Dr. Leah Backhus receives inaugural Extraordinary Women of Cardiothoracic Surgery Award

by Roxanna Van Norman
February 7, 2023

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) and Women in Thoracic Surgery (WTS) awarded its inaugural 2023 Extraordinary Women of Cardiothoracic Surgery Award to Leah Backhus, MD, MPH, FACS, associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She received the award on Saturday, January 21, during STS's 59th annual meeting in San Diego, California.

Dr. Leah Backhus receives the Extraordinary Women of Cardiothoracic Surgery Award at STS 59th annual meeting (Photo credit: Dr. Lye-Leng Wong)

"I am honored to receive this Extraordinary Woman of Cardiothoracic Surgery Award as it exemplifies the fact that we can all be amazing surgeons, yet some of us have had to travel different roads," said Backhus. "This is an acknowledgment of that difference while highlighting it as part and parcel to the excellent work being done."

The Extraordinary Women of Cardiothoracic Surgery Award recognizes women surgeons who have demonstrated excellence in clinical practice and made other notable contributions to the specialty. Nominations for the award recognize those who exemplify excellence in clinical practice, leadership, mentorship, and advocacy.

"Congratulations to Dr. Backhus on this achievement and for recognition of her outstanding work by her peers and the cardiothoracic surgery community," said Joseph Woo, MD, professor and chair of cardiothoracic surgery and the Norman E. Shumway Professor. "Her exemplary expertise in clinical care, research, and education truly demonstrates excellence in our field."

Backhus is a member of the Board of Directors for STS, one of the premier societies in cardiothoracic surgery committed to advancing patient care through collaboration, education, research, and advocacy. She is serving as Director-at-Large for 2023-2024.

According to STS First Vice President Jennifer Romano, MD, MS, and WTS Immediate Past President Lauren Kane, MD, more than 130 nominations were submitted for consideration for the inaugural award. Backhus, who was nominated by her colleague David Cooke, MD, of UC Davis Health, received the award with two other recipients, Jennifer Ellis, MD, of New York University Langone Health, and Betty Tong, MD, MHS, of Duke University School of Medicine.

From left to right: Drs. Jennifer Romano, Leah Backhus, Jennifer Ellis, Betty Tong, and Lauren Kane (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joseph Shrager)

WTS is dedicated to supporting and advancing women in the field of cardiothoracic surgery. Backhus also serves on its Board of Directors and has been selected as Director-at-Large for 2023-2024. She was previously honored with the Dwight C. McGoon Teaching Award in 2019 for her commitment to resident education and mentorship awarded by the Thoracic Surgery Residents Association at the STS 56th annual meeting.

"Dr. Backhus has made incredible contributions both here at Stanford and to our wider CT surgical community nationally in multiple aspects of academic thoracic surgery. She is indeed an extraordinary woman," said Joseph Shrager, MD, professor and chief of the division of thoracic surgery in the Stanford Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. "We are so proud to have her extraordinary work recognized in this way by being among the three individuals to receive the first-ever Extraordinary Women in CT Surgery Awards."

Dr. Backhus with members from the Stanford Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery (Photo courtesy of Dr. Leah Backhus)

Dr. Backhus's expertise as a surgeon includes thoracic surgery with particular emphasis on thoracic oncology and minimally invasive surgical techniques. Her current research interests are imaging surveillance following lung cancer treatment and cancer survivorship. She co-directs the Stanford Thoracic Surgery Clinical Research Program and is the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery Associate Program Director for the Thoracic Track Residency.

Dr. Leah Backhus