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American College of Surgeons launches National Surgeon Scientist Program

New funding opportunity for early-career faculty members will provide surgeons with grant support to make cancer-related basic and translational scientific research integral to their careers

CHICAGO (April 27, 2021): The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has introduced its National Surgeon Scientist Program (NSSP) to provide competitive funding opportunities for faculty members within their first one to five years of appointment and whose research focus is on a cancer-related disease and is basic or translational science research.

National Surgeon Scientist Program The program was developed to give surgeons an important assist in making scientific research integral to their careers. “There are many factors that make it difficult for a surgeon to become a scientist. The training paradigm for surgeons is intense, long, and doesn’t leave much time to pursue scientific research. Furthermore, hospital revenues are based on clinical work that is procedure-based. This program will help academic surgeons pursue scientific research early on in their careers,” said Martha Zeiger, MD, FACS, who independently approached ACS leadership to consider creating this program for its members.

In a 2017 Annals of Surgery article,1 authors noted an “increasing pessimism by faculty and staff” about a surgeon’s ability to perform research along with their clinical duties. The pessimism “is inadvertently cultivated during surgical training, is often diffused to surgical trainees, and weakens the image of the academic surgeon and surgeon scientist.” Reduced funding opportunities and pressure to perform procedures are other noted factors, and the authors suggest that dedicated laboratory time during surgical residency “be re-branded as ‘professional development time.’”

Despite these obstacles, the ability to secure National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding among surgeon scientists has actually increased from 2010-2020. In a February 2021 study2 published online by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Zeiger and coauthors reported that NIH research funding to support surgeon scientists was actually rising. In 2010, 715 surgeon scientists were supported by 1,113 grants, totaling $614 million in NIH funding. In June of 2020, 1,031 surgeon scientists were supported by 1,453 grants, totaling $872 million in NIH funding. This analysis of the NIH database also showed that surgeon scientists have become more diverse in their research efforts, while still keeping a focus on basic science.

The purpose of this initial ACS NSSP funding opportunity is to create a pilot developmental program for surgeon scientists that ultimately will develop into a broader and more comprehensive program. The future program will provide a cohort of academic surgeons structured mentorship and professional development in order to increase the pipeline of successful, independent surgeon investigators. 

“We’re proud to be able to offer this new funding opportunity through the American College of Surgeons. It will help the young surgeon scientist become successful in obtaining support through a developmental program consisting of symposia, mentorship, and funding, and will also build a strong skill set outside the operating room for improving surgical patient care,” said Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS, Director of the ACS Division of Member Services, which administers the NSSP.

“FACS” designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Applicants must be a member of the American College of Surgeons, and meet other required criteria listed here. The application deadline is June 15.

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  1. Mansukhani, MA, et al. Rebranding “The Lab Years” as “Professional Development” in Order to Redefine the Modern Surgeon Scientist. Annals of Surgery. DOI: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002379
  2. Demblowski, LA, et al. NIH Funding for Surgeon-Scientists in the US: What Is the Current Status? Journal of the American College of Surgeons. DOI: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2020.12.015

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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 all 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 82,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit www.facs.org.

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