The history of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Research Centers in Peri-operative Sciences (RCIPS) is the history of clinical, translational, and basic science research into the etiology and treatment of posttraumatic multiple organ failure (MOF). Born out of the activism of trauma and burn surgeons after the Viet Nam War, the P50 trauma research centers have been a nidus of research advances in the field and the training of future academic physician-scientists in the fields of trauma, burns, sepsis, and critical illness. For over 40 years, research conducted under the aegis of this funding program has led to numerous contributions at both the bedside and at the bench. In fact, it has been this requirement for team science with a clinician-scientist working closely with basic scientists from multiple disciplines that has led the RCIPS to its unrivaled success in the field. This review will briefly highlight some of the major accomplishments of the RCIPS program since its inception, how they have both led and evolved as the field moved steadily forward, and how they are responsible for much of our current understanding of the etiology and pathology of MOF. This review is not intended to be all encompassing nor a historical reference. Rather, it serves as recognition to the foresight and support of many past and present individuals at the NIGMS and at academic institutions who have understood the cost of critical illness and MOF to the individual and to society.