Case Study: A Heart and Lung Surgeon Shortage–A Crisis in Care

Case Study: A Heart and Lung Surgeon Shortage--A Crisis in Care 1

Challenge:  The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) wanted to raise awareness among members of Congress and the general public about the prospective shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons and the impact on the public. They wanted to convince Congress to remove financial barriers for residents regarding student loan deferment and the need to include the cost of quality improvement (taking clinical staff to surgery) in practice expenses.  Internally, STS wanted to show their members the value of their membership by raising awareness among them about what STS was doing to address the cardiothoracic surgery shortage.

Action: Build a campaign around the soon-to-be released National Residency Matching Program data to raise awareness about the surgeon shortage.  This data shows the specialty areas that newly graduated medical doctors are entering. The campaign identified the reasons behind the shortage (deep cuts in Medicare payments, student loan deferment laws for other specialties but not thoracic surgery, etc.) and messages were crafted that resonated with the target audiences.


  • Press Conference.  A press conference/congressional briefing kicked off the campaign and was picked up in targeted media, both national and local.
  • Speaker Training.  Speaker training was provided for the four campaign spokespeople and a patient whose life was saved by cardiothoracic surgery.
  • Media Kit. Virtual and hard copy media kits were developed with fact sheets, backgrounder, statistics, charts, issue briefs and other materials written in laymen’s terms for the press.
  • Targeted Media Relations. Media relations were targeted to specific cities represented by members of Congress who sat on key committees with jurisdiction over legislation addressing STS’s concerns.
  • Internal Campaign. An internal campaign was focused on STS members, to ensure they were kept up to date on STS’s efforts on their behalf.

Results: The campaign was extremely successful with national stories appearing in a variety of media, including television, radio, newspapers and on-line.  This coverage took place nationally on the “Nightly Business Report,” UPI and other wire services, and other syndicated media across the country.  We also earned significant coverage in our target local markets.  This was the most successful PR campaign in STS history.


Posted on

June 5, 2017