Celebrating 100 Years

American Association for Thoracic Surgery 1917-2017

When a group of physicians met on June 7, 1917, to form a national association focused on thoracic surgery, they could not have imagined the advances that have been made in the field. They did know that in order to make any progress, physicians who specialized in thoracic surgery would need to have discussions, to work together and to build upon each other’s work.   

Thoracic Surgery in the Early 20th Century

After AATS founder Willy Meyer presented a paper at the 1913 Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association on the first successful esophageal resection for cancer, no discussion followed. Not even a single question. Few surgeons focused on the thorax given that most doubted that successful thoracic surgery could be achieved. 

An Association For Thoracic Surgery

The lack of discussion at the AMA Meeting did not discourage Dr. Meyer. Instead, he sought to bring together not just surgeons, but a range of healthcare professionals who could contribute their knowledge to advancing the field. That attitude led to the name of the organization as one not “of thoracic surgeons” but “for thoracic surgery.” 

The Present and Future

Today, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery continues to promote scholarship, innovation and leadership in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery so that 100 years from now, breakthroughs that seem unimaginable can be routine.


Dr. Willy Meyer 

Learn more about the history of the AATS and the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, read what AATS President Thoralf M. Sundt, III, MD wrote about being President during the centennial year and see what others in the cardiothoracic community said about the anniversary.