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The American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association of physicians organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.


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2012 FAER 25th Anniversary Edition
The Historical Relationships Between FAER and ASA Carl C. Hug, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.

Alan D. Sessler, M.D.

In 1949, the ASA established the Committee on Research and appropriated $1,000. Some years later, the Committee on Research recommended that the committee be dissolved and the $1,000 be returned to the general fund. In 1959, the committee was reactivated as a standing committee but with no specific duties. Seven members were appointed and $200 was appropriated to explore possible areas of usefulness of the committee.

The Committee on Research’s first endeavor was to establish the Resident’s Essay Contest in 1962. The committee reviewed essays and named three winners annually with monetary prizes of $350 and $150 to the first- and second-place winners, respectively, along with a certificate that they and the third-place winner received. Francis F. Foldes, M.D., as chair of the Committee on Research, requested an increase of the annual committee budget from $500 to $1,000, and the House of Delegates approved $750. Eight residents submitted essays in 1963, and the question was raised as to whether the contest in and of itself justified continuation of the Committee on Research. The conclusion was that ASA needed to develop the scientific aspects of the specialty and that the House of Delegates needed to increase the budget to expand the research committee’s activities beyond the essay contest.

An interesting sidelight occurred in 1965. Lawrence (Larry) J. Saidman, M.D. and Edmond (Ted) I. Eger II, M.D. submitted the best essay to the contest, but they had also won the contest the year before. That year, ASA President Perry P. Volpitto, M.D. agreed to award two prizes of $350 each, one a special prize to Drs. Saidman and Eger and the second to the next ranked essayist. For future Resident Essay Contests, the authorship would be confined to the resident as the only author and not include any senior investigator. Winning essays were presented at the “work completed” session of the ASA annual meeting. The Resident’s Essay Contest still exists today as the ASA Residents’ Research Essay Contest.

Two important events occurred in 1970 when Robert M. Epstein, M.D. was research committee chair: 1) Simultaneous submission of essays was allowed to both the Committee on Research and to the Scientific Program Committee of the annual meeting; and 2) Recognizing cutbacks in federal appropriations for medical research, the Committee on Research proposed an organized research support program within ASA.

Evan L. Frederickson, M.D., a research committee member, said he had been approached by a foundation interested in supporting anesthesiology research. Following the recommendation of the Committee on Research, the House of Delegates established the ASA Research Support Program in 1970 and stipulated that funds contributed to this program be kept separate from the general funds of the ASA. The Committee on Research and the Committee on Finance Administration were to coordinate approval of funding requests. The Committee on Research was also to serve as a source of advice and consultation to applicants of research grants.

In 1972, the Parker B. Francis Foundation made a grant to the Committee on Research “to promote education and research in the medical sciences with special emphasis on anesthesiology and its related sciences.” Interestingly, Dr. Frederickson was the Committee on Research chairman in 1972, and the committee was administratively placed under the Section on Education of the ASA. Twenty-four submissions were received for the Resident’s Essay Contest that year.

In the 1970s, the Committee on Research reviewed grant applications from young anesthesiology faculty members of academic departments. Typically, about $10,000 was available annually for awards to promising investigators with good research proposals. Usually, five worthy applications could be identified, and grants of $2,000 each would be awarded for a one-year term to the applicant’s department in the applicant’s name. These grants were to serve as seed money allowing the investigator to obtain preliminary data, which would form the basis of an application for substantial support from national organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In fact, these grants were labeled “ASA Research Starter Grants.”

Another milestone occurred in 1984-85, when outgoing Committee on Research Chair Carl C. Hug, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. and incoming Chair Donald R. Stanski, M.D. proposed that ASA establish an Award for Excellence in Research in the name of Evan L. Frederickson. The House of Delegates approved the proposal but not the naming, and in 1986, John W. Severinghaus, M.D. was the first recipient of the Award for Excellence in Research.

What Led to the Creation of FAER?
In 1984, during the ASA annual meeting in New Orleans, several corporations sponsored evening dinners with free food and “booze” to attract anesthesiologists to a lecture or panel discussion. These evening dinners were well attended, and many of the attendees must have slept in the next morning because the scientific and educational sessions offered by the ASA were poorly attended. Stephen J. Prevoznik, M.D., Annual Meeting Chair, and the ASA leadership were greatly concerned about this situation.

In response, they took the following actions:

  • In future years, corporate sponsors of events that competed with the ASA scientific and educational programs during the annual meeting would be denied exhibit space during the meeting.
  • An ad hoc Committee on Funds from Outside Organizations was created in 1985 and was succeeded by the ad hoc Committee on Industry Relations in 1986.
  • The ASA contracted with the Corbett Agency to survey corporate exhibitors. Industry representatives were unanimous in recommending the creation of a foundation at arm’s length from the ASA, which could attract funds from corporations, exhibitors, foundations and individuals.

  • There were a number of converging forces for change:
  • Relationships with industry were no longer taboo.
  • As a 501(c)6 entity in the IRS Code, the ASA could not accept donations from industry.
  • The Committee on Research needed funds to support scientific research and career development of academic anesthesiologists.
  • ASA was collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Battelle Research Center to study anesthesia morbidity and mortality.
  • The Committee on Industry Relations was working to solve the problems.

  • ASA President Frank McKechnie, M.D. and the ASA Board of Directors proposed the establishment of a separate ASA organization, the Foundation for Anesthesiology Education and Research (FAER), which would be a wholly owned affiliate of the ASA. FAER would be set up as a 501(c)3 charitable organization.

    On October 21, 1986, the House of Delegates approved the proposal, provided funding in the amount of $50,000 in 1986 and again in 1987, and stipulated that the Board of Directors immediately elect regular members of the ASA to the FAER Board of Directors. On that same date, the ASA Board of Directors appointed nine members to the FAER Board of Directors with staggered terms of one, two and three years. The members included S. Craighead Alexander, M.D., Gerald A. Gronert, M.D., William K. Hamilton, M.D., Patricia A. Kapur, M.D., Richard I. Mazze, M.D., Edward D. Miller, Jr., M.D., Michael F. Roizen, M.D., Alan D. Sessler, M.D. and Donald R. Stanski, M.D. Dr. Hamilton was elected the first president of FAER beginning in 1986, and the certificate of incorporation and bylaws were written toward the end of that year.

    On January 8, 1987, the FAER Board of Directors met for the first time in San Francisco along with Mr. Glenn W. Johnson, ASA Executive Director, and Mr. Michael Scott, ASA Director of Governmental and Legal Affairs. The application for 501(c)3 status was approved. As a way to raise funds, ASA President Howard L. Zauder, M.D. proposed that the cost of tickets for the ASA Refresher Course Lectures during the annual meeting be increased from $5 to $10, with the additional $5 going to FAER. It was estimated these receipts would total between $200,000 and $250,000 each year, beginning with the annual meeting in October 1987.

    The ASA Committee on Research continued to review and fund Research Starter Grant applications received in 1987. In May 1988, the Committee on Research began to serve as a study section using NIH-type procedures for scoring all grant applications. The rank-order list of the scores for all applications was submitted to the FAER Board of Directors, which would go down the ranking to decide the number of grants that could be awarded based on the funds available to FAER.

    Initially, the goal was that each year a certain percentage of funds contributed by the ASA would be placed in an endowment that was expected to grow to the point that FAER could be self-sustaining in future years. Another portion of the ASA contribution would be combined with contributions from industry and other sources to underwrite grant funding and the operations of FAER. The fluctuations in annual returns on FAER’s endowment investments and the variability in the contributions from outside entities made FAER dependent on annual ASA contributions of $1 million in support of its multiple grant programs established to fulfill FAER’s mission and vision. Many ASA members believe that ASA should continue its annual funding of FAER as a sign of its professional commitment.

    As FAER president, Dr. Hamilton recruited Martin Helrich, M.D., who was retiring as chair from the University of Maryland Department of Anesthesiology, to become the first executive director of FAER. Dr. Helrich was a bit reluctant because of obligations to other organiza-tions, but he took the position on a one-year trial basis. He first hired a secretary who lasted four days, but he ended up spending more than nine years in the position.

    Dr. Helrich believed FAER should provide leadership in guiding and shaping anesthesiology research, not just serve as a repository of funds. He had to scrape for funds. Fortunately, Mr. Cliff Parrish of the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation (BWF) introduced Dr. Helrich to the chairman of the BWF board, and that resulted in a $100,000 annual grant for each of the next three years. He was able to raise a small amount of additional funding by selling ASA ties created by Drs. Bird, Zauder and Arens. He addressed personal letters to all chairs of academic anesthesiology departments suggesting that they purchase the ties at half price ($25) and award them to their graduating residents each year: there were no takers. He also asked the 12 members of the FAER Board of Directors to contribute their “FAER Share” annually: 11 contributed $1,000 each annually thereafter and the other one quit.

    In February 1995, Dr. Helrich passed the torch and 700 ties to Alan D. Sessler, M.D., who succeeded him as executive director but refused the ties. Dr. Sessler moved the FAER office from Baltimore, Maryland to a Mayo Clinic building in Rochester, Minnesota.

    In the past six years, the annual ASA contributions have averaged $1.8 million per year. In 2010, donations from other sources totaled approximately $1 million from 27 corporations, 45 state component societies, 11 specialty societies (including the Association of University Anesthesiologists), and from private groups, foundations and individuals, including each member of the FAER Board of Directors. As of April 2011, the FAER endowment has recovered to within 97 percent of its peak value of $20.6 million in 2007.

    More importantly, FAER has expanded its efforts in myriad ways. Examples include the following:
  • The Annual Meeting Resident Scholar program, started in 1989, which provides funds for residents in anesthesiology to attend the ASA annual meeting each year.
  • Debra A. Schwinn, M.D., gave the first-ever FAER Honorary Research Lecture at the annual meeting in 2001.
  • FAER established the Academy of Research Mentors in Anesthesiology in 2004 to facilitate the development of mentors in the specialty. There are currently more than 50 members in the academy.
  • The Medical Student Anesthesia Research Fellowship (MSARF) program began in 2005, providing summer research opportunities to 14 medical students in its first year. The program now supports more than 50 students per year.
  • Research Councils were established in collaborative arrangements, such as the Research Council on Geriatrics involved in the GEMSSTAR program with the American Geriatric Society and the National Institute on Aging. The Pain Medicine Council had a relationship with the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.

  • Current research grant award programs include:
  • Mentored Research Training Grant ($75,000 year one, $100,000 year two)
  • Research Fellowship Grant ($75,000 for one year)
  • Research Education Grant ($50,000 for two years)

  • The ASA Committee on Research continues to be a strong supporter of FAER. Its 14 members volunteer a tremendous amount of time and effort to the review and ranking of research applications. In 2011, FAER awarded 14 grants worth an estimated $1.76 million.

    The FAER Education Research Committee has five members and awarded four educational research projects in 2011.

    The mission of FAER is: “To advance medicine through education and research in anesthesiology.” Actually that is a very broad mission because the practice of anesthesiology includes patients from womb to tomb and encounters virtually every disease state in the practices of perioperative medicine, critical care and pain medicine.

    FAER’s vision is: “FAER will be the premier national foundation providing guidance and resources to physician investigators and medical educators focusing on anesthesiology-related issues in the sciences of clinical practice and disease biology.” Together, the ASA and FAER have awarded grants to more than 500 anesthesiologists since 1973. They are definitely implementing both their mission and vision.

    Carl C. Hug, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. is Professor of Anesthesiology, Emeritus and Senior Faculty Fellow in the Ethics Center, Emory University, Atlanta.

    Alan D. Sessler, M.D. is President Emeritus, Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research, Rochester, Minnesota.