James L. Cox Fellowship in Atrial Fibrillation Surgery

Fellowship Goal

To provide newly graduated cardiothoracic surgeons from around the world with an immersive 2 to 4 week, educational experience in order to enhance their clinical understanding and surgical proficiency in treating patients with atrial fibrillation under the guidance of leading surgeon-educators in the field.

Program Overview
The specific learning objectives are to equip surgeons with the foundational knowledge of the pathophysiology of atrial fibrillation, the rationale for surgical treatment and the ability to perform the AF correction procedure. As a result, the provided training and mentorship opportunity will assist Fellows so that they may ascend to leadership roles in surgical AF treatment over the course of their careers. 

The curriculum includes a thorough review and demonstrated understanding of the following topics:
  • Pathophysiology of AF
  • Electrophysiologic mechanisms of AF
  • Key cardiac anatomy associated with AF and surgical treatment
  • Foundational and contemporary peer-reviewed literature on the disease and treatment options
  • Heart Rhythm Society Consensus Guidelines for AF Classification and reporting success
  • Diagnosis and screening for AF in patients referred for structural heart procedures
  • Co-morbidities associated with AF
  • The impact of lesion set and energy source on outcomes
  • Different approaches and considerations for concomitant and sole therapy procedures
  • Decision making and surgical approaches to treatment
  • Left atrial appendage (LAA) management and the concept of AF-related stroke arising from the LAA
  • Postoperative care of patients including rhythm assessment
  • Collaborating with cardiologists and electrophysiologists in AF treatment
  • Host surgeons will lead didactic instruction on each of the topics and may engage fellow cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiologists, electrophysiologists, or AF nurses to assist, as appropriate, to further advance the Cardiothoracic Fellow’s learning.

In parallel to didactic instruction, the Cardiothoracic Fellow will participate in the day-to-day activities of the host surgeon’s office and surgical practice. In centers with an AF Clinic, the Cardiothoracic Fellow will spend focused time with all specialties within the clinic to understand patient work up and flow through the center, the treatment decision making process, and assessment of post treatment success. In addition, if the host surgeon or host center is involved in AF research, the Cardiothoracic Fellow will be provided with an opportunity, as appropriate, to contribute to the basic or clinical research as a supplemental learning opportunity.

At the discretion of the lead host surgeon, Cardiothoracic Fellows may have the opportunity to scrub in to facilitate the application of their training to the extent possible.  Hosts sites that are unable to offer the opportunity to scrub in, will host an observational only experience.

A number of host surgeons/institutions have partnered with the AATS Foundation on this initiative. Potential host institutions include:
  • Dr. Niv Ad, Washington Adventist Hospital and University of Maryland
  • Dr. Gorav Ailawadi, University of Virginia
  • Dr. Vinay Badhwar, WVU Heart and Vascular Institute
  • Dr. Ralph Damiano, Jr., Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes Jewish Hospital
  • Dr. Marc Gerdisch, Franciscan St. Francis Hospital
  • Dr. Vigneshwar Kasirajan, Pauley Heart Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System
  • Dr. Armin Kiankhooy, USC Keck School of Medicine
  • Dr. Alan Speir, Inova Fairfax


To be eligible for an award, candidates must meet the following minimum requirements for consideration:
  • Current Status: Candidate is in their final year of training with plans to complete their fellowship prior to the start of a formal appointment or has been in practice less than three years.
  • Travel Requirements: Candidate meets all necessary licensure and credentialing criteria required by the host center.
  • Language Requirement: Fluency in English is mandatory. 

Application Process
In addition to a formal online application, candidates will also be required to upload the following materials:
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Letter of support from their chief/chair at their current institution or their training program
  • One to two page narrative to include: (1) what they hope to accomplish during their fellowship; (2) how they will utilize the skills they have learned at their home institution, if applicable; (3) relationship of the planned study to the applicant’s prior experience, preparation and professional goals; and, (4) statement of future career goals
  • Identify the number of AF cases observed during training or in current practice

Review Process/Award Funding
AATS Foundation’s Fellowship Review Committee will review all applications and notify awardees of final decision within 45 days of application deadline. Applications will be graded on all aspects of the award criteria. Depending on the planned time spent at the host training site as described in the application, a selection of one of the following two levels will be awarded to offset travel and living expenses:
  • Level One – Awards of up to $3,750 for two weeks of study
  • Level Two – Awards of up to $7,500 for one month of study

At the conclusion of their training, a final report describing their Fellowship experience and its application to clinical practice will be required for submission.

Application Deadline: May 1, 2019