Welcome to the summer edition of “Ask the Expert.” With the start of a new academic year, this month's topic, an exploration of the Anesthesia Research Council (ARC), seems entirely appropriate. It is well known that many ASA members are not in academic practice (including myself, as of this month), yet our society needs to serve the needs of all members, whether they work inside or outside of that setting. An important commonality is that all of us trained in some form of academic setting. Once training is completed, as attending anesthesiologists and regardless of specific practice setting, we benefit from advances in scientific and medical knowledge. Therefore, this month's column is germane to all ASA members. Someone who hopes to facilitate the scholarly advances that will benefit us and our patients is our Expert this month, Dr. Mark Neuman, Chair of the ARC Steering Committee and Horatio C. Wood Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Mark, thank you for joining us. Can you give us a brief biographical sketch and describe your current position?

I'm a second-generation anesthesiologist and ASA member. After doing my residency training at Brigham and Women's Hospital in 2008, I came to the University of Pennsylvania for a research fellowship funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and I've been here ever since. I provide operative anesthesia care for patients at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and oversee our department's clinical research portfolio. My own research focuses on improving care for older surgical patients and has examined anesthesia options for hip fracture, strategies for reducing delirium after surgery, and other topics.

What exactly is the ARC?

The idea for the Anesthesia Research Council, or ARC, began in 2016 when ASA and the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) convened a summit of research and executive leaders in anesthesiology at ASA headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois. I was fortunate enough to be at this meeting, which focused on supporting the growth of research and scholarship within our specialty.

Based on recommendations from this summit, ASA, the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER), and IARS partnered in 2019 to create the ARC as a three-year pilot program with the mission of providing independent and trustworthy advice to advance research within anesthesiology. ARC has now been renewed for another three-year term. It's led by a seven-person steering committee, which I chair, that reports to a Sponsors' Council with representatives from our three supporting organizations.

ARC's main work so far has focused on developing high-impact reports – including concrete recommendations for action – examining key topics related to research within anesthesiology. Our goal is to bring together diverse stakeholders within and outside the specialty to define key challenges and propose evidence-informed solutions. Then we can take these solutions back to our specialty leaders as well as to payers, research funders, and government regulators. ARC's reports draw on a variety of data, including published research, surveys of key stakeholders, and listening sessions held annually at the ASA and IARS meetings.

What has the ARC accomplished to date that is noteworthy?

ARC's first report – on strengthening the physician-scientist pipeline – came out in September 2023 in Anesthesia & Analgesia. Led by Dr. Charles Emala from Columbia University, the report highlighted opportunities to strengthen and grow the research workforce within our specialty. For example, Dr. Emala's group found that anesthesiology ranked eighth out of 11 medical specialties in the percentage of entering residents with a “research-oriented” background. On a positive note, the report also found a growing interest in research within the field over time. Since 2015, there has been a 70% increase in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to anesthesiology departments, and a similar increase in the number of NIH early scientist career development awards given to anesthesiologists. Dr. Emala's group outlined over 30 common-sense steps that anesthesiology organizations can start taking now to help build on this momentum.

Over the next few years, we'll be putting out additional reports, with three in the pipeline now at various stages. These reports will be focused on strengthening our capacity as a field for patient-centered outcomes research, capitalizing on the potential for advances in artificial intelligence to benefit our patients, and growing scholarship focused on education within anesthesiology. I'm excited to see each of these projects grow and develop and look forward to having additional high-impact recommendations emerge from the process.

What do you hope to see accomplished in the future?

In addition to our efforts to develop expert guidance, ARC is working closely with its sponsoring organizations to put our recommendations into action. Regarding the recommendations from our first report, I've been working closely with Dr. Emala, along with Steering Committee members Julie Freed, MD, PhD (Medical College of Wisconsin) and Vivianne Tawfik, MD, PhD (Stanford) to prioritize high-impact, achievable actions that our organizations can take to support the physician-scientist pipeline. Simultaneously, we're thrilled that Manny Bonilla, ASA's Chief Advocacy Officer, has joined the Steering Committee to help us develop plans for how we can advocate for anesthesia research at the federal level and with other external stakeholders.

Here's your chance to make a pitch – why should ASA members care about this initiative?

Having a vibrant and growing research enterprise is essential to the success of anesthesiology as a field. Our ability to deliver safe and effective care rests on the scientific discoveries of the past and the emerging discoveries that will shape how anesthesia is practiced moving forward, how care is organized, and how it is reimbursed. Anesthesiologists should be in a leadership role in these endeavors. The ARC is one way that we can make our voices heard, not just within our organizations but also to outside stakeholders.

What do you think anesthesia research will look like in 20 years?

Even though the anesthesia research enterprise faces big challenges, I remain tremendously hopeful and optimistic about the future of research in our specialty. Because our field touches nearly every part of clinical practice, we have huge opportunities to improve care and advance public health – if we're willing to think big enough. Looking 20 years ahead, I'm hopeful that the cultivation of discovery and research within the field will be seen as one of the signature successes of our profession. A key part of ARC's role will be to help map out that path and advocate for the key steps to make this vision a reality.

What advice do you have for people who want to become more involved?

We're thrilled to engage with all ASA members who are interested in ARC's work, whether they work in traditional academic settings or not. We're especially interested to hear members' thoughts on potential topics for future reports, as well as suggestions regarding individuals to serve as reviewers and/or working group members. We always welcome feedback on our reports and working group recommendations. Contact information is on our website (arc-anesthesia.org/), which has information on our current activities, members, and reports. We're hugely grateful to ASA, to the IARS, and to FAER for supporting ARC and look forward to engaging with everyone through the website and at upcoming meetings.

Zachary Deutch, MD, FASA, Attending Anesthesiologist, U.S. Anesthesia Partners, Palm Coast, Florida.

Zachary Deutch, MD, FASA, Attending Anesthesiologist, U.S. Anesthesia Partners, Palm Coast, Florida.

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Mark D. Neuman, MD, MSc, Horatio C. Wood Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical and Translational Research, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Mark D. Neuman, MD, MSc, Horatio C. Wood Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical and Translational Research, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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