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Dr Yolonda Colson, Leading the Future of CT Surgery

Friday, July 10, 2020

Antonoff M, Colson Y. Dr Yolonda Colson, Leading the Future of CT Surgery. July 2020. doi:10.25373/ctsnet.12631886

In this CTSNet Interview, Dr Mara Antonoff discusses the background, inspiration, and stepping stones to the career of the formidable Dr Yolonda Colson. Dr Colson is the chief of Thoracic Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Hermes C. Grillo Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. She completed a degree in biomedical engineering prior to attending medical school at Mayo.  She earned her doctorate in immunology and did her general surgery training in Pittsburgh, completed her cardiothoracic training at Brigham and Women’s, and a fellowship in cellular therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh. She is recognized for an outstanding body of research, having been the recipient of numerous grants from the NIH and the NCI. She is co-inventor on multiple patents, and she’s recognized worldwide as a phenomenal surgeon, an innovative researcher, a dedicated educator, and an inspiring leader. In addition to achieving the role of chief at MGH, Dr Colson is the examination chair for the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, the Chair of the advisory committee for the AATS Foundation, and is involved at a leadership level in dozens of other organizations. In the spring of 2020, Dr Colson was elected into the position of Vice President of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, meaning that in 2022, she will become the first female president in AATS history.

For so many women and under-represented minorities in our field, Dr Colson’s election into the role of AATS VP was a huge, monumental event—recognizing that this is a progressive and important landmark for our specialty. Her path has inspired and motivated so many young surgeons, and in this interview, she delves into her past and key advice for early and midcareer surgeons. 

Having achieved remarkable success in bioengineering and developing new materials in thoracic surgery for novel approaches to treatment delivery, Dr Colson addresses younger members of the specialty, who may be at the start of their academic surgical careers, and provides advice for finding a niche. She discusses the role of mentorship in career development and how to best find a mentor.  Dr Colson gives some key tips on how to balance family and career, as well as how to balance clinical and research goals. She elaborates on the roles of mentorship, sponsorship, and coaching beyond early career, and how these networking elements are critical to midcareer surgeons seeking to further progress. Finally, Dr Colson shares with the audience how she wants to be remembered as a leader. 

This interview highlights the amazing achievements of one of Thoracic Surgery’s Greats, as we all look toward ongoing leadership from Dr Colson and the legacy that she will leave. 


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