Miller School of Medicine Achieves Significant Gains in NIH Research Grant Rankings

The Miller School of Medicine rose one position in the national rankings of medical schools based on research grants received from the National Institutes of Health during the 2015 federal fiscal year. That gain is significant, considering the ongoing reductions in NIH grants that have caused many medical schools to fall in the rankings. The NIH grants are vital for advancing research that leads to a greater understanding of a wide variety of diseases and public health issues.

According to data compiled by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, the Miller School rose from No. 42 to No. 41 of 139 schools ranked, with its grant total increasing by slightly more than $1 million to $97,351,176. That figure is nearly $3 million higher than the next medical school on the list, and retains the Miller School’s status as the highest-ranked medical school in Florida.

In addition, 12 of its departments made rankings gains — including one, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which jumped 20 points among its peers.

Twenty-three faculty members received more than $1 million in funding, with seven ranked in the top 20 in their academic field.

“Our Miller School of Medicine continues to climb the NIH ranks, remaining the top-ranked research medical school in Florida, thanks to the amazing work of our faculty, staff and students,” said Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D. “We deliver research that brings so much value to our community in Miami and the rest of South Florida, to the United States, the Americas and the world. That is what makes our success so special!”

This year, six Miller School departments ranked in the top 20 nationally against their peers: Neurosurgery (No. 4), Public Health Sciences (No. 8), Ophthalmology (No. 8), Urology (No. 14), Otolaryngology (No. 16) and Neurology (No. 17).

The 12 departments that moved up were, in order, Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, Neurosurgery, Cell Biology, Psychiatry, Dermatology, Radiation Oncology, Physiology and Biophysics, Orthopaedics, Microbiology and Immunology, Ophthalmology and Urology.

Leading the group, the Department of Biochemistry rose 20 places in national ranking against peer departments to No. 43, with a year-over-year gain of 67.4 percent and a total of more than $4.3 million in funding.

The Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology posted a 16.8 percent gain, rising five places to No. 47 in its field with more than $3.1 million. The Department of Neurosurgery received $4.7 million, a 99.3 percent gain that took it up four places to No. 4. The Department of Cell Biology received nearly $2.4 million, a 12.9 percent increase that brought it up four places to No. 49. The Department of Psychiatry received $8.1 million, up 4.1 percent and four places to No. 27. The Department of Radiation Oncology had an 18.4 percent gain, rising three places to No. 39 in its field with more than $1.7 million. The Department of Orthopaedics received $219,000, a 16.7 percent gain that took it up one place to No. 35. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology received more than $7.5 million, a 15 percent increase that brought it up one place to No. 35.

The Department of Dermatology rose four places (to No. 22), the Department of Physiology and Biophysics three places (to No. 63), and the Departments of Ophthalmology and Urology one place each (to Nos. 8 and 14, respectively).

Twenty-three principal investigators, nine of whom ranked in the top 5 percent nationally in their departmental specialty, received more than $1 million each, generating slightly more than half of the Miller School’s total NIH funding.

José Szapocznik, Ph.D., professor and Chair of Public Health Sciences, was the school’s highest NIH-funded researcher, with $8.2 million in awards — more than 70 percent of his department’s total award dollars – which earned him the No. 2 spot in a national field of 371. A significant portion of Szapocznik’s funding was the annual installment of a five-year $20 million NIH commitment to the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Establishment of the CTSI has made the Miller School part of an elite consortium of 60 institutions working to accelerate the pace of biomedical discoveries. Work supported by the CTSI is transforming UM’s approach to translational and clinical research, while delivering outstanding research training and service for our community.

David I. Watkins, Ph.D., professor of pathology, was the second highest funded Miller School researcher, with $3.3 million, making him No. 20 of 861, in the top 3 percent of his specialty. Watkins, who has focused much of his research on the development of an HIV vaccine, is now one of the leaders of the Miller School’s interdisciplinary team exploring the Zika virus.

Other research funding leaders were Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., professor and Chair of Neurology, and Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders, with $3.2 million (No. 14 of 733), and Savita Pahwa, M.D., professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and Director of the Miami Center for AIDS Research, with $3 million (No. 32 of 1,015).

Six additional faculty members passed the $2 million mark: Margaret A. Fischl, M.D., professor of medicine, $2.6 million; John R. Guy, M.D., professor of ophthalmology, $2.4 million; Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D., Chief Innovation Officer, Vice Provost for Innovation and the Martin Kleiman Professor of Surgery, Microbiology and Immunology, and Biomedical Engineering, $2.3 million; Joshua M. Hare, M.D., Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine and Director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, $2.2 million; Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, $2.1 million; and Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., professor of medicine, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the HIV/AIDS Institute, $2 million.

Rounding out the faculty in the top 5 percent of NIH funding in their specialties were Michal Toborek, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, $1.6 million; and Xue Z. Liu, M.D., professor of otolaryngology, $1.5 million.

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