Vaughn A. Starnes, MD, a pioneering, internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, chair of the Department of Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC, and co-director of the Heart Institute and founder of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), has been appointed president of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) for 2019-2020. The announcement was made May 7 at the AATS 2019 Annual Meeting in Toronto.

As president, Starnes will lead the AATS as it continues in its commitment to science, education and research, and furthers its mission to promote scholarship, innovation and leadership in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery.

“I’m honored to lead AATS, one of the oldest and most prestigious organizations dedicated to cardiothoracic surgery,” Starnes said. “As we look to the year ahead, AATS will continue in its commitment to encourage, promote and advance the field of cardiothoracic surgery, and further its significant contributions to the care and treatment of cardiothoracic disease.”

In addition to serving as chair of the Department of Surgery, Starnes is a Distinguished Professor of Surgery, executive director of the USC CardioVascular Thoracic Institute and the H. Russell Smith Foundation Chair for Stem Cell and Cardiovascular Thoracic Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Starnes also is president of the USC Care Medical Group. He joined USC in July 1992.

As executive director of the USC CardioVascular Thoracic Institute at Keck Medicine, Starnes has built an interdisciplinary powerhouse composed of clinicians and scientists who are exploring innovative ways to treat heart disease. Under his leadership, USC surgeons have conducted more than 50,000 adult and pediatric open heart surgeries to repair and replace valves, create coronary artery bypasses and repair complex adult and congenital heart defects.

Starnes founded the Heart Institute after joining CHLA in 1992, and launched CHLA’s pediatric heart transplant program a year later. Today, he specializes in treating damaged heart valves with minimally invasive repairs and valve replacements in children.

In 1990, Starnes performed the world’s first lobar transplant, using a lung segment from a living donor. The following year, he performed a heart and lung transplant on a one-month-old infant — the youngest heart-lung transplant patient ever at the time.  Starnes also performed the first living-donor, double-lobar lung transplant on a patient with cystic fibrosis. The operation involved taking lung tissue from each of the child’s parents and transplanting it into the patient.

In addition to his clinical work, Starnes is also a respected researcher. He has an ongoing interest in congenital heart disease, cadaveric and living-donor organ transplantation, repair and replacement of heart valves, coronary bypass grafting and gene therapy techniques to address problems following heart surgery. He also is investigating the use of stem cells to treat rare pediatric cardiac defects.

Starnes earned his medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and conducted his general surgery training at Vanderbilt University, where he also completed two years of research in cardiothoracic physiology and pharmacology. He went on to complete two years at Stanford University as a resident in cardiovascular surgery and one year as chief resident in cardiac transplantation. He then accepted a prestigious fellowship in pediatric cardiovascular surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in London. When he returned to Stanford, he was appointed director of its heart-lung transplantation program.

The AATS is an international organization of more than 1,500 of the world’s foremost cardiothoracic surgeons, representing 42 countries. Founded in 1917, its members have a proven record of distinction within the specialty and have made significant contributions to the care and treatment of cardiothoracic disease throughout the world.