Stanford CT Surgery celebrates Black history

We’re fortunate to have Dr. Leah Backhus (left) and Dr. Elan Burton (right) as part of our full time faculty.  They are talented surgeons, thoughtful researchers, and dedicated mentors. Dr. Backhus is the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the Palo Alto VA and Dr. Burton is a clinical assistant professor based at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Black surgeons and researchers have been integral to the development of cardiothoracic surgery. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a general surgeon, founded the U.S.'s first interracial hospital.  In 1893, he performed the first successful open heart surgery, repairing a pericardial wound at that very hospital.

Vivien Thomas, a lab supervisor, worked with Dr. Alfred Blalock to change the face of cardiac surgery. Thomas was instrumental in developing the first successful surgical treatment for the Tetrology of Fallot in the early 1940s, and trained generations of cardiac greats.

Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott became the first Black woman to train in thoracic surgery, beginning her residency at Boston University Medical Center in 1977. Throughout her career, she has been a leader, serving as the president of Women in Thoracic Surgery and a founding member Society of Black Academic Surgeons.  

Dr. Backhus and Dr. Burton continue this legacy of excellence. But they also represent a small minority. Only 4% of ABTS-certified surgeons are women, and women represent only 7% of cardiothoracic surgeons in academia (AAMC 2018). We will continue to strive against underrepresentation in cardiothoracic surgery and encourage any who are interested to pursue this amazing profession.