American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

National Institutes of Health Launches Research Program to Address Surgical Disparities

Groundbreaking research initiative builds on the results of 2015 National Institutes of Health and American College of Surgeons symposium


CHICAGO (May 2, 2016): On April 18, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced the launch of an initiative to support research to better understand and address disparities in surgical care and outcomes for disadvantaged populations.

This new research initiative builds on the results of a joint symposium held by NIH and American College of Surgeons (ACS) in May 2015 and will provide R01 and R21 grant opportunities to understand and address disparities in surgical care and outcomes. The initiative springs forth from the concerted efforts of the ACS and its affiliated institutions in improving access, quality, and safe surgical care for all population groups.

“This research initiative is historic,” said L.D. Britt, MD, MPH, DSc(Hon), FACS, FCCM, FRCS Eng(Hon), FRCS Ed(Hon), FWACS(Hon), FRCSI(Hon), FCS(SA)(Hon), FRCS Glasg(Hon), Past-President of the ACS and Chair of the ACS Committee on Health Care Disparities. “This funding will help to make the best of the American surgical care system available for everyone.”

Following the 2015 Inaugural NIH-ACS Symposium on Surgical Disparities Research, surgeon-scientists, health disparities researchers, federal funding organizations, and policymakers developed a national research agenda to prioritize research funding. The priorities established at the symposium were published in JAMA Surgery in March 2016.

The NIMHD research will rely heavily on the five overarching priorities for addressing health care disparities developed by symposium attendees*:

  1. Improving patient-Clinician communication by helping clinicians deliver culturally dexterous, competent care and measuring its effect on the elimination of disparities.
  2. Fostering engagement and community outreach by using technology to optimize patient education, health literacy, and shared decision making in a culturally relevant way; disseminating these technologies; and evaluating their effect on reducing surgical disparities.
  3. Improving care at facilities with a higher proportion of minority surgical and trauma patients. This includes evaluation of regionalization of care vs strengthening of safety-net hospitals within the context of differential access and surgical disparities.
  4. Evaluating the longer-term effect of acute interventions and rehabilitation support within the critical period of injury or illness on functional outcomes and patient-defined perceptions of quality of care.
  5. Improving patient centeredness by identifying expectations for postoperative and post injury recovery. This includes adhering to patient values regarding advanced health care planning and palliative care needs.

Researchers and staff at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass., developed an extensive medical literature review on surgical disparities in advance of the symposium for attendees to access through a searchable database. This database helped guide the development of the research and funding priorities.

“Identifying research and funding priorities for addressing health care disparities—which encompass differential access, care, and outcomes due to factors such as race and ethnicity—was the goal of the 2015 Symposium. Gaining this level of formal NIH support to begin researching these five priorities is a pivotal step for this initiative. We’re excited about the possibilities that lay ahead,” said Adil Haider, MD, MPH, FACS, Vice Chair, ACS Committee on Health Care Disparities. Dr. Haider is also the Kessler Director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health, a joint initiative of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health.

The NIMHD research initiative was approved by the National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities and will involve several NIH institutes and centers and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Full funding levels will be determined by the number of meritorious grant applications received, according to the NIH.


*Haider AH, Dankwa-Mullan I, Maragh-Bass AC, et al. Setting a National Agenda for Surgical Disparities Research: Recommendations From the National Institutes of Health and American College of Surgeons Summit. JAMA Surg. Published online March 16, 2016. Available at: Accessed April 19, 2016.

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About the American College of Surgeons
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 80,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit

Dan Hamilton
Sally Garneski