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Six KSOM departments make top 10 in NIH funding nationally

Ophthalmology is No. 1 among med schools for the fourth year in a row, while Preventive Medicine is No. 2

By Landon Hall/Keck School News/February 17, 2021

Data on grants awarded from the National Institutes of Health have been released, and the Keck School of Medicine of USC has six departments in the top 10 in their respective fields.

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Detection of the pathogen coronavirus infection in the microbiology laboratory

KSOM’s Ophthalmology Department is again ranked No. 1 among medical schools in the country. Preventive Medicine, which has covered a wide variety of research topics in recent years and has opened a new COVID-19 research center, is No. 2 in funding.

Rounding out the Top 10 is Neurology at No. 4; Physiology and Neuroscience at No. 5; Otolaryngology at No. 7; and Orthopaedic Surgery at No. 9.

The rankings are based on data compiled by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research. 

“We’re competing better than we used to,” said Tom Buchanan, MD, professor of medicine, the Bernard J. Hanley Chair in Medicine and the school’s Vice Dean for Research.

He noted how difficult it is to secure an NIH grant, which is based on merit. “It takes a good fundamental idea, it takes preliminary data that the idea could be right, and a proposal that is feasible and scientifically very vigorous.”

J. Martin Heur, MD, Interim Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, said: “This continues our streak of being ranked No. 1 for four consecutive years and is a testament to the quality of research being carried out in our department. I would like to congratulate everyone in the department for this fantastic achievement.”

Preventive Medicine held steady at No. 2.

“The Department of Preventive Medicine is once again proud to have gained this re-affirmation of the research strength of its faculty,” said Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD, the Flora L. Thornton Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine. “Behind the numbers is a deep and abiding commitment to generate the scientific evidence that is essential for optimizing the health of large and diverse urban populations, locally and globally.”

Neurology, led by Helena Chui, MD, the Raymond and Betty McCarron Chair in Neurology, rose from No. 9 to No. 4.

“The KSOM Department of Neurology is gratified to be ranked No. 4 in NIH funding,” Chui said. “Over the past decade, USC has made key strategic investments in neuroscience. Our approach has been two-pronged: recruiting topflight talent and supporting our own investigators.” 

Otolaryngology rose from No. 10 to No. 7. “Of course, the research funding itself is not the goal; the goal is discovery,” said John Oghalai, MD, Chair of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, and the Leon J. Tiber and David S. Alpert Chair in Medicine. “I am so grateful for the efforts of our faculty, trainees, and staff to understand the basic mechanisms of biology, to discover the mechanisms of disease, and to develop new diagnostics and cures that will help society.”

Physiology and Neuroscience, chaired by Berislav V. Zlokovic, MD, PhD, boasts a formidable team of researchers working on some of the most pressing problems in health, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Jay R. Lieberman, chair of Orthopaedic Surgery, said: “Our goal in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery is to continually innovate to provide our patients with the best care possible, and in our research laboratories we are developing novel treatment regimens for our patients. We have a special interest in translational research focused on stem cell therapies to enhance bone and cartilage repair, muscle and tendon regeneration, and spinal fusion.”

To learn more about KSOM’s groundbreaking work, visit our Research page.

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