The SAGES Foundation is moving into its second decade, and continues its mission of promoting education, research, and innovation. It has distributed $2.5 million in grants that have helped fund significant projects such as FLS, FES, FUSE, and others. They have all played an essential part in improving patient safety by educating many surgeons and surgical trainees in safer practice standards. Our current fund may seem like a lot of money, but on an annual basis, this is not a large reserve. Unfortunately, the Foundation cannot support many of the grant requests that we receive for excellent and worthy projects.
SAGES is one of the leading national and international surgical organizations with significant influence in patient care and treatment. We must keep up the good work and try to expand our reach for the sake of patients. An excellent example of the Foundation’s important role is the hard work of the Go Global Committee, under the auspices of Dr. Horacio Asbun, and its efforts to promote minimal access surgical education throughout the world. As you know, minimally invasive surgery is rarely performed in developing nations because of the required specialized training and equipment. One of the most impressive educational endeavors of this committee has been the introduction of laparoscopic surgical training techniques in Mongolia, which was started by Dr. Ray Price. With the help of SAGES members, he began by educating a team of healthcare professionals in a hospital in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, monitoring their progress, and developing a Train–the-Trainers program, which has disseminated access to laparoscopy around the country. In partnership with the Swanson Foundation, the Mongolian Ministry of Health, and the Mongolia Surgical Society, SAGES has helped to make laparoscopic procedures a central component to decreasing morbidity and mortality in surgical patients, and expansion of these techniques (laparoscopic cholecystectomy is now performed nearly 80% of the time) are a priority of their health care system. In fact, the Minister of Health attended the Nashville meeting to thank SAGES for its initiative and hard work. Such a great achievement for SAGES and the Go Global Committee, needs to be duplicated in other countries around the world—but it will not happen without the support of the SAGES Foundation.
I would like to thank the Society members, corporate sponsors, and others who have helped to launch and develop projects that improve patient care—and change lives—by supporting the Foundation so generously. However, we can only achieve these, and further successes at home and abroad by growing the Foundation with further support from SAGES members.
The Directors of the Foundation would like increase the annual distribution to fund all worthy education and research proposals, however, to achieve these aims, it is important to grow the Foundation’s financial resources. The original target was to raise $10 million, but we find that there are more grant requests being submitted than can be funded, resulting in excellent projects being turned down due to lack of funds. As we enter the second decade of the Foundation, we must continue our support of advanced training, surgical innovation and new technology despite the challenges, which include decreasing industry contributions, along with inflation and the increased cost of research.
The Directors of the Foundation have made the decision to increase the financial goal to a total of $20 million. This a tall order, but when one looks at the major role that SAGES plays in the promotion and development of flexible endoscopy and minimal access surgery, it is very important for us to expand our reach to benefit our patients who rely more and more on technical advancements to improve surgical outcomes.
Many SAGES members have benefitted from minimal access surgery, and can testify that they were relieved to have avoided the increased pain and longer recovery required with an open procedure. We especially need these members to be advocates on behalf of the Foundation to help us increase the level of fundraising and its ultimate goal of expanding the use of laparoscopic techniques.
We need your help. I encourage you to do your part to help patients by helping the Foundation to reach its new $20 million goal. Please take a minute to send a one-time donation or consider a pledge for a recurring donation.
Please step up to the plate on this important issue.
Dr. Desmond H. Birkett
SAGES Education and Research Foundation