Transforming the Future of Surgeon-Scientists

Daniela P. Ladner, Allan M. Goldstein, Timothy R. Billiar, Andrew M. Cameron, Darren R. Carpizo, Daniel I. Chu, Craig M. Coopersmith, Ronald P. Dematteo, Sandy Feng, Katherine A. Gallagher, William E. Gillanders, Brajesh K. Lal, Gerald S. Lipshutz, Annie Liu, Ronald V. Maier, Elizabeth A. Mittendorf, Arden M. Morris, Jason K. Sicklick, Omaida C. Velazquez, Bryan A. WhitsonLee G. Wilke, Sam S. Yoon, Martha A. Zeiger, Diana L. Farmer, E. Shelley Hwang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To create a blueprint for surgical department leaders, academic institutions, and funding agencies to optimally support surgeon-scientists. Background: Scientific contributions by surgeons have been transformative across many medical disciplines. Surgeon-scientists provide a distinct approach and mindset toward key scientific questions. However, lack of institutional support, pressure for increased clinical productivity, and growing administrative burden are major challenges for the surgeon-scientist, as is the time-consuming nature of surgical training and practice. Methods: An American Surgical Association Research Sustainability Task Force was created to outline a blueprint for sustainable science in surgery. Leaders from top NIH-sponsored departments of surgery engaged in video and in-person meetings between January and April 2023. A strength, weakness, opportunities, threats analysis was performed, and workgroups focused on the roles of surgeons, the department and institutions, and funding agencies. Results: Taskforce recommendations: (1) SURGEONS: Growth mindset: identifying research focus, long-Term planning, patience/tenacity, team science, collaborations with disparate experts; Skill set: Align skills and research, fill critical skill gaps, develop team leadership skills; DEPARTMENT OF SURGERY (DOS): (2) MENTORSHIP: Chair: mentor-mentee matching/regular meetings/accountability, review of junior faculty progress, mentorship training requirement, recognition of mentorship (eg, relative value unit equivalent, awards; Mentor: dedicated time, relevant scientific expertise, extramural funding, experience and/or trained as mentor, trusted advisor; Mentee: enthusiastic/eager, proactive, open to feedback, clear about goals; (3) FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY: diversification of research portfolio, identification of matching funding sources, departmental resource awards (eg, T-/P-grants), leveraging of institutional resources, negotiation of formalized/formulaic funds flow investment from academic medical center toward science, philanthropy; (4) STRUCTURAL/STRATEGIC SUPPORT: Structural: grants administrative support, biostats/bioinformatics support, clinical trial and research support, regulatory support, shared departmental laboratory space/equipment; Strategic: hiring diverse surgeon-scientist/scientists faculty across DOS, strategic faculty retention/ recruitment, philanthropy, career development support, progress tracking, grant writing support, DOS-wide research meetings, regular DOS strategic research planning; (5) COMMUNITY AND CULTURE: Community: right mix of faculty, connection surgeon with broad scientific community; Culture: building research infrastructure, financial support for research, projecting importance of research (awards, grand rounds, shoutouts); (6) THE ROLE OF INSTITUTIONS: Foundation: research space co-location, flexible start-up packages, courses/mock study section, awards, diverse institutional mentorship teams; Nurture: institutional infrastructure, funding (eg, endowed chairs), promotion friendly toward surgeon-scientists, surgeon-scientists in institutional leadership positions; Expectations: RVU target relief, salary gap funding, competitive starting salaries, longitudinal salary strategy; (7) THE ROLE OF FUNDING AGENCIES: change surgeon research training paradigm, offer alternate awards to K-Awards, increasing salary cap to reflect market reality, time extension for surgeon early-stage investigator status, surgeon representation on study section, focused award strategies for professional societies/foundations. Conclusions: Authentic recommitment from surgeon leaders with intentional and ambitious actions from institutions, corporations, funders, and society is essential in order to reap the essential benefits of surgeon-scientists toward advancements of science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-239
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2024


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