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A Call for New Energy and Goals In Basic Science

Kimberly L Gandy, MD, PhD
Basic Science & Translational Research (BSTR) Council Chair

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kimberly gandyOver the last decade, there has been a clear trend within the ISHLT towards the reduction of emphasis and expertise in the basic and translational sciences. As a result, ISHLT President Lori West has called for redirecting the energy and goals within the BSTR Council.

The reasons for the drop in emphasis are many. First of all, the field—including clinical practice—has undoubtedly reached a level of maturity where many procedures have become standard rather than experimental. Next, changes in educational and training patterns within our fields have occurred. In the past, basic and/or translational research experience was highly encouraged in the path of becoming a transplant physician and caregiver; however, today's budding transplant providers are less likely to have such training.

The attempt to remain competitive for the best and brightest from the new generation, a group clearly recognizing the lifestyle benefits of hastening the completion of training, has resulted in shorter training periods. Additionally, obtaining funding for research efforts requires more time than ever before. Grant writing has become an art in itself. There are many good ideas that will never be funded for lack of an ability to present that research in a manner consistent with a fundable grant. In truth, however, this pattern is consistent with the realization that it takes more than ideas in the current era to move research forward.

Change is a constant, and part of our charge as a Society is to recognize and predict the patterns of change, and then adapt to them in a manner that will benefit the field. As we attempt to determine the prospective positions of basic and translational science within our society, I would like to request that we recognize a few fundamental principles rarely discussed.

The appreciation and value of research define a mentality. The mentality that fuels a scientist to search for answers not there before is the same type of mentality that fuels a clinician to figure out a way to approach a patient beyond the obvious. This probing mentality prevents complacency from creeping into our approach to treat our patients. If we accept complacency as a quality, the entire character of our workforce will change.

We need individuals who want to achieve excellence in doing what has been done for decades. We need those who want to define new treatment paradigms, and are willing to carefully validate them. These forces may at times oppose each other, but in the end will strengthen each other, and it is the respectful co-existence of these forces that will preserve and strengthen our future.

Currently, there are approximately 100 members of the BSTR Council, chaired by myself and co-chaired by Sonja Schrepfer, MD, PhD. The board liaisons, James George, PhD and Lori West, MD, PhD, provide continuous guidance. Other officers are in the process of being appointed.

We are devising strategies to determine the best methods of reinvigorating the basic sciences within the ISHLT. At present, these strategies consist of: 1) reducing membership and meeting fees for undergraduate, medical, and graduate students who historically have not been attending our meetings, 2) conducting problem-focused training symposia at meetings to encourage interaction between basic, translational, and clinical scientists, 3) forming alliances with strong basic science training centers with incentives to encourage students to pursue research in related fields that may be considered strategic initiatives for the ISHLT, 4) organizing a host of senior scientific advisors to include some of the best minds in transplantation, pulmonary medicine/pulmonary hypertension and cardiovascular medicine, and encouraging their input into our methods of scientific support for our society.

Our Council webpage is If you would like to contribute thoughts and/or ideas, please join our Google Discussion Group, a forum we hope to begin using within the next month to encourage the exchange of ideas within the society. If you would like to join this group, send your e-mail address to me at I will then send you an invitation to the group and bring you into the discussion forum.

This year, our Council meeting at the ISHLT Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions will have two parts. During the first part, basic ideas and proposals will be presented. Students from all levels, scientists, and clinician scientists are encouraged to attend. After this period, a group of council members will adjourn to review the ideas that have been presented.

Research originates from a questioning mentality and a mentality that will not accept that what one sees before them is absolute. There are reasons that medical research has been partnered with clinical medicine since its inception. For one, close inspection of a clinical problem leads the inquiring mind to see many more issues which can and should be addressed. But research also provides solace. When a young mind and spirit watches a patient they have treated die, and feels the accompanying grief of friends and family members, the belief that one has the potential to change this outcome in the future is a very powerful comfort. Many of the greatest discoveries in medicine have been fueled by an individual's charge to solve a problem they have witnessed while treating a patient. It is our charge to preserve the close relationship of research with the clinical fields of cardiovascular transplant and failure.

Disclosure Statement: The author has no financial relationships to disclose.