Where are all the surgeons in clinical academia?
McVeigh J., Smillie R., Wiberg A., Furniss D.
INTRODUCTION: High-quality research into surgical disease will benefit surgical patients. Whereas nearly one-fifth of National Health Service (NHS) England consultants are surgeons, less than 5% of the government's health research funding supports surgical research. METHODS: Using an observational study, we identified surgeons in active research fellowships and on selection panels for the three largest pan-specialty medical funding bodies in the UK. We quantified the proportion of editorial board members that are surgeons, and the proportion of surgical research published over a 1-year period in the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal. RESULTS: Some 185/1,579 (12%) of research fellowships held by clinicians were awarded to surgeons, with relatively fewer surgeons holding senior fellowships compared with predoctoral fellowships. Across the three research funding bodies, 9/165 (5%) of the clinical panel members were surgeons, whereas for the three pan-specialty journals, 5/84 (6%) of the clinical editorial board members were surgeons. Of the 541 original articles published by the same three journals, only 45 (8%) were classified as surgical. CONCLUSIONS: We show that surgeons were underrepresented across differing domains of clinical academia. The causes of this are likely multifactorial; there are fewer senior surgeons occupying decision-making positions, fewer role models in senior fellowship positions and surgical training may leave less time to engage in research. We propose further qualitative research within the surgical community, funding bodies and journals to understand the origins of the problem and begin to form evidence-based solutions.