In a joint programme between the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) and the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS), two young surgeons have each received US$20,000 in fellowship grants to learn new techniques used by institutions across the world.
Amy G Fiedler from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (Madison, USA), and Gianluca Folesani, from Sant’Orsola Malpighi Polyclinic (Bologna, Italy), have been recognised as the inaugural recipients of the Thoracic Surgery Foundation (TSF)/Francis Fontan Fund (FFF) International Traveling Fellowship. TSF and FFF are the charitable arms of STS and EACTS, respectively.
“The way cardiac surgery kind of starts and stops and then moves and tacks is a little different on the two continents,” said TSF president Joseph E Bavaria (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA). “For example, the regulatory agencies approve different techniques and different devices that we use in cardiac surgery at different rates. So if you want to have exposure to something that is brand new, you may have to go to Europe to do that. Or you may have to come to the USA for that—it goes in both directions.”
The TSF/FFF Fellowship—established in 2021—will help fund international travel and living expenses, allowing the awardees to continue their education outside of their home countries.
Fiedler plans to learn skills and administrative approaches that will help her expand the heart transplant program at UW-Madison, where she currently serves as associate director of heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support. She will study under Stephen Large at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England.
“Professor Large and his team are at the forefront of innovation with respect to nonthermic regional perfusion heart transplantation,” said Fiedler. “They have managed to increase the volume of heart transplantation at their centre by over 30% due to their innovative techniques, which I hope to acquire. I feel honoured and privileged to receive the International Traveling Fellowship. I look forward to a fruitful partnership, and I thank TSF, FFF, and the organizations’ generous donors for this incredible opportunity.”
Folesani, who is accomplished in performing aortic and mitral valve surgery and myocardial revascularisation procedures, intends to use his fellowship to learn minimally invasive techniques on aortic and mitral valves.
“I am also fascinated by robotic surgery, and I would love to learn robotic techniques in order to hopefully start a robotic programme in my centre,” he said. “I am honoured to be given the opportunity to be mentored by Professor Joseph Bavaria of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where we will be linking three Philadelphia institutions for a complete robotic experience with three different institutional approaches.”
He plans to receive robotics training at Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia under the mentorship of T Sloane Guy, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia under Pavan Atluri, and Main Line Health’s Lankenau Heart Institute in Wynnewood under Francis P Sutter.
“I am absolutely thrilled and feel very privileged to receive the TSF/FFF International Traveling Fellowship,” Folesani said. “I am a young cardiac surgeon and the award is such a great opportunity to enrich my education by learning from the experts in the field.”
Each fellow also will have the opportunity to attend one another’s annual meetings—Folesani to attend STS 2023 in San Diego, and Fiedler to attend EACTS 2022 in Milan.
Fiedler and Folesani were selected from 21 applicants through a rigorous and competitive process.
“Good preparation is of the essence,” said EACTS Secretary General J Rafael Sádaba. “I would advise applicants to do their homework, choose well what they want to do and where they want to go. They should try to make sure that what they are aiming to achieve is not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their centre or institution—and for the benefit of the patients that he or she will be treating back home.”
Applications for the 2023 TSF/FFF Fellowship will open this summer. Applicants must be cardiothoracic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery or its equivalent in a country outside of the USA and within seven years of their first faculty appointment.