Objective: To examine factors influencing surgical research and assess the current state of training future surgical scientists.
Summary background data: The number of surgeons actively engaged in research seems to be decreasing. Training future surgical scientists to increase these numbers depends on a variety of factors that are constantly changing. Current trends at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and changes in graduate medical education make the training of the next generation of surgical scientists more challenging than ever.
Methods: Recent literature in surgical education, surgical research, and funding patterns at the NIH were reviewed.
Results: Quantitative and qualitative deficiencies exist in surgical research. Although an increasing number of students are becoming interested in surgery, the burden of debt from medical school may preclude them from pursuing research during or after residency. Research training is complicated by the fact that no formal curriculum exists for training in research and oversight is lacking. Junior faculty face increased demands for clinical revenue, which decreases time for research. In addition, surgeons are less successful at obtaining NIH funding when compared with nonsurgeons and seem to be at a disadvantage.
Conclusions: Development of the next generation of surgical scientists begins by attracting the best students into surgery and by providing a structured research curriculum with appropriate oversight. Senior surgical faculty need to become more active at the NIH and provide appropriate financial support and mentorship for residents and junior faculty engaged in research.