The history of the AATS Foundation is a proud one. The Foundation was established in 1973 as past leaders of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery realized the need to actively support and guide both research and education in the field.

Having this new vision to focus on achieving a dynamic and innovative future of continued excellence for cardiothoracic surgery, the leadership looked to create a foundation that would lead these efforts.

Initially, the intent of the AATS Foundation was to select and fund an International Fellow to spend a year studying in North America at a center of excellence in cardiothoracic surgery. Since that initial program, we have seen continued growth as a number of additional initiatives have addressed the research needs of the specialty. From the introduction of this first fellowship in 1951 to the present day, the AATS and its Foundation have funded millions of dollars in fellowships and research opportunities. We have grown from one fellowship to currently having more than 20 sophisticated programs, and we continue to educate and enhance the skills and knowledge of surgeons from all around the world. 

The AATS Foundation has been a major force in the field, reaching not just physicians in the United States and North America, but also surgeons from six continents. Fellowships and research scholarships bring the community of cardiothoracic surgeons together and create bonds that last lifetimes. Many of today’s leaders in the field received funding from the AATS Foundation and the support they received early in their careers helped them to make significant contributions to the specialty.  

In its history, the AATS Foundation has seen many important milestones. Industry and donors continue to partner with us in novel and collaborative ways in support of both exciting new and existing programs that will provide expanded education and training to our specialty. Indeed, all our Foundation’s educational programs and activities are seeing mounting interest and participation as we continue to receive more applications and fund more grants, striving to realize our vision of a dynamic and innovative future of excellence for cardiothoracic surgery. Recently the name of the AATS Foundation was changed from the AATS Graham Foundation to reflect the growing needs of the specialty and align the Foundation closer with the mission and values of the AATS.

The future of cardiothoracic surgery is the next generation of surgeons – those whom we are privileged to train. The advances will be born of their intellect, their curiosity, and most importantly perhaps their connections with each other and with their contemporaries in other disciplines. The future is about teamwork and integration addressing increasingly complex problems in innovative ways. It is for this reason that it is so critical that we attract the best and the brightest to our exciting, demanding field; and once attracted we must support their career development. It is for these reasons that the AATS Foundation is so important to our specialty. The activities of the Foundation are all centered around fostering the next generation. The spectrum of individuals supported range from the medical students in the summer intern program to junior faculty via named research awards, with a smattering of research scholarships and traveling fellowship to those in between. 

While we look to our past to guide us, the future of the AATS Foundation remains strong, and we look forward to establishing new opportunities that will profoundly enhance the careers of cardiothoracic surgeons, advance innovation in cardiothoracic surgery around the world, and fulfill the AATS and its Foundation’s missions.