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 Research Council Message

SVS Foundation’s Mission Critical to SVS Strategic Goal

by Michael S. Conte MD, Chair, SVS Research Council
SVS Strategic Goal Number 5: The SVS will foster research and innovation with scientific integrity to optimize vascular health. Approved in May 2013, the Strategic Plan includes six main goals. Leadership committed SVS resources to areas determined to be integral to the future of the vascular surgery specialty. Research is one of the six. Leadership in vascular research is critical to developing better treatments for our patients, and maintaining a prominent role for our specialty in defining vascular care. Your support is required to continue funding Foundation research awards to achieve this goal. 

SVS Foundation’s Return on Investment

One objective for this SVS strategic goal is: Identify the NIH-sponsored career development awards as the SVS Foundation’s top priority.
Identifying talented young surgeon-scientists and supporting them at the critical early stages of their career is the first priority for maintaining a research pipeline. Once a surgical investigator is awarded a coveted NIH Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (K08) or a Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23), the challenge of balancing clinical duties and research efforts begins.  The Foundation’s awards supplement their protected time to make it financially feasible for the vascular surgeon and their institution to conduct the research. During the last 15 years, the Foundation has committed $8,850,000 to 23 K08 and 6 K23 award recipients. The return on investment for these individuals has been outstanding. As of this writing, NIH has awarded additional funding of $39,652,625 to many of these K-award winners for subsequent R01, M01, F32, F05, and R21 grants. This represents a 4.5-fold return on investment in NIH dollars alone for the SVS Foundation’s K Awardees. In addition, many of these individuals have also obtained VA, other non-profit foundation, and industry support for their research. 

Pipeline for Vascular Surgeon Leaders

Of the 29 K08 and K23 awardees, eight are now heads of departments or divisions. Many others are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in our specialty. The Foundation’s commitment to the K award program must continue to maintain the pipeline of vascular surgeon investigators and develop our future leaders. Without this support, it will be even more difficult for vascular surgeons interested in research to develop their careers. From my personal perspective, my K08 award led directly to where I am today, leading me into a productive career in translational research and clinical trials seeking new treatment approaches for vascular patients.
Just as important as the funding is the invaluable mentoring experience that accrues to these individuals. Because the K-Award mentors are often past awardees themselves, they recognize how their mentees will have positive influences on the SVS and the practice of vascular health care. Awardees move up within the specialty, and as they do, they become the mentors of the next generation. Second generation K award mentors in the SVS program are just now beginning their new leadership roles.

Quality Patient Care

A second objective of the research and innovation goal is: Make tangible progress toward accomplishing the top three identified clinical research goals set by the SVS (asymptomatic carotid disease, claudication, critical limb ischemia).
Patients reap the ultimate benefit from our work with the SVS Foundation and the research grants that result. As we learn more from the research, we share our findings with the entire vascular surgery specialty to use in their practices. In looking at the portfolio of research activity supported by the Foundation, it is apparent that vascular surgeons are conducting innovative studies across the breadth of clinical problems we encounter in everyday practice. The unique role of the surgeon-scientist, bringing observations directly from the bedside and the operating room to the scientific arena, insures that clinically meaningful questions are being vigorously pursued. This is in the best interest of our patients and consistent with our overall vision—to eliminate death and disability from vascular disease.

Keep Vascular Surgery at the Forefront for National Funding

A third objective of the strategic goal is: Promote career development for young researchers through funding, partnerships and educational programs.
 SVS leads with its strategic partnerships. The economic climate for biomedical research funding is historically grim, and thus it has never been more critical to have a strong advocacy effort. As a direct result of our prior investments, vascular surgeons are at the table with federal and other non-profit foundations. For example, several former K-Awardees (including myself) sit on NIH study sections. SVS and the entire vascular surgery specialty have a productive relationship with NIH because we’ve seeded our research efforts with the Foundation’s funding. We’ve been able to continue to promote the importance of vascular research with NIH and other funding entities, and as we become more prominent with the impact of our work, we are able to influence the agenda and leverage the interests of our specialty -- and our patients. 

It is Your Professional Obligation to Support Your SVS Foundation

SVS Foundation provides funding only to vascular surgeons. Other foundations you may support probably fund biomedical research for other purposes, but your support of the SVS Foundation is a lifeline for the future of our specialty. 
Our Strategic Plan is very specific in its commitment to vascular surgery research. However, our membership has not shown broad support for that commitment. Of our 4,847 members, less than 1 percent (240 members, and two vascular divisions) made contributions to last year’s Annual Appeal and 151 continue to fulfill their Open the Pathway commitment. These individual donations total only 19 percent of the Foundation’s total income.
I am appealing to you, our members, to get behind this effort. As noted, our research develops future leaders and contributes to the entire specialty’s prestige. Our patients rely on our expertise to develop new technology and improvements for their vascular health. As a specialty, we must support the SVS Foundation to ensure we remain viable in this every-changing health care climate. I am asking you to make your Foundation Annual Appeal contribution.  
Michael S. Conte, MD
Chair, SVS Research Council
Donations to the SVS Foundation, a 501c(3) organization, may be tax deductible as charitable contributions. Thank you for your support.

Posted November 2013


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