Summary/overview of the VCORE program: The VCORE (VUI Center for Outcomes Research, Analytics and Evaluation) is a research collaborative aimed at urologic research. Established in 2012, it was the brainchild of Dr Menon (director Emeritus of VUI). It currently focuses on institutional/multi-institutional databases, harnessing genomic data for cancer prognostication and leveraging big databases for health outcomes research.
Importance/impact of VCORE serving as a training program for fellows/residents: The group was originally started for outcomes research in the field of urologic cancers: over time, it metamorphosed into a full-fledged team involved in almost all aspects of urologic research (malignancies, kidney stones, minimally invasive surgery, kidney transplant, to name a few). Further, VCORE program established an active collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital and other institutions across the globe (such as Italy, Germany, UK and India), greatly expanding its research footprint and producing high quality research published in leading international medical journals. Under the leadership of Dr Firas Abdollah (Director, VCORE) and Dr Craig Rogers (Chairman, VUI), urology residents and fellows at VUI have a tremendous opportunity to engage in high level research opportunities, collaborate with peers across the globe, identify their own niche and ultimately lay the foundation for a career as a surgeon-scientist.
Examples of how research being done via VCORE is cutting edge/transformational/serving as a standard of excellence/resource for other clinicians/researchers: VCORE has produced some exemplary research in a short span of half a decade. VUI was the world leader in robotic surgery in Urology, and some of the seminal work from our institute includes comprehensive review of long term oncological outcomes and complications after robotic radical prostatectomy, randomized trials to improve functional outcomes, and novel techniques for preserving kidney function after robotic partial nephrectomy. We also ushered in the era of robot-assisted kidney transplant, publishing the first ever guideline-driven description of our kidney transplant technique. Using nationwide datasets on men with prostate cancer, we have published very high impact papers in leading medical journals (such as JAMA, NEJM, JCO etc) studying the role of health disparities in treatment outcomes, impact of national guidelines on PSA screening, and using genomic data to guide decisions for post-prostatectomy radiation therapy, to name a few. One of the major current areas of focus is precision prostatectomy, a novel approach aimed at minimizing the side effects of radical prostatectomy on incontinence and impotence.
Examples of how VCORE is supporting research on health disparities: VCORE has been at the forefront of leveraging "big data" to study health disparities, with studies in high impact journals. We have analyzed the role of race and insurance status in access to kidney transplant, treatment outcomes for prostate cancer, and disparities in adherence to guideline-concordant care in men with urological cancers across the country. Two of the ex-members of VCORE (Jesse Sammon and Quoc-Dien Trinh) have both gone on to make health disparities a key focus of their research careers.
What can be achieved by endowing funding for this program so that the program Dr. Menon envisioned can exist in perpetuity: VCORE has always prioritized high quality research, as is evident from our track record. The success of VCORE depends on the team comprising it: biostatisticians, data analysts/extractors, residents, fellows, and able leadership by the VUI staff. The next steps in our mission are to uphold our sacrosanct principle of technical innovation in robotic surgery, participate and be leaders in multi-centric clinical trials, and evolve approaches for precision and personalized medicine that builds on our prior work. All of this is, inevitably, a labor-intensive process. As such, having a source of endowed funding will Not only serve the mission of scientific progress and aiming to ultimately provide better patient care to our patients, but also provide the launchpad for many budding research careers.