This is not the first time that the American Association for Thoracic Surgery Annual Meeting has been disrupted by world events. But we survived, as did the world. I looked back through the archives and found a gleam of hope. In the 1940s, three Annual Meetings were cancelled as a consequence of the global conflict, but in the first meeting back after the hiatus in 1946, a record number of attendees met in Chicago at the Drake Hotel with a renewed interest in the field of thoracic surgery. It was the Second World War that propelled thoracic surgery into its own as a surgical discipline. The AATS the following year instigated the founding of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery which officially raised its banner in 1948, and a new day had dawned.
Progress never stands still. Last month, during the AATS 100th Annual Meeting: A Virtual Learning Experience, Vaughn A. Starnes in his Presidential Address, summarized changes to the educational paradigm spawned from the continuing evolution of the treatment of cardiothoracic disease. Students and young surgical trainees often ask me if they should go into cardiothoracic surgery because it is a secure, stable field – they are definitely asking the wrong questions. The Latin derivation of the word “secure” is “without care”, while the Latin derivation of the word “stable” is “to stand still”. To stand still without care? That is not what I am about, and that is not what our specialty is about. I do not want our field to be secure and stable – I want it to be transformative and in perpetual motion. Let’s wear our hearts on our sleeve. Let’s be spontaneous and creative – it’s our nature, and it’s the nature of our field.
Since the AATS was founded in 1917, people have been predicting the collapse of thoracic surgery before it was even a specialty. With its initial focus on lung abscess, bronchiectasis, and chest wall tumors, naysayers proclaimed, “In two or three years, everything will be said, and the society will die for lack of interest.” To quote Ebenezer Scrooge, “Bah Humbug!” Our specialty has evolved during the last century and continues to grow, as does the AATS.
My first promise to you as President is that the AATS, like the specialty of cardiothoracic surgery, will not “stand still without care.” Last year, the AATS Board developed a three-year strategic plan that we hope will catapult us forward as the second century of our Association dawns. At the 101st AATS Annual Meeting in Seattle next year, I hope to summarize our progress in three specific areas: 1.) International Outreach, 2.) Diversity and Inclusion, and 3.) Wellness – not only individual wellness, but the wellness of our specialty and the global community at large. In addition to our longstanding commitment to the AATS mission “to promote scholarship, innovation, and leadership for thoracic and cardiovascular surgery,” these three areas of focus will foster future generations of cardiothoracic surgeons, who may not “look like” the group that gathered a century ago for the AATS 1st Annual Meeting, but whose dedication to advancing our field is paramount to our continued growth as a specialty and Association.
Marc R. Moon, MD
AATS 101st President