sutures newsletter


Surgery Research at Cedars-Sinai

By Bruce Gewertz, MD
Surgeon-in-Chief, Chair of the Department of Surgery

The research enterprise at the Department of Surgery has demonstrated remarkable growth over the last decade. In 2006, our department had negligible National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, and was ranked 104th in the nation. By 2016, we had increased to $5.8 million in funding and had a national rank of 18.

In 2018, we have at least $10.2 million in funding and should easily be in the top 10 of all academic departments of surgery. Surgery research funding has paralleled and contributed to the overall growth in the research portfolio of our institution. We now have more than $160 million of external research with a three-fold increase in NIH funding over the last 8 years.

This ascent clearly was aided by strong institutional investments that provided research space and infrastructure as well as the needed salary support for new investigators. With this help, we expanded the number of research faculty from four in 2006 to more than 35 scientists. Areas of particular strength include a remarkably strong group in cancer, especially genito-urinary disease (more than $2.5 million per year) and breast cancer. Our efforts in stem cell biology are likewise outstanding and have led to practical applications in a wide range of musculo-skeletal disorders.

As articulated by the executive committee and Michael Freeman, vice-chair for Research, the department has focused on translational research and fostered interdepartmental interactions with our scientific institutes. We have invested heavily in such collaborative efforts especially in our support of junior faculty. Importantly, we are consistently biased toward team science and an effort to eliminate "silos" in our intellectual pursuits. Scientific leaders in surgery have committed toward a non-hierarchical structure in their laboratories. This makes us an attractive place for bright and ambitious, young post-doctoral students and junior faculty. We also have seen substantial achievement from surgical residents in all fields who spend one to two years in our laboratories as part of their basic residencies.

Ironically, these achievements have been largely concentrated in basic and translational work. Given the extraordinary clinical volume of our main hospital and the expanding catchment of our new health system, clinical trials remains a great and largely untapped area for growth. Although we have seen a doubling of the number of clinical trials over the past five years from 20 to 52 active trials, there is still considerable opportunity. This is particularly true in cancer, where we report nearly twice as many cancer procedures and new diagnoses of malignancies as any other University Health Consortium (UHC) hospital in California. Realizing our potential in this area alone is one of our highest priorities in the continued evolution of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. Collaborations of surgical clinical faculty such as Tim Daskivich, MD, and Jennifer Anger, MD, with the efforts of Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research, is another potential growth opportunity.

The next few years should be even more exciting based on our excellent track record and strong senior leadership in our laboratories. As our history indicates, the advantages we have are a strong commitment to research that makes a difference for patients, an orientation shared by the NIH and other important funding sources. We will look toward expanding the successes in cancer and stem cell biology while identifying other areas of growth.