sutures newsletter


Stay tuned, the fun is just starting

Message from the chair

The Cedars-Sinai Department of Surgery enjoyed remarkable success in the most recent academic year.

Research funding currently equals $9 million with the majority of grants coming from federal sources (National Institutes of Health or Department of Defense). This is a three-fold increase from 2006. The number of surgical procedures matched last year’s all-time high. In certain programs such as adult heart transplant, we are the largest program in the world. In many of our other programs including orthopedics, spine surgery, thoracic surgery and minimally invasive general surgery, we are the largest in our state. Our largest residency program, general surgery, received a record 650 applications for our four categorical slots; this represents nearly 40 percent of all U.S. medical students applying in this field.

In short, there are many reasons to be confident that our unique balance of full-time and private attendings will continue to advance us in both academic and clinical activities.

That said, we must acknowledge that we cannot expect to be unaffected by the tumult surrounding healthcare issues. These include, but are not limited to, changes in the financing of care for those currently uninsured and major alterations in the funding of Medicare and other government programs.

Less openly discussed, but equally critical,are the predicted reductions in reimbursement for post-graduate education and a likely 8-10 percent reduction in the NIH budget. Should these cuts come to pass, both would adversely impact academic medical centers such as ours.

The production of physicians by medical schools has increased dramatically in the last decade with a number of new schools opening every year. Unfortunately, the number of post-graduate residency slots has not kept pace. This has created a substantial imbalance especially in surgical specialties such as general surgery in which severe shortages are already evident especially in rural areas. While we are justifiably proud of our superb residency programs in general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery and the newly created urology and orthopedic programs, the growth in the number of residents has not matched the increased number of procedures we perform at Cedars-Sinai (currently exceeding 30,000 per year) and the severity of illness of our more than 900 daily hospitalized patients (with nearly 20 percent of them in critical care units).If such reductions in funding materialize, expansion of these programs to meet the nation’s needs will be problematic.

Undoubtedly, there is a path to continued excellence and growth, but it will require innovation as well as perseverance. We need to foster positive behaviors such as prudent utilization of clinical resources and enhanced collaboration in translational research endeavors. Philanthropy by grateful patients and research funding from industrial partners will likely be an even more important source of support and needs to be a focus for all of us.

Without question, our goals of increasing the value of our clinical and research missions are worth the effort. The momentum gained by our institution and department will be maintained. In the upcoming months, we will be reaching out to all our constituencies to gather your ideas on adapting to our changing environment and to support you in your initiatives.

Research Funding Graph