The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently proposed a substantial cut to reimbursement for surgical services, punctuating a steady decline in reimbursement for clinical services provided by cardiothoracic surgeons during the last several decades. Meanwhile, the costs of practicing cardiothoracic surgery continue to increase. In an effort to defect against diminishing control over patient care and further negative changes affecting reimbursement, cardiothoracic surgeons must be able to convincingly demonstrate their value to patients and the health care system. However, the overall contribution of a cardiothoracic surgeon can be difficult to measure objectively and varies widely according to a host of factors, including practice setting, experience, subspecialization, and the local market. To address these challenges, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons Workforce on Practice Management has commissioned a Writing Task Force to raise awareness, to concentrate knowledge, and to organize information related to compensation as a comprehensive resource for cardiothoracic surgeons. The purpose of this initial report is to provide an overview of the major factors having an impact on compensation for cardiothoracic surgeons.