The Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) has a long history of supporting junior investigators through its Vision Grant. This year, the $50,000 grant was awarded to Theodore J. “Jack” Iwashyna, MD, PhD, who will study patients’ functional decline related to the long-term costs of sepsis. This proposal addresses an emerging clinical problem at the heart of critical care medicine and SCCM’s mission: Now that better care allows patients to live longer, how can practitioners help them live better?
Iwashyna commended the Society for their commitment to junior investigators, especially in research related to epidemiology and social sciences. “When you are an assistant professor trying to survive in this funding climate, a Vision Grant can triple the amount of research money one has to get through the first few years. I can already see the benefits of the Vision Grant, and I’ve just started. The Society has supported several innovative young scholars, and I’m honored to be part of that group,” he said.
Iwashyna currently serves as an intensivist and assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. He has a medical degree from University of Chicago as well as PhD from that university’s School of Public Policy. Iwashyna’s work is in some ways very typical of a physician-scientist: He is striving to bring the best scientific thinking and rigorous techniques to important problems, aided by the perspective of direct clinical commitment at the bedside. His distinctiveness, according to his colleagues, comes from his ability to draw from quantitative demography and innovative social science.
He understands critical illness in the context of patients’ lives in addition to the systems issues that shape the acute episode. These unique qualities come through even as he describes his introduction to critical care. “As a resident in internal medicine, I fell in love with the intensive care unit,” he recalled. “I saw the beauty and complexity of the problem solving, but also recognized substantial opportunities to look at long-term outcomes.”
These long-term outcomes are at the center of Iwashyna’s current work. Iwashyna intends to examine the impact of severe sepsis using a long-term, nationally representative cohort study – the Health and Retirement Study, which collects data from U.S. residents age 50 and older. The survey data also are linked to the Medicare system to reveal detailed information about their medical backgrounds. “We are able to identify patients with severe sepsis, see what their quality of life was like years before they became sick, and use the same careful data to follow them afterwards,” he explained.
The result, he hopes, will be more informed families and healthier patients at discharge. “Patients and their families often care much more about their functional status after their stay in the intensive care unit than whether or not they will live or die. This research will give us a better understanding of what life is like after severe sepsis.” Iwashyna hopes this research will serve to help practitioners understand the long-term consequences of intensive care unit-based interventions and allow patients to be discharged with better function as a result of these interventions, such as early mobility and sedation minimization.
The Vision Grant’s broad requirements and availability to junior and established investigators make it accessible to a wide pool of applicants. Apply for this $50,000 grant by September 3, 2010. The Society is seeking research that supports education, the integrated team of multiprofessional experts, outcomes and measurements reporting and/or continuous improvement.