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Dr. Francis Lee in Washington

Takes Part in National Capitol Hill Event for Medical Research Funding

New York, NY (Sep 25, 2009)

Capitol building in Washington, DC

This spring, Francis Y. Lee, MD, PhD, Chief of Tumor and Bone Disease, Department of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, joined nearly 70 orthopaedic surgeons, researchers, and patients at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) 2009 annual Research Capitol Hill Days in Washington, D.C. The Research Capitol Hill Days event works to raise awareness of the chronic, debilitating, and costly musculoskeletal diseases and disorders afflicting our nation and to request continued support for musculoskeletal research.

Following the $10.4 billion investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, participants urged Congress to continue to build on this investment with sustained long-term funding. Research Capitol Hill Days, held on March 18-19, offered orthopaedic surgeons, researchers, and patients with musculoskeletal conditions the opportunity to meet with U.S. senators and representatives on Capitol Hill to personally advocate for the future of musculoskeletal care.

"Healthcare is a critical issue in the United States today," says Dr. Lee, Vice Chairman of Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and a noted clinician-scientist who has been awarded a four-year $1.8 million research project (R01) grant, one of only a handful ever given to an orthopedic surgeon, by NIAMS. It is Dr. Lee's second R01 grant to date. "Musculoskeletal issues are a major problem – nearly one third of the population suffers from musculoskeletal disorders, including minor issues such as lower back pain, knee pain, etc. But despite the high incidence of Americans suffering from musculoskeletal disorders, the research projects for these disorders are very few."

Musculoskeletal conditions have an enormous impact on Americans and on the United States health care system:

  • The annual direct and indirect costs for bone and joint health are $849 billion – 7.7 percent of the gross domestic product.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions represent the greatest cause of medical bed days and lost workdays in the United States.
  • One in six working Americans reported missing work as a result of musculoskeletal conditions totaling nearly 437.6 million lost workdays in 2005.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions accounted for 50 percent of bed days and lost workdays in 2005.

"The NIH appropriates nearly $20 billion from the U.S. Congress, and NIAMS, which is part of the NIH, only receives about $5 million from this funding," notes Dr. Lee. "That's a big discrepancy between the high incidences of these disorders and available federal funding for research. While the budget of the NIH was doubled over the course of the last decade, the NIAMS budget did not reflect the same level of support."

Dr. Lee, an Associate Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University College of Physician and Surgeons, specializes in pediatric orthopedic surgery, including spine deformity and complex developmental orthopaedic disorders, musculoskeletal tumors and bone disease. Long an advocate for medical research, Dr. Lee conducts both basic and clinical studies on musculoskeletal disorders. He is a member of the Research Development Committee of the AAOS, and is a member of the Program Committee for the Orthopedic Research Society. Dr. Lee is also a past recipient of the AAOS/Orthopaedic Research Education and Foundation Clinician Scientist Traveling Fellowship Award.

"During the Research Capitol Hill Days, I had the opportunity to visit with representatives from New York and New Jersey to help educate them about the impact of musculoskeletal conditions and the need for greater research," adds Dr. Lee.

"This is an ongoing effort. The collaborative efforts of the orthopaedic and musculoskeletal community over the past 10 years no doubt helped in the NIH receiving the research stimulus package. We have to keep raising our voice."

Contributing faculty for this article:

Francis Y. Lee, MD, PhD, Chief of Tumor and Bone Disease, Department of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital; Director of the Center for Orthopaedic Research and Vice Chairman of Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center; and Associate Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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