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Promoting Scholarship, Innovation, and Leadership in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery since 1917.

The history of cardiothoracic surgery

When a group of physicians met on June 7, 1917, they knew that in order to make any progress in surgery of the thorax, physicians who specialized in thoracic surgery would need to have discussions, work together, and build upon each other’s work. That day, those individuals set the foundation for the American Association for Thoracic Surgery as well as the field of cardiothoracic surgery that we know today.

After AATS founder, Dr. Willy Meyer, presented a paper at the 1913 Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association on the first successful esophageal resection for cancer, no discussion followed. There was not a single question. This may not be surprising since few surgeons focused on the thorax and most doubted that successful thoracic surgery could even be achieved. Instead of being discouraged, the experience inspired Dr. Meyer to bring together not just surgeons, but a range of healthcare professionals who could contribute their knowledge to advancing the field. That attitude led to the name of this organization as one not “of thoracic surgeons” but “for thoracic surgery.” For more than 100 years, the AATS has sought to continue to advance the field through promoting scholarship, innovation, and leadership in cardiothoracic surgery.

Interviews with AATS Past Presidents