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Pushing forward VA facilities for the betterment of vascular surgery

By Beth Bales

The SVS VA Vascular Surgeons Committee is looking ahead this year to reclaim procedural volume at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities—ravaged by COVID-19—and to facilitate construction of hybrid suites.

The VA committee focuses on improving the vascular surgery community by spurring gains in the resources available for vascular surgeons and by maintaining and improving the training and research environment for the specialty, both at the trainee and the junior faculty level within the VA.

“Maintaining the VA as a robust environment for vascular surgery helps maintain the pipeline for training future SVS members as well as allows the use of VA resources to accomplish vascular surgerybased research,” explains committee chair Gale Tang, MD.

“The VA remains an extremely fertile training environment for bread-and-butter vascular surgery, because of the heavy burden of vascular disease among veterans. However, COVID-19 has had a profound impact within the VA, significantly decreasing vascular surgery procedural and clinic volumes, heavily damaging the trainee experience.”

Most VA offices, in fact, are lagging behind their academic affiliates in terms of recovering volume. In addition to the committee’s plan to develop strategies to maintain appropriate vascular surgical case volumes within the VA, it will also include analyzing the effect of COVID-19 on vascular surgery referrals outside of the VA. The committee plans to develop strategies to maintain appropriate vascular surgical case volumes. This will also include facilitating best practices to improve trainee participation in telehealth.

Updating aging infrastructure within the VA to include hybrid suites remains a priority, as currently only 50% of VA vascular surgeons have access, says Tang.

By establishing what has worked for the successful facilities, the committee hopes to establish more uniform access to appropriate resources to facilitate vascular care within the VA, which will help facilitate the important role of the VA for vascular surgery training, research and careers for SVS members.

Emphasizing the necessity of basic and translational science

The SVS Research Council oversees the research mission of the SVS through the functions of the Basic and Translational Research Committee and the Clinical Research Committee. In 2021, a key goal is to continue to emphasize the essential nature of basic and translational research in understanding the pathogenesis of vascular diseases and developing novel therapies.

Central to this is supporting the development of young vascular surgeon-investigators who will dedicate their careers to delving into the unanswered questions behind the diseases treated by the specialty, explains council chair Edith Tzeng, MD.

Another significant goal for 2021 is to update SVS clinical research priorities. The original priorities were developed in 2010 through a survey of SVS membership and opinion leaders. Over the past decade, several of these priorities have been the focus of multicenter clinical trials that will provide guidance on the management of vascular diseases. Given the exponential growth of clinical investigations and sophisticated analysis of big data, significant knowledge has been gained.

“Thus, it is time to update these clinical research priorities so that vascular surgeons can stay contemporary with the needs of the specialty and of patients,” Tzeng says.