The Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) is now in its 27th year. There have been 482 research and education grants awarded during these 27 years. FAER’s mission is “to advance medicine through education and research in anesthesiology.” The more than $31 million in grants awarded since 1986 allow anesthesiologists to provide our patients, society and the specialty with measurable improvements in health.
As an example, during 1993-1996, Tim Brennan, M.D., Ph.D., received FAER grants for studying an acute pain model. These initial grants for Tim led to many more from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and are allowing our physicians across the globe to better treat pain in our postoperative patients. Dr. Brennan was able to systematically generate new knowledge and advocate for better pain care in postsurgical patients.
Similarly, in 1990, Evan Kharasch, M.D., Ph.D., received a FAER award that allowed him and his laboratory to understand CYP3A4 in several pathways of human liver alfentanil metabolism. This initial funding subsequently allowed Evan to become funded by the NIH, and his laboratory continues to add new knowledge and advocate for our patients through better understanding of pharmacotherapies, drug safety, patient satisfaction and cost-effective use of drugs. His laboratory was key in investigating sevoflurane and allowing its wide use to benefit our patients.
These two examples of FAER working with then-young anesthesiology investigators to nurture the generation of new knowledge has paid off for society and allowed our specialty needed recognition by the NIH. This recognition allows us to advocate for improvements in patient care; I posit that this is real advocacy for our specialty. This helps anesthesiologists differentiate themselves from those providers in the health care continuum who seek to focus on an algorithmic or mechanical delivery of anesthetic care, rather than the generation of new knowledge. Our patients care that we are on the cutting edge of new knowledge; it is even more powerful to be able to share the story of how our physicians continue to push toward even more improvements in patient care. One colleague commented that FAER helps us put the “...ology” in anesthesiology.
Another individual benefiting from early career support was Debra Schwinn, M.D. Her 1990 FAER Research Starter Grant focused on adrenergic receptors and allowed her to go on to receive an NIH K-award and subsequently ongoing NIH R01 awards. Her work in genomics has helped our patients and now is allowing her, as Dean of Medicine at the University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine, to advocate for medical students and the patients needing care at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics. This is advocacy that makes a difference. FAER grant support coupled with Deb’s hard and creative work early in her career allows her to be a real advocate.
Still another anesthesiologist benefiting from FAER support was David O. Warner, M.D. of Mayo Clinic. David used data developed during his fellowship to successfully compete for a FAER award, which led to NIH funding. His interest in research allows him to advocate for patients across the world by his focus on smoking cessation. FAER allowed him to gain enough resources to grow his career and his advocacy has significantly advanced our specialty and our patients’ health.
Hugh Hemmings, M.D., Ph.D. also used his FAER Young Investigator Award to develop data to be used for NIH support. This work in outlining facts about anesthetic influence on presynaptic signaling allowed us all to understand more directly why “new knowledge” is our real advocate within society in advancing our field.
These short vignettes don’t do justice to the immense amount of hard work that each of these individuals provided in developing their research careers. Yet without the catalyst of a FAER award, the outcome may have been different for each of them. I again ask all of us in the specialty to help us advance anesthesiology through real advocacy – the generation of “new knowledge.” FAER is central in our specialty to that work, and I believe adding new knowledge through research and education is the most productive advocacy position for our specialty.