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SLU's Keith Naunheim Elected President of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons

Keith S. Naunheim, M.D., the Vallee L. and Melba Willman professor and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, on Monday was elected president of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons during the organization’s 54th Annual Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“It means the world that my fellow surgeons think highly enough of me to elect me as STS President,” said Naunheim. “I am flattered and gratified by their confidence, and I will work diligently to move the Society along the right path.” ​

Keith Naunheim
Keith S. Naunheim, M.D. is the Vallee L. and Melba Willman professor and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

The path to cardiothoracic surgery was not necessarily a straightforward and obvious one for Naunheim. An interest in the world of medicine had been inspired by two part-time science instructors in his high school in St. Louis.

Ironically, those two teachers had day jobs as the chief of cardiology and the dean of the medical school at Saint Louis University—the institution where Naunheim has spent the last 33 years.

After graduating cum laude from  Johns Hopkins University, Naunheim was accepted to the University of Chicago School of Medicine. Following a general surgery internship and residency, as well as a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Chicago, Naunheim returned home in 1985 and joined the faculty at SLU, where he remains today. 

An STS member since 1988, Naunheim has served on numerous committees and workforces; most recently, he was the Society’s Secretary and First Vice President. He also has chaired the Workforce on Nomenclature and Coding, the Council on Health Policy and Relationships, and the Workforce on Media Relations and Communications.

In addition, he has held leadership positions in other cardiothoracic surgery organizations, including president of both the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association and the Saint Louis Thoracic Surgical Society. 

As STS President, Naunheim said he will be committed to expanding the Society’s role in advancing health care policy issues that are important to cardiothoracic surgery.

I think that now is the time to turn more of our resources and attention to the issue of diversity and the ethnic, racial, and gender discrepancies within our specialty. Such diversity can only make us stronger."

Keith Naunheim, M.D. 

“The Society is already front and center with regard to quality improvement and clinical care, but I would like for us to take a step further and help determine policy decisions on a national level,” said Naunheim. “My hope is that Washington will pay closer attention to what we have to say about health care delivery and reimbursement methodology. We deserve to be heard, and with active participation, we’re going to make a real difference.”

Naunheim’s agenda as STS President also includes continuing the diversity and inclusion initiative started by his predecessor, Richard L. Prager, M.D.

“I think that now is the time to turn more of our resources and attention to the issue of diversity and the ethnic, racial, and gender discrepancies within our specialty,” said Naunheim. “We need to put forth efforts and resources to broaden our ranks. The more varied our membership, the more diverse the perspectives on training, research, and operative techniques will be. Such diversity can only make us stronger.” 

With interests in lung cancer, esophageal disease, and health policy, as well as in coding and reimbursement issues, Naunheim has authored or co-authored more than 270 peer-reviewed journal articles, abstracts, and book chapters. 

Naunheim, a SLUCare cardiothoracic surgeon, provides surgical treatment of all non-cardiac chest organs (lung, chest wall, esophagus, mediastinum) with both open and minimally invasive procedures, using minimally invasive laparoscopic and thoracoscopic techniques in his work. He is interested in research that investigates benign esophageal disease, health policy, and coding and reimbursement issues.

In his personal life, Naunheim and his wife of 39 years, Rosanne Naunheim, M.D., an emergency room physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, enjoy skeet shooting, traveling, antique hunting and caring for their two oversized Leonberger dogs. They have four children and three grandchildren. 

Founded in 1964, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons is a not-for-profit organization representing more than 7,100 cardiothoracic surgeons, researchers, and allied health care professionals worldwide who are dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for surgeries of the heart, lung, and esophagus, as well as other surgical procedures within the chest. The Society’s mission is to enhance the ability of cardiothoracic surgeons to provide the highest quality patient care through education, research, and advocacy.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious diseases.