Surgeon scientist program launches

April 28, 2021

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) released 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. 

The program was developed to give surgeons an important assist in making scientific research integral to their careers. “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, 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 study 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.   

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

American College of Surgeons has the release