The 102nd meeting of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) was held on March 14–17, 2022, in Boston at the Hynes Convention Center. Several breakthrough presentations highlighted this year’s meeting theme of innovation.
At the plenary session on May 15, Dr. Bartley Griffith from the University of Maryland Medical Center reported on the first successful human heart xenotransplant from a genetically engineered pig. The patient survived several months, and notably had no evidence of acute rejection, thus providing evidence for the effectiveness of the genetic modification process in producing an organ that could remain functional in humans. While there is much more work to be done before this approach can be widely applicable, there is no doubt that this was a major breakthrough. In the same session, Dr. Jennie Kwon from Medical University of South Carolina, reported the early outcomes for heart transplants using donation after circulatory death (DCD) hearts in the U.S. The results were outstanding and equivalent to those achieved with traditional donors. The xenotransplant approach is transformative breakthrough. The DCD approach has the potential to immediately increase donor availability.
Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D., then gave J.D. a keynote presentation, “Doing the Impossible…Time and Again,” Dr. Rothblatt was the creator of Sirius XM and the founder and CEO of United Therapeutics. Her approach to making these transformational advances was based on facts and on applied engineering and science. On first impression, the presentation had the feel of science fiction. That was, of course, until it became increasingly clear that she had actually accomplished all of this. Both her accomplishments and her personal story were truly amazing!
On May 16, the renowned author of five New York Times bestsellers, Malcolm Gladwell, gave an entertaining and insightful presentation entitled “Experimenting with Experiments.” Dr. Shaf Keshavsee’s Presidential Address used his extraordinary career to illustrate the need to pursue innovation and challenge the organization to remain inquisitive and creative.
Lastly, a significant tipping point happened at this meeting. During the executive session on May 16, 2022, Dr. Yolonda Colson became the 103rd President of the AATS and the first woman to hold this position. This was overdue and historic and should be celebrated by all. Dr. Colson is Chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Hermes Grillo Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.
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