WTS was formed when Leslie J. Kohman, MD, of the Department of Surgery at SUNY Upstate Medical University in New York and the first woman elected to the Residency Review Committee for Thoracic Surgery, organized an informal breakfast for women thoracic surgeons at the STS 24th Annual Meeting. Only eight women were in attendance but their enthusiasm resulted in future annual breakfast and luncheon meetings during subsequent meetings of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Membership increased steadily when the association began outreach efforts to include residents and set goals to provide support to women in training, disseminate information about thoracic surgery residencies, faculty positions and research opportunities, and interact with other groups of professional women.
The first Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery newsletter was published in 1988, and was titled Oracle in 1994. WTS first drafted its bylaws in 1992. The term “Thoracic Surgeon” was widely accepted, by the different cardiothoracic societies and associations, to encompass all three subspecialties (cardiac, thoracic, and congenital cardiac surgery). In 1996, the association officially changed its name to Women in Thoracic Surgery.
In 2000, WTS and STS jointly produced The Women in Thoracic Surgery Symposium, which celebrated the achievements of the first 100 women certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. At that time, WTS became an incorporated nonprofit organization and a member organization of CTSNet. The WTS organization could not have been established without industry support, including that of Baxter-Edwards, Medtronic, Inc. and Scanlan International Inc.
In June 2007, WTS began to operate under management services provided by STS and established its headquarters in Chicago.