UVA Cancer Center’s Bruce Schirmer, MD, and Team Warn of Looming Threat to America’s Surgical Research

July 18, 2023 by

Schirmer and Harahari UVA researchers

Bruce Schirmer, MD (left), and Adishesh K. Narahari, MD, warn that a “broken pipeline” of funding for surgeon-scientists could harm patient-care innovation.

Surgeons who also conduct important biomedical research are struggling to obtain research funding, and that “broken pipeline” could spell extinction for surgeon-scientists and slow innovations for patients if something isn’t done, a team of UVA Health experts warns.

Researchers led by Bruce Schirmer, MD, of UVA’s Department of Surgery, found that surgeon-scientists often succeed in obtaining research support early in their careers but then are much less likely than peers in internal medicine to translate that into ongoing research funding.

The reasons for this are complex, Schirmer and colleagues say in a new scientific paper, but include the heavy clinical demands surgeons face and the ongoing need to maintain and refine their skills. This often leaves them with little time to compete for research funding and to conduct research that would ultimately benefit patients.

That, Schirmer and colleagues warn, could have dire implications for the future.

“Surgeons have been responsible for many of the significant advancements in treatments of diseases, especially those of the cardiovascular, digestive, neurologic, endocrine, pulmonary and urologic systems, as well as most types of cancer. Lack of ongoing funding for surgical research could limit such contributions in the future,” Schirmer said. “These data should be a wake-up call to the surgical community to reconsider when research is optimally performed during surgical training and how resources to subsequently support it can be best secured.”

Read more in the UVA Health newsroom. 

Filed Under: Faculty, Research