On behalf of Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI), I want to extend heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Robert S.D. Higgins, surgeon-in-chief of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the newly elected president of the national Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS).

Dr. Higgins has been an STS member since 1997 and served in a number of leadership roles until his appointment as president at the organization’s annual meeting last month. You can read the official news release, in which Dr. Higgins says this of the STS: “We have to be a more global organization. We have the responsibility as leaders to address the needs of diverse populations and to be more inclusive, not only in North America, but in Europe and around the world.”

Dr. Higgins has long been interested in health care economics and policy, racial disparities in post-transplant outcomes and access to care. He has stated that one of his primary goals as the STS’s new president will be to develop an inclusive global agenda.

As one of the world’s leading heart surgery organizations, the STS already is serving as a global champion for reducing the impact of cardiovascular disease in low- and middle-income countries. Last year, it was one of a number of organizations that banded together on the Cape Town Declaration, a worldwide initiative to treat rheumatic heart disease (RHD), which affects 33 million people and kills 320,000 annually. Although virtually eliminated in Europe and North America, RHD remains a leading cause of cardiovascular death in Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the South Pacific.

At JHI, we’ve seen Dr. Higgins’ commitment to improving health and health care around the world. A notable example is his collaboration with surgeons at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH), our joint venture in Saudi Arabia, to create a quality assessment and process improvement program to ensure better outcomes for patients there. He also worked closely with his JHAH colleagues to develop a cardiac surgery program, which included recruiting JHAH’s head of cardiac surgery, Dr. Harry D. Parissis, who also has a joint appointment with Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Thank you, Dr. Higgins, for all that you’re doing to improve health in communities locally and around the world. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons is lucky to have you at its helm.

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