Surgery remains a mainstay in the treatment of most solid cancers. Surgeons have always engaged in various forms of high-quality cancer research to optimize outcomes for their patients, for example, contributing to clinical research and outcomes research as well as health education and public health policy. Over the past decade, however, concerns have been raised about a global decline in the number of surgeons performing basic science research alongside clinical activity — so-called surgeon scientists. Herein, we describe some of the unique obstacles faced by contemporary trainee and practising surgeons engaged in research, as well as providing a perspective on the implications of the diminishing prominence of the surgeon scientist. Finally, we offer some thoughts on potential strategies and future directions for surgical engagement in oncology research to increase the number of research-active surgeons.
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