Educating the surgeon-scientist: A qualitative study evaluating challenges and barriers toward becoming an academically successful surgeon
Background: The advancement of surgical science relies on educating new generations of surgeon-scientists. Career development awards (K Awards) from the National Institutes of Health, often considered a marker of early academic success, are one way physician-scientists may foster skills through a mentored research experience. This study aimed to develop a conceptual framework to understand institutional support and other factors leading to a K Award.
Methods: A national, qualitative study was conducted with academic surgeons. Participants included 15 K Awardees and 12 surgery department Chairs. Purposive sampling ensured a diverse range of experiences. Semistructured, in-depth telephone interviews were conducted. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim, and 2 reviewers analyzed the transcripts using Grounded Theory methodology.
Results: Participants described individual and institutional factors contributing to success. K Awardees cited personal factors such as perseverance and team leadership skills. Chairs described the K Awardee as an institutional "investment" requiring protected time for research, financial support, and mentorship. Both K Awardees and Chairs identified a number of challenges unique to the surgeon-scientist, including financial strains and competing clinical demands.
Conclusion: Institutional support for surgeons pursuing K Awards is a complex investment with significant initial costs to the department. Chairs act as stewards of institutional resources and support those surgeon-scientists most likely to be successful. Although the K Award pathway is one way to develop surgeon-scientists, financial burdens and challenges may limit its usefulness. These findings, however, may better prepare young surgeons to develop career plans and identify new mechanisms for academic productivity.
Kodadek, L. M.,
Kapadia, M. R.,
Changoor, N. R.,
Dunn, K. B.,
Greenberg, J. A.,
Minter, R. M.,
Pawlik, T. M.,
Haider, A. H.
(2016). Educating the surgeon-scientist: A qualitative study evaluating challenges and barriers toward becoming an academically successful surgeon. Surgery, 160(6), 1456-1465.
Available at: https://ecommons.aku.edu/pakistan_fhs_mc_surg_gen/156