AUA steps up efforts to bolster research agenda

December 1, 2007

In this interview, Anthony J. Schaeffer, MD, who serves as chair of the AUA Research Council and urology representative to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council, discusses what the future holds for urology research.

Appropriate, effective bench and clinical research is essential for ensuring a strong future for the specialty of urology. AUA recently has put forth several initiatives designed to address deficiencies in the association's approach to research. In this interview, Anthony J. Schaeffer, MD, who serves as chair of the AUA Research Council and urology representative to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council, discusses this renewed effort and what the future holds. Dr. Schaeffer, who is professor and chairman of urology at Northwestern University School of Medicine, Chicago, was interviewed by UT Editorial Consultant Richard D. Williams, MD, professor and chairman of urology at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Q In your role as chair of the AUA Research Council, what do you see as the initiatives that research needs to make in urology in the next few years?

We all recognize that we need to develop an agenda for research in urology, and we have to present it succinctly to AUA members, the AUA Board, and the NIH, which is trying to help us be successful. We need to identify, nurture, and develop young surgeon-scientists-PhDs, MD/PhDs, and MDs-who can carry the torch. And we need to translate our research into meaningful results that will benefit our patients.

Q Is there a shortage of surgeon-scientists being trained today?

A The obvious question is, how many do we need and how many can we support? My sense is that we have very talented students and residents who are doing a great job in their programs. About 15 individuals per year are funded as AUA scholars: residents who are graduating and who are interested in academic careers. The AUA developed a program, in conjunction with the NIH, to financially support individuals who received career development awards, which would mark them with distinction and presumably for high probability of success. We now have six surgeon-scientist awardees who are receiving supplemental funds.

The question is, is that enough? If we had perhaps two career development awardees per year who then went on to get RO1 grants or other such funding, that probably would be more than enough to keep the pipeline filled. I should point out that last year there were no applicants for these positions, so that perhaps brings some urgency to the question. I think the efforts that are under way now are directed to correct that.

Q In regard to developing surgeon-scientists, there recently was a meeting among a variety of groups, but primarily the leadership of urology and the NIDDK, to look into the current problems and try to solve them. What has been the outcome of that meeting, in your view?