Featured Thoracic Surgeons: Monthly Features

Today’s Women in CT Surgery

Here we will feature women who represent the wide breadth of practicing thoracic surgeons in our field today.  We look forward to highlighting new women on a monthly basis, showing the great strides in patient care, research, humanitarian work, patient advocacy, and leadership being accomplished by women in our field.  We take pride in showcasing the fantastic women in CT Surgery, setting phenomenal examples both in and out of the operating room.

This month’s featured surgeons:

Drs Jennifer Lawton and Smita Sihag

Jennifer Lawton, MD


Being a cardiothoracic surgeon is a huge honor. Our patients trust us with their lives and we strive to improve them and sometimes to save them. It is very rewarding. But, with all things, nothing good comes easy (or is free?) and it requires hard work and dedication. I am positive that I am a better surgeon because I am a mother and spouse and also that I am a better mother and spouse because I am a surgeon. I would encourage you to seek the life you want, because anything is possible.”

Jennifer S. Lawton, M.D., is a Professor and Chief of the Johns Hopkins Division of Cardiac Surgery, as well as Director of the Cardiac Surgery Research Laboratory. Dr. Lawton’s clinical area of focus is adult cardiac surgery. She also conducts research in myocyte volume regulation and ATP-sensitive K channels. She has held leadership roles in several organizations, making an important impact in our field.  Dr. Lawton’s achievements are impressive, and she has set an outstanding example for all women who have choose to follow in her footsteps.

She was nominated by Dr. Lauren Kane, who states,

“Dr. Jennifer Lawton is someone I respect greatly and who inspires me. She is a skilled cardiac surgeon and a rare “triple threat” in our field, excelling in clinical work, education and research. She leads by example and is a mentor to countless doctors and students. Her accomplishments are impressive and inspiring, yet she unpretentious and approachable. She is a professor of surgery and the current Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Johns Hopkins University. She is past president of the Women in Thoracic Surgery, past chair of the surgery study section of the American Heart Association, a director of the ABTS, and vice-chair of the ACGME residency review committee. She is well published with over 90 peer-reviewed publications and 7 book chapters. Did I mention that she is a wife and mother of two smart, active, healthy children? I want to be like Dr. Lawton when I grow up! She is a true role model and I am so lucky to have her as a friend and colleague.”

Dr Lawton operating

Dr Lawton enjoying fishing

Dr Lawton and her husband skiing

Dr. Lawton’s son and daughter

Smita Sihag MD, MPH


“My decision to go into thoracic surgery was the culmination of several experiences during my second year of residency in particular – with surgeons such as Jim Allan, Chris Morse, Dean Donahue, and Cam Wright, who ultimately became my mentors and advocates over the subsequent years. I distinctly remember what it felt like to open a chest for the first time and the exhilaration of operating in a dynamic space with real-time, observable physiology of vital organs. And I also distinctly remember the phone call that came 2-3 years later from Dr. Mathisen welcoming me into the fellowship program at MGH as the first woman in the thoracic track, and the second ever in the fellowship program. Within a short period of time, there is now a “pipeline” of women coming through the fellowship program.

But having a pipeline is just the beginning. While I’ve always aspired to become an expert or “master” in thoracic surgery someday, I only recently have begun to also aspire to a leadership role to change the outlook of our specialty to embrace fairness, inclusiveness, personal fulfillment, transparency, and talent in all forms. My first year in practice as a staff surgeon at MSKCC has been one of the most exciting of my life to date – filled with sweet victories, humbling failures, grateful patients, challenging cases, and amazing stories that I’ll remember for awhile to come. This privilege should be accessible to all who strive for it, and certainly not at the expense of living a full and fulfilling life.”

Dr. Sihag trained in general surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and obtained her specialty training also at the MGH. She did dedicated research time at the Broad Institute of Harvard/MIT during her residency. As a trainee, Dr. Sihag became an example of clinical and academic success for the male and female junior residents. She was the first female to train in CT surgery at MGH for nearly 20 years and her success in this role has led to an increased volume of female trainees entering this specialty pathway within the MGH. She is currently an attending surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) with a focus on esophageal and lung cancers and is building a dedicated research program at MSKCC examining the genomic and epigenetic changes associated with esophageal cancer and predictive of esophageal cancer response to therapy.

As noted by Dr. Genevieve Boland, who nominated Dr. Sihag,

“Dr. Sihag is a talented surgeon demonstrating clinical excellence in care. Her academic successes parallel her clinical expertise and she has already been awarded the Association of Women Surgeons Fellowship to support her research endeavors. As a colleague and mentor to trainees, she sets the tone of excellence and holds her team to the highest of standards. She was one of the top residents at the MGH. Dr. Sihag represents the best and the brightest of thoracic surgery, male or female. However, given her prominent role as a role model for female residents, she has taken time to mentor the female trainees that have followed in her track and is an ideal candidate to highlight in the field of CT surgery.”

Dr. Sihag and her family at the MGH CT Surgery graduation

Dr. Sihag and her family on the top of Table Mountain, South Africa

Dr. Sihag operating

For our full list of Past Features, click here.

 If you’d like to submit a nomination for a surgeon feature, you can do so below or at this link.

Featured Surgeon Nomination Form

Please use this form to nominate women thoracic surgeons for a feature on the WTS website. Qualified nominees may be practicing surgeons in adult cardiac, congenital cardiac, or general thoracic surgery. Your nominations are greatly appreciated!