WTS Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Jessica S. Donington, MD

When Women in Thoracic Surgery (WTS) was formed in 1986, the American Board of Thoracic Surgery (ABTS) had certified only 37 women. By 2015, that number was 274. This 740% increase certainly would cause the late Nina Starr Braunwald, MD, the first woman to be ABTS certified in 1961, to beam with pride.

An educational session celebrating the 30th anniversary of WTS, scheduled from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday in Room 123, will highlight the significant professional contributions by STS members who also are WTS members. Topics covered will include the untapped potential of women as leaders, significant contributions of female pioneers in congenital heart, adult cardiac, and general thoracic surgery, the changing demographics of ABTS diplomats since 1961, mentoring female and minority surgeons, and the future face of cardiothoracic surgery. A panel discussion will follow.

“With 2016 marking our organization’s 30th anniversary, we wanted to offer a special session at the STS Annual Meeting to highlight the accomplishments of women in our field,” said WTS Vice President and session co-moderator Jessica S. Donington, MD. “We want young women to recognize that a long and successful group of women has preceded them and that women are thriving within cardiothoracic surgery. Both the WTS and the STS leadership believe that women represent an important group within cardiothoracic surgery and that young women should be encouraged to enter the field.”

Women account for nearly half of medical residents, but just 3% of all ABTS-certified surgeons are women. However, Dr. Donington noted that about 15% of those currently completing their cardiothoracic surgery fellowships are female.

Dr. Donington, who in 2004 was the 124th woman to be board-certified in cardiothoracic surgery, recently conducted a survey of the first 200 ABTS-certified female cardiothoracic surgeons. She found that beyond an increase in the number of women entering medical school, mentorship has contributed significantly to the growth of women entering the field of cardiothoracic surgery.

“I think mentors play a particularly important role when one chooses to enter a profession outside of their demographic norm. There are some really key male and female mentors who have influenced many of us. The WTS focuses a lot of effort on mentoring, and we hope we are doing as good a job as the amazing and pioneering women who have gone before us,” said Dr. Donington, Associate Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at New York University School of Medicine and Director of Thoracic Surgery at Bellevue Hospital.