FAER: 35 Years and Still Growing

Author: Bram N. Harris

December 13, 2021

This year, FAER was delighted to celebrate its 35th anniversary alongside reaching $50 million awarded in grants and programs since its founding. While formally established in 1986, the origins of FAER stretch back even further. In 1972, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), FAER’s founding and major annual contributor, had $10,000 for its Committee on Research to distribute among four to five one-year grants each year. However, this pool of funds was limited in its ability to impact and support research projects. This, along with additional considerations, eventually led to the incorporation of FAER in 1986 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation under its first president, Dr. William Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton recruited Dr. Martin Helrich, namesake of the Annual FAER-Helrich Research Lecture held at ANESTHESIOLOGY® each year, to serve as FAER’s first executive secretary.

Originally based in Baltimore, Maryland, FAER was moved to Rochester, Minnesota following Dr. Alan Sessler’s succession of Dr. Helrich as FAER’s executive secretary in 1995. In 2015, FAER once again moved its offices, this time to the ASA’s headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois, where it continues to operate from today. To learn more about the early years of FAER, one can refer to the article published in the ASA’s ANESTHESIOLOGY journal, celebrating FAER’s 25th anniversary.

From that original pool of $10,000, FAER is proud to announce an important step forward taken in its 35th year. In 2021, the FAER Board of Directors voted to increase its budget for grant funding by nearly $1 million beginning in 2022.

Eisenach, James

“Anesthesiology would not be what it is today without the tireless work of those dedicated to improving and expanding the science of our specialty. Science that FAER is proud to have spent the past 35 years building upon through our support of physician-investigators in anesthesiology.

“Over my past five years as FAER’s President, it has been an absolute pleasure to hear time and time again how meaningful FAER funding is to our talented grantees. As many can attest, one of the most thrilling moments of one’s career is receiving approval on a grant application. Personally, I feel a similar sense of joy and exhilaration on two particular occasions through my work with FAER. First, every time I get the chance to notify an applicant that they’ve been approved for FAER funding. Second, every time one of FAER’s past grantees reaches out to let us know they’ve gone on to receive NIH funding.

“Even as FAER celebrates its 35th Anniversary, the foundation continues to expand the support it can offer. Specifically, through the $1 million increase to its grant funding budget in 2022. I could not be more pleased to see this significant expansion to the number of anesthesiology researchers FAER will be able to fund each year. Researchers who will no doubt introduce important innovations to anesthesiology, just as their fellow grantees have before them.”

- James C. Eisenach, MD; President, FAER; FM James, III Professor of Anesthesiology, Wake Forest School of Medicine

Representing over a 30% increase to FAER’s annual grants budget, all of FAER joins Dr. Eisenach in his enthusiasm for what this increase entails. Research is fundamental to the future of anesthesiology, to its continuing growth, and to improving patient care. FAER is honored to have been able support the research of so many anesthesiology investigators in their work over its 35 years and looks forward to the growth this support will see in 2022.

As Dr. Eisenach shared, it is always a profound joy to hear from past and current grantees how meaningful FAER funding is. As part of celebrating the foundation’s 35th anniversary, we reached out to a past grantee from each decade FAER has been in operation. We are pleased to share these grantees words on how FAER funding impacted them and their careers as anesthesiology researchers.

Johns, Roger

“As one of FAER’s earliest grant recipients and now Chair of the FAER Board of Directors, it has been truly incredible to see and be a part of FAER’s growth over the years. My NIA proved a tremendous boon to my career, a fact that I’m certain is also true for my fellow FAER grantees. My FAER grant was directly responsible for providing me the time and opportunity to apply for an NIH R29 award and two RO1 awards to follow that launched my academic career.

“All told, the impact my own FAER grant had on my career makes me all the more excited to see FAER increase their budget for grant funding in 2022. Bolstering the funding we can offer our future anesthesiology investigators will go a long way towards ensuring the next generation of physician-investigators have the support they need. I cannot wait to see the important work that FAER grantees continue to produce as we move into the future.”

- Roger A. Johns, MD, PhD, MHS; 1987 FAER New Investigator Award (NIA) Recipient; Chair, FAER Board of Directors; Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University

Njoku, Dolores

“The Foundation of Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) is the premier funding partner for junior faculty in anesthesiology at the commencement of their academic career. It is the only anesthesiology-based foundation that provides funding opportunities for medical students, anesthesiology residents, anesthesiology fellows, as well as junior faculty. Thus, it is possible to participate in the FAER Medical Student Anesthesia Research Fellowship (MSARF) as a medical student, followed by the FAER Resident Scholar Program (RSP), followed by the FAER Research Fellowship Grant (RFG), followed by a Mentored Research Training Grant (MRTG).

“Many years ago, I received the FAER New Investigator Award, which was the predecessor of the current FAER MRTG. This grant came at a pivotal point in my career where I had begun to build the foundation of the conceptual innovation regarding immune-mediated liver injury that developed into the technical innovations (animal modeling and protein discovery) that built further innovative models and understanding in this field. The ‘nod’ from FAER provided additional sponsors that would disseminate my work and provide academic opportunities to share knowledge with other academic institutions.

“Later in my career, the FAER grant gave me the impetus to join the FAER Board of Directors so that I could work with those who came before me in order to ensure that FAER was there for those who followed. FAER recognized the importance of our partnership with other specialties and developed these opportunities for scientists. Since my FAER grant, FAER has grown in funding; however, its singular focus to support the development of the physician-scientist has not changed. FAER provided structure and backbone to my academic career, and I am forever grateful.”

- Dolores B. Njoku, MD; 1999 FAER New Investigator Award (NIA) Recipient; Member, FAER Board of Directors; Chair, FAER Grants Management Committee; The Wise Professor of Anesthesiology, Adjunct Professor of Pathology and Immunology, Division Chief, Pediatric Anesthesiology and Vice Chair, Department of Anesthesiology, Pediatric Anesthesiologist-in-Chief, St. Louis Hospital for Children

Tawfik, Vivianne

“My career thus far has been heavily influenced and supported by FAER. As a new resident, I attended ANESTHESIOLOGY 2011 through FAER’S Resident Scholar Program, where I met Dr. Harriet Hopf, who remains a close colleague and mentor. As a new residency graduate, I was funded by a one-year FAER Research Fellowship Grant (RFG) to jump back into rigorous basic science research after many years of clinical training. As a newly trained pain medicine anesthesiologist, I was funded by a two-year FAER Mentored Research Training Grant (MRTG) to continue to expand my research and career development until I transitioned to a K08 award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

“As a recent recipient of an NIH R35 grant, based on my FAER-funded work, I now have the opportunity to ‘go where the science takes me’ with this five-year R-level funding. FAER represents our commitment as a specialty to the advancement of knowledge, whether it is basic science, clinical outcomes, education, patient safety or somewhere in between. FAER represents our investment in the future of physician-scientist trainees, an investment for which I am indebted.”

- Vivianne L. Tawfik, MD, PhD; 2011 FAER Resident Scholar Program Participant; 2013 FAER Research Fellowship Grant Recipient; 2015 FAER Mentored Research Training Grant Recipient; Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine; Director, Fellowship in Anesthesia Research & Medicine (FARM) Program, Stanford University School of Medicine

Sivanesan, Eellan

“The Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) is a central component to the ongoing impact of anesthesiology in healthcare and research. The long-term planning of FAER to support the early research careers of anesthesiologists can help prevent attrition from research-career tracks that are particularly vulnerable at the earliest stages. Through its Mentored Research Training Grant, FAER's support of my career trajectory and research growth was critical in obtaining my K08 award from the NIH/National Cancer Institute to continue studying “Spinal cord stimulation for the attenuation of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy and enhanced chemotherapeutic efficacy.

“With the help of FAER-supported time and preliminary data, this K08 award is now allowing me to continue to investigate the mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord stimulation, and electrical modulation of cancer cell proliferation. The synergistic relationship between my preclinical and clinical efforts will catalyze my long-held vision for translating these discoveries into new cancer pain treatments. I sincerely thank FAER, its leadership, and contributors for their support of my research career.”

- Eellan Sivanesan, MD; 2020 FAER Mentored Research Training Grant Recipient; Director of Neuromodulation, Division of Pain Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

On behalf of FAER, thank you to all who have been a part of the foundation’s successes over the past three-and-a-half decades. To our donors, thank you for your inspiring generosity: without your backing, FAER’s work would not be possible. To our volunteers, thank you for your tireless efforts in mentoring the specialty’s future investigators as well as shepherding the grants and programs that prove so invaluable to them. And to our grantees and program participants, past and current, thank you for your incredible contributions to the science of anesthesiology and, by extension, the specialty as a whole.

FAER looks forward to working alongside such talented, passionate individuals for another 35 years of scientific excellence and unflinching dedication to the future of anesthesiology and research.

Finally, as 2021 draws to a close, we hope you will include FAER as you plan your end-of-year giving. Your gift will substantially impact research in anesthesiology by helping to increase the number of individuals on the pathway to this incredibly important and rewarding career. Donate today at FAER.org/Donate!