University of Southern California: Eight Keck School of Medicine departments rank in top 10 for NIH funding

Eight departments at the Keck School of Medicine of USC rank in the top 10 in NIH funding in their fields, an increase from six departments last year.

“The past year was extremely challenging for research as it has been for so many things,” noted Tom Buchanan, MD, professor of medicine, the Bernard J. Hanley Chair in Medicine and the school’s vice dean for research. “I am really proud of the way our researchers responded by competing so successfully for NIH funding.”

Three departments—the Department of Ophthalmology, Population and Public Health Sciences and the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Department of Urology—all came in No. 2 for their disciplines.

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

“This recognition bears testament to the faculty carrying out fantastic research in the department,” said J. Martin Heur, MD, PhD, professor of clinical ophthalmology, interim chair of ophthalmology and Charles Manger III, MD Chair in Corneal Laser Eye Surgery.

Since 2006, Population and Public Health Sciences has consistently been in the top 3 NIH funded departments of public health.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of population and public health to the entire world,” observed Howard Hu, professor of population and public health sciences and Flora L. Thornton Chair of the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences. “As we grow, we will continue to generate the evidence and train the professionals who will advance this agenda locally and globally.”

The Catherine and Joseph Aresty Department of Urology moved into the top 10, jumping from No. 11 last year to No. 2 this year.

“We attribute this research success to USC Urology’s inherently innovative mind-set, which is strongly rooted in clinical-translational excellence. Our focus is advancing the science, thereby to improve the outcomes and lives of our patients,” noted Inderbir Gill, MD, Chair and Distinguished Professor of Urology, Shirley and Donald Skinner Chair in Urologic Cancer Surgery and associate dean for clinical innovation. “This ranking reflects our scientific innovations in epigenetics, robotic simulation, and stem cell & regenerative medicine, as well as our deep collaborations with colleagues in translational genomics, single cell genomics, drug development for novel therapeutic targets, and engineering and AI.”

Neurology held steady in its ranking from the previous year at No. 4 as did Physiology and Neuroscience at No. 5.

Department of Neurology researchers work on numerous projects with team members and patients at Keck Medicine of USC, USC Mark and Mary Stevens Institute of Neuroimaging and Informatics, the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute, the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

The department’s top ranking affirms “two decades of institutional investment in clinical and translational research—a partnership among neurologists, neurosurgeons, physician-scientists, PhD investigators, countless team members and patients,” remarked Helena Chui, MD, professor of neurology and Raymond and Betty McCarron Chair in Neurology.

“We have amazing, talented and well-funded faculty that carry out cutting-edge research in Alzheimer’s disease, other neurodegenerative disorders, stroke, sensory systems and circuits, renal physiology, and kidney-brain axis,” said Berislav Zlokovic, MD, PhD, Chair and University Professor of the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience, Mary Hayley and Selim Zilkha Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research. “Our goal is to keep our ranking within the top 5 departments in the country.”

Collaborating across institutes as well as recruiting excellent investigators working across disciplines continues to be a strength for the Keck School of Medicine.

A focus of the No. 7 ranked Department of Orthapaedic Surgery’s translational research program has been on developing novel stem cell therapies to enhance cartilage, bone and muscle repair.

“Our partnership with the Broad Stem Cell Institute and our interactions with other scientists in the Institute has played a critical role in our success.” said Jay R. Lieberman, MD, chair and professor of orthopaedic surgery.

This year, the Department of Family Medicine rocketed up from No. 26 into No. 9 in ranking. Jehni Robinson, MD, chair and clinical professor of family medicine and associate dean for primary care, thanked her research faculty and staff, saying, “They are making a difference for the communities we serve by helping us better understand how to protect and care for the most vulnerable amongst us.”

Coming in at No.10 this year, The Caruso Department of Otolaryngology also maintained its place in the NIH top 10.

“I am proud of our talented faculty who have dedicated their careers to studying the biological underpinnings of disease and using this knowledge to develop new cures that help patients,” said John Oghalai, MD, chair of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery and the Leon J. Tiber and David S. Alpert Chair in Medicine.

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