcomes and the costs associated with care,” the younger Dr. Engelman said. Since stepping down from his role as head of cardiac surgery, the elder Dr. Engelman continues to serve as chief of cardiac surgical research—and as his son’s colleague—at Baystate.Changes in cardiac and surgical training and practice patterns—as well as improvements in percutaneous techniques—led to increased emphasis on reducing delays between patient evaluation and surgical procedures, explained Dr. Daniel Engelman. “Perioperative optimization was at odds with this new urgency.” Enter enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS). After examining the successful outcomes surgeons and patients were enjoying in other specialties, Dr. Engelman put it to use within cardiac surgery. In 2017, he and a group of likeminded surgeons founded the nonprofit ERAS Cardiac Society. “The national and international interest was tremendous,” he said. “A few early studies were simultaneously being conducted outlining enhanced recovery protocols demonstrating improved outcomes within our specialty. What was old was new again.” Both Drs. Engelman served as authors of the 2019 Guidelines for Perioperative Care in Cardiac Surgery, which are the first of their kind. They’ve been downloaded more than 260,000 times. “The field continues to evolve throughout the years in ways we couldn’t even imagine when I started my career, and I’m thrilled to be able to witness it through Dan’s achievements,” said the elder Dr. Engelman. Meanwhile, although he’s retired from operating, he continues to work each day at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, as chief of cardiac surgical research. “I also continue to enjoy time with my wife, Jane, of 62 years, and spend time on the golf course with kids and grandkids!”   If you know of a unique member experience that should be featured in STS News, contact stsnews@sts.org.
Sep 30, 2022
6 min read
STS News, Fall 2022 — Douglas J. Mathisen, MD, is a giant in every sense of the word—a giant in his professional career as a master surgeon, a giant in education, and perhaps most significantly, a giant as a mentor and role model. There are few practicing cardiothoracic surgeons today who have not been touched in a meaningful way by the powerful influence of Dr. Mathisen, said Douglas E. Wood, MD, from the University of Washington in Seattle, about his longtime friend and colleague. “Dr. Mathisen is an incredible physical presence, easily found in a crowd, standing a head taller than everyone else. His hand engulfs one with a welcoming handshake accompanied by a warm smile,” said Dr. Wood. “The true measure of this giant is the enormous personal and professional respect that he holds from his peers for his integrity and generosity.” Dr. Mathisen—STS Past President and former Historian—trained in general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, where he has remained for almost all of his extraordinary career. It is not difficult to recognize the Midwestern roots of Dr. Mathisen. His easygoing demeanor, common sense, humility, and perfectionism have had a profound effect on the specialty and thousands of patients. “Dr. Mathisen has been a leader in almost every aspect of our profession, a voice for our specialty, a mentor to many, and a friend to all,” said Thomas E. MacGillivray, MD, STS First Vice President, from MedStar Health in Washington, DC. Dr. Mathisen was raised in the small town of Danville, Illinois, where his father was principal of the high school and his mother helped in her family’s auto shop. He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. While growing up in Illinois, Dr. Mathisen was influenced by a surgeon in his hometown—Harlan English, MD. As a young boy, Dr. Mathisen was captivated by Dr. English’s sense of humor and the image of him being completely in charge. From the first time Dr. Mathisen met him, all he ever wanted to be was a surgeon. In fact, through medical school and residency, Dr. Mathisen stopped in regularly to see Dr. English. Over the years, Dr. Mathisen generously paid it forward. According to Dr. Wood, every MGH resident from the past 30 years likely would highlight Dr. Mathisen as one of their most important influences and an approachable senior colleague who helped shape their careers. But his mentorship has extended far beyond Boston, as his wise advice and generous support are sought by junior and senior surgeons from around the US and world. He has been a champion for literally several hundred aspiring surgeons: writing letters of support for society applications, advocating for positions on organizational committees and workforces, selecting volunteers to write board exam questions, and taking his personal time to vouch for early careerists professionally or coach them personally. During his long, remarkable career, Dr. Mathisen has authored more than 240 peer-reviewed publications, 160 book chapters, and five books. Perhaps his largest contribution, though, has been in pushing forward thoracic oncology and airway surgery. With world-renowned thoracic surgeon Hermes C. Grillo, MD, Dr. Mathisen helped set the surgical indications, techniques, and outcomes for tracheal and bronchial surgery that have served as the foundation for airway surgery. Dr. Mathisen also has made broad contributions in thoracic oncology: lung cancer, esophageal cancer, chest wall tumors, thymoma, and mesothelioma. Notably, he and his team were involved in tissue engineering research, building toward the ultimate goal of tracheal replacement. A Distinguished Career Recognized In recognition of his dedication to the specialty and its future, Dr. Mathisen recently was honored with a fellowship award in his name—the TSF/STS Douglas Mathisen Traveling Fellowship in General Thoracic Surgery. This fellowship highlights Dr. Mathisen’s commitment to refining the practice of cardiothoracic surgery, teaching innovative surgical skills, and advancing the careers of bright and motivated young surgeons, which is essential for the specialty to advance and thrive in the future. The Mathisen Award will provide financial support for early career general thoracic surgeons from North America, and potentially Europe, to travel domestically or internationally to learn a new technique, adapt an innovative technology, and collaborate with surgical investigators to further the progress of general thoracic surgery at the recipients’ home institutions. "The fellowship in Dr. Mathisen’s honor will be a lasting tribute to him by continuing his legacy as a champion of early career development and connecting colleagues from around the world,” said Dr. MacGillivray. Applications for the Douglas Mathisen Traveling Fellowship are expected to open in July 2023. In the meantime, fundraising to build the fellowship fund is under way. For more information on donating to this award, visit thoracicsurgeryfoundation.org.  Double Your Impact: Donate to TSF Today The Thoracic Surgery Foundation (TSF)/STS Surgeon Match Challenge is under way, and—to date—$89,680 has been raised toward research, education, and philanthropic initiatives that advance cardiothoracic surgery. For every dollar donated by surgeons during the challenge, STS will match contributions up to $200,000. So far this year, the Society’s charitable arm has awarded approximately $1.5 million in funding to support surgeon-scientists in cardiothoracic surgery. Award recipients are investigating topics such as an ambulatory pulmonary assist system for end-stage lung disease, opioid use in thoracic surgery, and the role of mechanical load in heart failure. They’re training with experts to learn new skills, including endovascular cardiac surgery, donation after circulatory death heart transplantation, and thoracoabdominal surgical approaches to treating aortic disease. TSF also has funded lifesaving care for underserved patients in developing countries, including Uganda, Mozambique, Kenya, Nepal, and Nigeria. In addition to matching surgeon donations, the Society covers all of TSF’s administrative expenses so that 100% of each donation is applied to award programs. Plus, TSF donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. If you have not given to the Foundation recently, consider a gift at this time when your donation will have double the impact. For more information, visit thoracicsurgeryfoundation.org/donate.
Sep 30, 2022
5 min read
Lui Promoted at Stanford Natalie S. Lui, MD, recently was appointed associate medical director for surgical services as part of the cancer destination service line (DSL) at Stanford Health Care in California. She will work collaboratively with cancer DSL leadership and key stakeholders throughout Stanford Medicine to ensure consistent representation of surgical oncology. Dr. Lui also is an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford University. She has been an STS member since 2014. Thompson Is President at Nebraska Heart Richard B. Thompson, MD, MBA, took over as president of CHI Health Nebraska Heart in Lincoln. In addition to this new leadership role, he will serve as cardiothoracic surgeon, specializing in complex coronary revascularization, advanced surgical therapy for heart failure, and robotic lung surgery. Previously, Dr. Thompson worked at Bryan Heart in Lincoln, Nebraska. He has been an STS member since 2010. Kaneko Leads Cardiac Surgery at WashUMed Tsuyoshi Kaneko, MD, has been named the Shoenberg Professor and chief of cardiac surgery at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, both in St. Louis, Missouri. He previously worked as surgical director of the Structural Heart Program at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor in surgery at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. An STS member since 2014, Dr. Kaneko chairs the STS/ACC TVT Research and Publications Subcommittee and is vice chair of the STS Workforce on Technology and Innovation. Argote-Greene Begins Position in Florida Luis M. Argote-Greene, MD, is the new regional director of thoracic and esophageal surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital in Vero Beach, Florida. Most recently, he was a thoracic surgeon with University Hospitals and clinical assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, both in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Argote-Greene has been an STS member since 2011. Steliga Is Named Endowed Chair Matthew A. Steliga, MD, has been named the Kent Westbrook Distinguished Chair in Surgical Oncology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)-Rockefeller Cancer Institute in Little Rock. Dr. Steliga—the division chief of thoracic surgery at the University of Arkansas and professor of surgery—led the development of the UAMS lung cancer screening and integrated tobacco cessation programs, and he is involved in the development of the UAMS mobile lung screening program. Dr. Steliga also will continue to serve as associate program director for the UAMS Surgery Residency Program. He has been an STS member since 2010. Han Honored for Exceptional Patient Care Jason J. Han, MD, received the Don Liu Humanism Hero in Surgery Award from Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This award recognizes a member of the Penn surgical staff who exhibits compassion and sensitivity in the care of the surgical patient in a collegial, collaborative, selfless, and ethical manner. Dr. Han was selected by the chairman and vice chair of education based on peer and faculty nominations. He has been an STS member since 2018. Hoff Moves to Miami Steven J. Hoff, MD, has joined the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute in Florida. Previously, he served as chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Orlando Regional Medical Center and associate professor of surgery at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando. Dr. Hoff also was part of the team at the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute. He has been an STS member since 2000.
Sep 30, 2022
3 min read
STS News, Summer 2022 — Four open heart surgeries and a kidney transplant represent stark milestones for STS member Marcus Balters, MD, whose career as a surgeon has been interspersed with stints as a patient, brushes with mortality, new perspectives on teaching, and solidified faith. Dr. Balters directs the general surgery residency program and serves as vice chair of surgical education at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. His experiences as a young patient—he underwent a coarctation repair at age 6 and a repeat repair at age 16—made a career in cardiothoracic surgery a natural choice. “My mother would probably tell you I was talking about being a cardiac surgeon from a very young age, probably 7 or 8,” he said. “I remember thinking my pediatric cardiologist was very cool, and even when I moved on to an adult cardiology group, I was imagining him as my surgeon. I have a memory of him standing over me in scrubs as I was going to sleep.” Dr. Balters studied medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. In 1999, while a fourth-year resident, he experienced a descending aortic graft rupture. During his final year of residency, Dr. Balters underwent emergency repair for an aortic rupture.“This rupture presented as an aortobronchial fistula, and it was very emergent,” he recalls. “I started that morning with massive hemoptysis; I was exsanguinating.” Dr. Balters credits the world-renowned Lars Svensson, MD, PhD, now at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, for saving his life at the Lahey Clinic that day—the first of two such occasions, he’d later discover. Notably, that operation also revealed an ascending aortic aneurysm that warranted a close watch. “I made it back to residency in about 8 weeks after a very near miss with death,” Dr. Balters said. Medical students training with Dr. Balters have named him "Most Inspirational Educator." He went on to a cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at the State University of New York in Syracuse (SUNY-Syracuse), and from there to a private practice group back in his home state of Nebraska. The group joined Omaha’s Creighton University in late 2005. A few months later, his aneurysm had grown to the point of needing repair. “I called Dr. Svensson, and he graciously and adeptly saved my life again in April 2006 at the Cleveland Clinic,” recalled Dr. Balters. “By the grace of God, once again I made it back to work in 8 weeks, and I resumed a very busy clinical practice.” Being very busy, he now reflects, kept him on a sort of “autopilot,” turning his focus to work, which served as a distraction from what he now recognizes as a form of post-traumatic stress. “During residency, colleagues would at times take me aside and ask, ‘Are you sure you want to go into this? This is what your life is going to be like.’ And looking back, I realize that I probably spent 10 or 15 years after that third operation wondering, ‘Am I going to die today?’ Every time I would cough, every time I would have a pain, it would remind me of those dramatic events,” he said. Throughout those years, however, Dr. Balters had a support system that presented him with avenues he’d never considered and with the revelation that it’s okay to lean on colleagues and loved ones, to accept the grace of a higher power, and to employ a little creative assistance. Early in his fellowship, Dr. Balters recalls, he was watching a surgeon deftly perform a procedure, and while observing he had a moment of anxiety about the tremor in his own hands. “I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do this.’ And right at that moment, without any prompting, my attending said to me, ‘You know, Marcus, I’m resting my hand on the sternum while I do this.’” Dr. Balters had been so focused on the narrow view through the magnification lenses that he’d never appreciated that his attending surgeon was using a technique to alleviate his own tremor. Another opportunity to broaden Dr. Balters’s viewpoint occurred in early 2006, when he approached the department head to inform him of his plans to undergo the aneurysm repair. “When I had to have that fourth surgery, I went to my chairman and broke down in tears,” he recalled. “He assured me that no matter what happened, even if I could never operate again, there would be a place for me.” The chair, R. Armour Forse, MD, PhD, suggested that Dr. Balters consider a teaching position, and that recommendation altered the course of Dr. Balters’s professional life. Meanwhile, Dr. Balters’s wife, Sarah Beth—whom he has known since they were 14 and with whom he celebrated 25 years of marriage this year—was a steady source of spiritual support. “She is the person that lifts me,” he said. Dr. Balters cherishes the family he's built with his wife, Sarah Beth. Dr. Balters began honing his clinical practice from a mixed bag of cardiac, thoracic, and vascular operations to focus mostly on lung surgery and hemodialysis access at Creighton University Medical Center, now part of CommonSpirit Health, and the Veterans Affairs Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System. The dean of the School of Medicine at Creighton University, Robert W. “Bo” Dunlay, MD, recommended that Dr. Balters turn his talents toward teaching both medical students and general surgery residents. In the intervening years, Dr. Balters’s kidneys began to fail. Ultimately diagnosed with idiopathic glomerular nephropathy, he “continued to work the surgeon’s life, though I had stopped doing cardiac surgery back in 2006 when I had the arch repair.” Eventually he required a transplant, and in 2010 he received a kidney from his brother. “Again, back to work in 8 weeks, though I had multiple issues come up in the next 18 months related to the transplant,” he said. “I have stayed with Creighton—and they have stayed with me—since 2005.” Dr. Balters has become a source of inspiration for his students and residents. “I tell them—the students, at least—that I don’t care what kind of doctor they decide to be. There’s of course some satisfaction in ‘converting’ residents to cardiothoracic surgery, but my ultimate goal is to help them be the best doctors they can and save lives. I can only touch so many people in my lifetime as a surgeon, but if I teach people what I think is important, my effects can ripple out to lots of people across years and locations.” He notes that the students seem to appreciate that he thinks out loud in the operating room. Dr. Balters says that while it’s easy to become silently focused on the task at hand, especially during difficult procedures, he tries to offer insights into his thought processes and decisions by talking them out among the team as he operates. Dr. Balters has learned the value of rethinking his focus. In 2018, the fourth-year medical student class named him “Most Inspirational Educator” in their yearbook, and this year he achieved the rank of full professor. And how do his patients benefit from his experiences on—and over—the operating table? “Once we’ve gotten through the plans for the proposed operation, I’ll say something like, ‘Well, I’ve never had lung cancer, but I’ve had four open heart surgeries and a kidney transplant. And I’m not telling you this because this conversation is about me, but because I want you to know that I’ve sat in those chairs before, and I’ve asked the questions: Why is this happening to me? Who is this person in front of me, and do they know what they’re doing?’” Dr. Balters answers that he’s just a former kid from Nebraska, but that he’s spent years preparing to be a proficient surgeon, he’s performed hundreds of operations like these, he’s certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and he’ll “do everything in my powers to try and make this as uneventful of a valley as possible in what is hopefully an otherwise long and prosperous life.” A long and prosperous life has realized itself in Dr. Balters, despite a seemingly relentless series of valleys. With his renewed perspective through the lenses of fellowship, family, and faith, he says that he feels blessed.   If you know of a unique member experience that should be featured in STS News, contact stsnews@sts.org.
Jul 6, 2022
7 min read
STS News, Summer 2022 — While the fighting in Ukraine rages on, global congenital heart surgeon William M. Novick, MD, can be found in the operating rooms of hospitals throughout the war-torn country, saving lives of the littlest patients. These operations are considered challenging; they are complex, dynamic, and often time- and resource-constrained. Not to mention the additional risks that result from the fighting and life-threatening danger on the other side of the hospital walls. “When I hold a child’s heart in my hands, I experience an extremely scary, humbling, and challenging series of thoughts,” said Dr. Novick. “Scary, because that child might die. Humbling, in that God gave me the ability to do this. Challenging, because we want to save every child no matter how bad the defect is.” Dr. Novick, from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, and his team from the Novick Cardiac Alliance have traveled to Ukraine several times over the years, and they’ve committed to four visits in 2022. So far, they have completed three—traveling to the country in January, March, and, most recently, in June. “The physical damage being caused in the country is going to set back medical care in Ukraine years, maybe decades,” he said. “We were in the country during the last week of January and the first week of February. While our team was there, there was a developing threat of a Russian invasion, with troops already staging on the border and in Belarus.” Dr. William Novick champions the expansion of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery in under-resourced countries, both operating on children and training others to do so. Then, while the team was in Lviv this spring, the far western Ukraine city was bombed, said Dr. Novick. Even so, they worked day and night, desperately trying to complete as many surgeries as they could in a short amount of time. “They put us up in the hospital,” he said. “There’s no room anywhere in the city, in any hotel, because of all the refugees. We took a nap, I talked to the administrator, and then we got started.” Dr. Novick and his team operated on six children: three newborns, and another three who were just days old. Each year, 1 million children in low- and middle-income countries are born with congenital heart disease, according to Dr. Novick, and most do not have adequate pediatric cardiac care. The most challenging place in which he’s operated was Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The conditions included ancient equipment, unclean operating rooms, and dangerous power supplies. “There was a bypass machine—unplugged—on a counter,” said Dr. Novick. “Sitting on the floor next to the machine was a pair of heavy rubber gloves and rubber boots. Our perfusionist went to plug in the bypass machine. Simultaneously, six Uzbeks screamed, ‘NYET! Put on gloves! Put on boots!’ So he did, and when he plugged in the machine, sparks flew.” Dr. Novick explained that many of these countries don’t have any options for heart surgery unless it’s charitable. “And, what makes this work special is we are doing it in places where no one else wants to go,” he said. So Much More than Surgery In addition to their surgical skills and expertise, Dr. Novick and his team in March brought to Ukraine 14 massive bags of supplies to support pediatric heart surgery and pediatric cardiology, and for the trip in June, he shipped 12 pallets of equipment and materials. This is important to note because the Cardiac Alliance works to save lives, but also helps local teams assemble and sustain cardiac centers. In fact, the centers that the Cardiac Alliance builds typically are sustainable within 3 years. “We do pediatric heart surgery, but we also train pediatric cardiologists, and nurses in the ICU, respiratory therapists, those who run the heart-lung machine, and the catheterization lab technicians. We try to get all these people trained up to improve their diagnostic skills, or work on catheterization or anesthesia, and we do a lot of it in conflict zones,” said Dr. Novick. Dr. Novick and the Cardiac Alliance team visited Lviv, Ukraine in June 2022. ‘You Protect People…That’s Your Job’ Dr. Novick is not only doing much of the surgery himself, but he’s also gathering donated supplies, lining up financial contributions, and organizing training programs. Described as the undisputed leader of the Novick Cardiac Alliance, he’s known to run the team with a “thundering hand.” And his work in these countries—especially in Eastern Europe—holds personal significance for Dr. Novick. His grandmother, who is Ukrainian, and his grandfather, who is Russian, escaped Soviet Russia many years ago to settle in the US. With these roots, Dr. Novick credits his father for his “Russian temperament, tenacity, and persistence.” From his mother, he learned “all the soft things” such as his concern for children regardless of where they are in the world and his deep desire to repair children’s hearts. Just as importantly, his parents taught him, “You never, ever intimidate anybody. You protect people that are intimidated or bullied by other people. That’s your job. You’re big enough to do it.’ So that’s the way I was brought up: help those who are not able to help themselves,” Dr. Novick said. Over the years, he has done just that—made saving and protecting lives his life’s work, helping more than 10,000 children in 30+ countries, including places like Libya, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia, and China. “I’m very passionate about this work,” Dr. Novick said. “Unless you go to these places, I don’t think you can really grasp how desperate the situation is for these kids and their parents. Our team showing up, and their kid getting operated on—they truly consider it a miracle. I’m very humble about what we do, but you’re in a country of 85 million people and there’s no heart surgery for kids, and your child is one of 18 who gets operated on? I mean, holy moly.” For more information about the Novick Cardiac Alliance, visit cardiac-alliance.org.
Jul 5, 2022
5 min read

STS Distinguished Service Award recognizes dedication to the Society and the specialty

CHICAGO (January 30, 2022) — In recognition of extraordinary efforts and steadfast service, Joseph A. Dearani, MD, and Joseph E. Bavaria, MD, each have been presented with The Society of Thoracic Surgeons 2022 Distinguished Service Award at the Society’s 58th Annual Meeting.

Jan 28, 2022

STS award recognizes outstanding scientific contributions to cardiothoracic surgery

CHICAGO (January 29, 2022) — Internationally recognized medical researcher, surgeon, and professor Thomas K. Waddell, MD, MSc, PhD, today was honored with the 2022 Earl Bakken Scientific Achievement Award from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons during the organization’s 58th Annual Meeting. 

Jan 28, 2022

STS News, Winter 2022 — Year after year, manuscript after manuscript, The Annals of Thoracic Surgery continues to rely on the valuable contributions and hard work of its peer reviewers—who in 2021, reviewed approximately 2,500 submissions.

“The best reviewers can take a manuscript from good to great. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery is deeply indebted to the more than 900 global cardiothoracic experts who provided peer reviews this year,” said Editor-in-Chief Joanna Chikwe, MD, FRCS.

In recognition of those who consistently provided a combination of high-quality, thorough, and professional reviews in a timely manner, The Annals presented “Reviewer of the Year” awards to the following outstanding recipients:

General Thoracic

Olugbenga T. Okusanya, MD, from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

Adult Cardiac

Masashi Kawabori, MD, from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts

 

Congenital

Fawwaz R. Shaw, MD, from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia

 

Trainee

Makoto Hibino, MD, MPH, PhD, from the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada

"Last year, The Annals received nearly 4,000 new submissions, selected the best for peer review, and published the top 15% or so. The intellectual contribution of peer reviewers to the journal is invaluable. A detailed review takes time and thought, and these award winners have performed the most highly rated reviews this year," said Dr. Chikwe.

This award is presented to four reviewers on an annual basis. All peer reviewers are eligible, and the criteria include the number of completed reviews, average review rating (1-5 scale), and reviews submitted on time (within 14-day deadline). Feedback from the deputy editors also is considered.

If you are interested in joining the Annals Reviewer Volunteer program, contact theannals@sts.org.

Dec 27, 2021
2 min read