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12.30.2011

Rising NIH Ranking Reflects the Miller School’s Growing Research Prowess

Enhancing the University’s growing reputation as a research institution, the Miller School of Medicine climbed two spots to No. 39 in the amount of highly coveted research funding awarded by the National Institutes of Health during the 2010-11 federal fiscal year.

The nationwide ranking, which puts the Miller School’s annual NIH grant tally at more than $111.6 million, makes UM the only Florida institution in the Top 50 and highlights the work of several departments and UM faculty. The research, which is often interdisciplinary and collaborative, is helping unravel the mysteries behind a multitude of diseases, such as cancer, HIV, and neurological ailments, and public health issues, such as obesity, that negatively impact quality of life.

“The amount of NIH research funding we receive is an important barometer of the robust science taking place across the Miller School every day and of the dedication of our researchers to unearthing new information to help improve the lives of our fellow humans,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth – University of Miami Health System. “As we continue our ascension among the top-tier medical schools, research plays a vital role in our strategic growth. Recognition from the NIH and other national organizations indicates we are on the right track.”

In 2006, the Miller School was No. 51 in the NIH ranking. By 2009 it had advanced to No. 44, a climb that continued last year, when it reached No. 41.

In the latest ranking, six Miller School departments — microbiology and immunology, neurology, ophthalmology, epidemiology and public health, surgery, and neurological surgery — are among the top 20 percent for NIH funding when compared to peer departments nationally.

“The latest funding numbers are among several indicators that link our excellence in research with our excellence in patient care,” said William W. O’Neill, M.D., executive dean for clinical affairs, interim executive dean for research and research training, and chief medical officer of UHealth. “For example, the high rankings our surgery and neurological surgery departments have attained, in comparison to similar departments at other academic medical centers, speak volumes about the time and talent we dedicate to these areas. As a result, the work pursued here is gaining recognition across the country and internationally.”

According to an analysis of NIH funding, the Miller School’s Department of Neurological Surgery received $4.67 million in NIH grants during the 2011 federal fiscal year, placing the department in the No. 3 spot among 38 similar departments nationally. With $5.42 million, the Department of Surgery jumped from 27th to 16th in one year, in a national group of 87 peer divisions.

This year, five Miller School departments—cell biology and anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, surgery, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and microbiology and immunology—either rose by at least five spots, or increased by $1 million or more in funding.

Twenty-one Miller School faculty ranked in the top 10 percent of NIH-funded departmental recipients nationally, including Myron D. Ginsberg, M.D., professor of neurology, who ranked ninth in neurology with $4.61 million, and José Szapocznik, Ph.D., chair of epidemiology and public health, who received $4.57 million and ranked seventh in epidemiology and public health. Eckhard Podack, M.D., Ph.D., chair of microbiology and immunology, ranked 16th out of more than 1,000 peers, with funding of $3.63 million.

In NIH funding for genetics, the Miller School’s John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics was awarded more than $7.75 million. Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., director of the institute and the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics, received $3.7 million in grants and Jeffery M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics and director of the Center for Genomic Medicine, received $1.9 million.

NIH funding also has helped produce nationally recognized research, including that of Joshua M. Hare, M.D., director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute. Hare, who received $2.87 million in NIH funds, led a study that for the first time showed that stem cells injected into enlarged hearts reduced heart size and scar tissue, and improved heart function. The findings are promising for the more than five million Americans who have enlarged hearts due to damage sustained from heart attacks.

“At the Miller School and UHealth, there is a clear understanding that improving patient care is a primary part of our responsibilities,” O’Neill said. “That includes conducting research which is often the basis for new therapies. Our climb in the NIH ranking reflects our increasing strength in scientific research.”

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