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Women in Thoracic Surgery

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Women in the field of thoracic surgery were here to stay after Nina Braunwald, M.D., Ann McKiel and Nermin Tutunju became the first women certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery in 1961. Dr. Braunwald, in 1968, established a program in cardiovascular surgery at the University of CA in San Diego. By 1968, there were only five women certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

As the number of women entering thoracic surgery programs grew, this group of unique women was drawn together by common interests and experiences. In the mid 1980's they began gathering for breakfast at the STS and AATS meetings, developing friendships, offering encouragement and support. The woman who spearheaded these meetings was Leslie Kohman, M.D., then (and still) on the faculty of the Department of Surgery at SUNY. She kept alive the concept of a woman's group by sending out notices of get-togethers, and keeping lists of attendees. In 1988, Sharon Bogerty edited the first edition of a newsletter, Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery, subsequently carried forth by Leslie. Forty seven women were board certified by this time.

A few highlights and "firsts": Margaret Allen, M.D. was the first woman to attend Dr Alain Carpentier's Club Mitrale in France in 1988. In 1989, Pat McCormack, M.D. and Lynda Mickelborough, M.D. were the second and third women elected to AATS (of course, Nina Braunwald was the first). How appropriate that in 1991, Leslie Kohman was elected the first president of Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery, the same year that Julie Swain, M.D. became the fourth woman elected to AATS. There were now 58 women board certified in thoracic surgery.

In 1992, with Phyllis Edwards, M.D. as president, Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery adopted a set of By-Laws. Jemi Olak, M.D, followed Phyllis after two terms (4 years) in the presidency. The name of the organization was changed to WOMEN IN THORACIC SURGERY in 1996. A directory of members was published and the Scanlan Company agreed to sponsor publication of a newsletter for our organization. The Oracle was born!

Roz Scott, M.D. during her presidency (1998-2001) undertook the enormous project of organizing a symposium honoring the women in thoracic surgery, which was presented in January 2000 at the STS meeting and later published as a supplement to The Annals of Thoracic Surgery Volume 71, Feburary 2001. An official logo was voted on by the membership. The idea of a public education campaign regarding women and heart disease and women and lung cancer was in the organizational stages. By the year 2000, there were 107 women who had received certification from The American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

In 2001, A.J. Carpenter, M.D. PhD was elected president. Under her leadership, our organization became incorporated and also became a 501(C )3 non-profit organization. Obtaining non-profit status required WTS to search in depth and outline its goals. Its goals are as follows:

  1. To promote and practice the highest quality of medical care for our patients.
  2. To mentor young women from pre-medical studies, through medical school, general surgery programs and thoracic surgery programs, to promote cardiac/thoracic surgery as a career choice.
  3. To promote the idea of women as surgeons to middle school, high school and college students.
  4. To inform the public, through media campaigns on a regional basis, that cardiac and lung disease in women are commonly under-diagnosed. Cardiac disease is the number one cause of death in women while lung cancer is the number on cause of cancer death in women.
  5. To work to continuously improve and develop our members professionally, through educational conferences, research, seminars, and teaching, with the goal of providing better heart and lung health care to the public.

WTS continues to grow, its ideas and goals are expanding and the organization is developing exciting plans for the future. Today, in 2002, our membership numbers 60, we have 11 institutional members and an international database of 177 women.

The current Board of Directors consists of A.J. Carpenter, M.D. PhD., Carolyn Dresler, M.D., Lorraine J. Rubis, M.D., Mercedes Dullum, M.D., Carolyn Reed, M.D. and Leslie Kohman, M.D.

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