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Yolonda L. Colson Assumes Presidency of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery

May 26, 2022

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Other Individuals on the AATS Board of Directors Include Lars G. Svensson, President-Elect; David R. Jones, Vice President; Rosemary F. Kelly, Secretary; Leonard N. Girardi, Treasurer-Elect; Christopher A. Caldarone, Director; and Isabelle Opitz, International Director

Yolonda L. Colson, MD, PhD, became the 103rd President of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) and notably the first female President of the Association. She officially succeeded Shaf Keshavjee, MD, in a presentation during the AATS 102nd Annual Meeting in Boston, MA.

Dr. Colson is the Chief for the Division of Thoracic Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Hermes C. Grillo Professor in the Field of Thoracic Surgery, and Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. In addition to her cardiothoracic surgical training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, her academic training includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an MD from Mayo Medical School, and a PhD and general surgery residency at University of Pittsburgh.

She was Co-chair of the 2015 AATS Annual Meeting and has served on numerous AATS committees, including the Membership Committee, Scientific Affairs and Government Relations Committee, AATS Foundation Board of Directors, and currently serves as Chair of the Advisory Council for the AATS Foundation.

Dr. Colson has a specific clinical interest in improving the identification and treatment of lung cancer, increasing access to curative therapies, extending the chance of cure through novel technologies, and broadening our understanding of the unique differences of lung cancer in women. She is co-inventor on three awarded patents and has received more than twenty foundation grants, including the AATS Alton Ochsner Research Scholarship, and seven R01 grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute. Her research focuses on the development of unique mechanisms of polymer and nanoparticle drug delivery aimed at preventing cancer recurrence, and the investigation of novel methods to identify a hidden tumor that has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

“I am honored to serve as the 103rd President of the AATS,” said Dr. Colson. “Women make 80% of healthcare decisions. The leading causes of death for women are cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. So it is vital that women take leadership roles in academic cardiovascular surgery.”

Joining her in a new position on the Executive Committee is Lars G. Svensson, MD, PhD, who is now President-Elect, and in line to become the Association’s 104th President. Dr. Svensson is the Chairman of the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic and served on the Cleveland Clinic Health System Operations Council. Dr. Svensson is an internationally known cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon. His research has led to many innovative surgical treatments and techniques. He is a Professor of Surgery at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.

Dr. Svensson previously served on the AATS Board and has chaired the AATS Guidelines Committee. He has chaired multispecialty guidelines writing committees for endovascular treatment with stents for the thoracic aorta, aortic valve surgery, and for the treatment of thoracic aortic disease.

Dr. Svensson is the former Associate Editor of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, and serves on several editorial boards, including the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Journal of Cardiac Surgery, and the Annals of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. He has written a number of books and published more than 600 manuscripts.

David R. Jones, MD, was elected Vice President, and is in line to become the Association’s 105th President. Dr. Jones is Professor and Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Executive Vice-Chair for the Department of Surgery. He is also the Co-Director of the Fiona and Stanly Druckenmiller Center for Lung Cancer Research. He is recent past Chair of the NIH/NCI Tumor Progression and Metastasis (TPM) study section and is past president of the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association. He recently concluded serving five years as Secretary of the AATS, Co-Chair of the AATS Publications Committee, and Associate Editor for the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. He also serves as Chair of the AATS Thoracic Surgery Oncology Group (TSOG) for clinical trials.

Dr. Jones’s research focuses on mechanisms and drivers of metastases in lung cancer. His research has been funded by the NIH/NCI, Department of Defense, and the AACR. He has been the Principal Investigator or Co-PI on more than 35 funded grants and currently holds 2 R01 awards from the NCI. He has published more than 400 papers and has written more than 35 book chapters. He was an early adopter of VATS anatomic resections and minimally-invasive esophagectomies and performs the overwhelming majority of his operations using these approaches.

Following one year as Secretary-Elect, Rosemary F. Kelly, MD is now Secretary of the AATS. Dr. Kelly is the C. Walton and Richard C. Lillehei Professor and Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Kelly completed medical school at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine and general surgery training at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center. She completed her cardiothoracic surgery residency at the University of Minnesota. In addition to being Division Chief, she is Program Director of the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Fellowship Program at the University of Minnesota. She is Vice-Chair of Clinical Faculty Development for the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota and Chief of the Heart and Vascular Service Line for M Health Fairview. Her research interests have been supported by Merit Review and institutional grants for more than 20 years and involves regenerative therapies to improve myocardial recovery at the time of revascularization.

For the AATS, she served on the Membership Committee for 6 years, and was Chair for two years. She is currently Co-Chair of the Publications Committee and a member of the Cardiothoracic Residents Committee and the Leadership Academy Board. In these roles, she strives to improve educational experiences and professional opportunities for the next generations of cardiothoracic surgeons.

Leonard N. Girardi, MD has been named Treasurer-Elect and will follow Dr. Emile A. Bacha’s term as Treasurer. Dr. Girardi is the Chairman and O. Wayne Isom Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He is also the Cardiothoracic Surgeon-in-Chief at the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He has been an AATS members since 2005. He has published and lectured extensively in multiple areas of cardiac and thoracic surgery, particularly in the area of surgery on the thoracic aorta. Despite his academic and administrative commitments, he continues to remain one of the highest volume cardiac surgeons in the state of New York and has been recognized for consistently producing some of the best results in the New York State Department of Health Cardiac Surgery Database. Dr. Girardi has led numerous committees for the Association including the Membership Committee and most recently concluded his oversight role as Director on the AATS Cardiac Clinical Practice Standards Committee.

Christopher A. Caldarone, MD, has been named as a Director. Dr. Caldarone is Chief of Congenital Heart Surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital. His main clinical interests include the treatment of left ventricular outflow tract obstruction, coronary anomalies, and pulmonary vein stenosis. His research interests have focused on the role of apoptosis related mitochondrial dysfunction, remote ischemic preconditioning, pulmonary vein stenosis, and the myocyte response to single ventricle physiology during interstage myocardial failure.

Isabelle Opitz, MD, was named an International Director. Dr. Opitz is Director of the Department of Thoracic Surgery and Chair of the Lung Cancer Center, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland. Besides her general thoracic surgery activity, other interests are lung transplantation, pulmonary endarterectomy, and the treatment of pleural mesothelioma. She was awarded with several national and international prizes and has acquired more than 9.5 million CHF grant for her own research. She is an author of more than 120 original publications, multiple reviews, and book chapters. She is currently serving as Treasurer and President Elect of the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

“AATS benefits from the talent and leadership of surgeon leaders deeply committed to this specialty and to AATS’s vital mission,” commented AATS Chief Executive Officer David R. Bobbitt in announcing these appointments. “With the new roles for Drs. Colson, Svensson, Jones, and Girardi, and the addition of Drs. Caldarone and Opitz, the AATS Board of Directors, Nominating Committee, and AATS global membership demonstrate once again the highest values of leadership, education, mentoring, research and innovation, and excellence in patient care.”


The American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) is an international organization that encourages, promotes, and stimulates the scientific investigation of cardiothoracic surgery. Founded in 1917 by a respected group of the earliest pioneers in the field, its original mission was to “foster the evolution of an interest in surgery of the Thorax.” Today, the AATS is the premiere association for cardiothoracic surgeons in the world and works to continually enhance the ability of cardiothoracic surgeons to provide the highest quality of patient care. Its more than 1,500 members have a proven record of distinction within the specialty and have made significant contributions to the care and treatment of cardiothoracic disease. Visit to learn more.