Jacobson Promising Investigator Award honoree focuses research on genetics of vascular disease

Scott M. Damrauer, MD, FACS
Scott M. Damrauer, MD, FACS

An early career surgeon-scientist dedicated to advancing our understanding of the biological pathways and mechanisms most relevant in the etiology, progression, and treatment of heart and vascular disease, Scott Damrauer, MD, FACS, is this year’s recipient of the Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson II Promising Investigator Award (JPIA) of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). His research leverages his clinical vascular surgery experience to inform population scale genomic research.

The JPIA recognizes outstanding surgeons engaging in research, advancing the art and science of surgery, and demonstrating early promise of significant contribution to the practice of surgery and the safety of surgical patients. The award, up to $30,000, is supported through an endowed fund established by the donors and administered by the ACS Surgical Research Committee.

Dr. Damrauer graduated Harvard Medical School and completed his general surgery training at Massachusetts General Hospital and his vascular surgery training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. During residency, he was a research fellow on the Harvard Longwood Vascular Surgery T32 Training Grant in the laboratory of Dr. Christiane Ferran at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. At the completion of his training, Dr. Damrauer joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and the Corporal Michael Crescenz VA medical center as an assistant professor of surgery on the tenure track in 2014.

Dr. Damrauer’s research focuses on understanding the genetics of heart and vascular disease at the population scale. In this, he has focused primarily on disease that he also treats clinically: peripheral artery disease (PAD), venous thromboembolism (VTE), and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Situated within the VA Million Veteran Program, Dr. Damrauer’s work has significantly advanced our understanding of the genetic architecture of these diseases. His current work focuses on leveraging these findings to explore the causal relationship of risk factors across traits, identify novel therapeutic targets, and develop new ways to use genetics to identify individuals at the greatest risk of adverse disease outcomes.

One of the criticisms of genomic medicine has been the lack of studies in populations of non-European ancestry. Dr. Damrauer’s work has tried to address these disparities, specifically tackling important, outstanding questions in cardiovascular genomics as they apply to individuals of non-European ancestry. In a recent paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, he highlighted the dramatic underdiagnosis of hereditary transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, for which there is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved targeted therapy, in African American and Hispanic/Latino individuals with heart failure, providing a needed call for increased attention to this diagnosis.

As one of only a few surgeons leveraging population scale genetics to understand diseases and traits of particular relevance to the surgical community Dr. Damrauer has been working to highlight the genetics of disease, that, although common, have been traditionally overlooked in genetic epidemiology.

To be considered for the JPIA, the candidate must be a Fellow or an Associate Fellow of the ACS; must be board certified in a surgical specialty and must have completed surgical training, including fellowship, in the last six years; must hold a faculty appointment at a research-based academic medical center or hold a military service position; and must have received peer-reviewed funding, among other criteria.