Press Release

Keck School of Medicine in top 10 in NIH rankings in seven fields

Department of Physiology and Neuroscience ranked No. 1 in the nation in NIH funding and department chair topped the list of individual researchers in neuroscience.

Hope Hamashige February 17, 2023
Image: USC

Seven departments in the Keck School of Medicine of USC ranked in the top 10 in their field for NIH funding for federal fiscal year 2022, further solidifying the school’s growing reputation as a research powerhouse on many fronts. Five of those departments ranked in the top 5 for NIH funding in their field and the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience was No. 1 in the rankings of neuroscience departments in the nation.

The NIH rankings also revealed that the Keck School of Medicine ranked No. 1 among the top 40 medical schools in NIH funding per investigator; the school also rose in overall ranking to #30, continuing a steady climb in ranking since 2019.

“This is further validation of what we already know about the Keck School of Medicine: Many of our researchers are among the most influential in their fields and are taking on the biggest challenges in medicine today,” said Carolyn Meltzer, MD, dean of the Keck School of Medicine. “Their innovative and collaborative approach makes possible the bold leaps needed to advance health for all.”

Securing NIH funding for biomedical research is extremely competitive and these rankings are one indicator of an institution’s overall strength in its research endeavors. NIH-funded research projects are intended to improve human health and reduce the burden of disease through foundational research as well as exploring novel treatments.

“Our researchers continue to be very successful in competing for the NIH funding that supports the very best research, leading to so many groundbreaking studies at the Keck School of Medicine,” said Tom Buchanan, MD, University Professor of Medicine, the Bernard J. Hanley Chair in Medicine and the school’s vice dean for research. “At the same time, we are investing in new research facilities that will increase the impact of our work.”

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

The Department of Physiology and Neuroscience, which consistently ranks among the top departments in the country for NIH funding, captured the No. 1 spot for the second time since 2019. Recent NIH grants to the department include funding for ongoing research on the role that blood vessel dysfunction plays in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and a clinical trial of a new drug that may hasten and improve recovery for people who experience ischemic stroke.

Berislav Zlokovic, MD, PhD, chair and University Professor of the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience, topped the list of individual researchers, receiving more NIH funding for his research projects than any other investigator in the field of neuroscience in the country.

“NIH funding has been essential to pushing our research, which is being carried out by many of our outstanding faculty members, on important subjects facing neuroscience,” said Zlokovic, who is also the Mary Hayley and Selim Zilkha Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research. “We are sincerely appreciative of the NIH’s ongoing support, which is making a difference in the understanding and treatment of many neurological diseases and disorders.”

The Department of Population and Public Health Sciences continued to hold the No. 2 spot in NIH funding for the eighth year in a row. One notable new NIH grant to the department is aimed at developing machine learning approaches to understand new risk factors associated with cancer.

“We are especially proud to have retained our #2 or #3 ranking for so many years because of our commitment both to excellence in research as well as conducting much of that research in ways that partner with and/or benefit the diverse communities of Los Angeles County and beyond,” Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD, professor of population and public health sciences and Flora L. Thornton Chair of the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences.

For the second year running, the Catherine and Joseph Aresty Department of Urology ranked No. 2 in NIH funding among the nation’s urology departments.

“Innovation is USC Urology’s calling card, and our excellence in research mirrors our excellence in the clinic,” said Inderbir Gill, MD, chairman and Distinguished Professor of Urology, Shirley and Donald Skinner Chair in Urologic Cancer Surgery, and executive director USC Institute of Urology. “This recognition by the NIH further energizes our team to continue to lead the field of urology in research and clinical innovation.”

The Department of Neurology, which conducts research with team members and patients at Keck Medicine of USC, the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute, the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute and the Alzheimer Disease Research Center, clocked in at fourth place among neurology departments for NIH funding.

“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.

Rounding out the departments that ranked in the top 5 was the Department of Ophthalmology, which came in at No. 5 in its field.

“I am pleased to announce that the USC Department of Ophthalmology was ranked 5th in NIH funding among US ophthalmology departments,” 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. “This highlights the strength of research in the department. I would like to thank everyone in the department for their efforts.”

The Caruso Department of Otolaryngology climbed two spots in the rankings, from the 10th spot in 2021 to number 8 in the nation in 2022.

“Research is an integral component of everything we do in our department and within Keck Medicine,” said John Oghalai, MD, chair of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery and the Leon J. Tiber and David S. Alpert Chair in Medicine. “Our faculty, staff, and trainees do high impact and meaningful research, and this is reflected in our ranking.”

Rounding out KSOM departments ranked in the top 10 for NIH funding was the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, which has a strong focus on developing novel stem cell therapies to enhance cartilage, bone and muscle repair.

“Our focus on translational research and the support from and collaboration with scientists at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research have been essential to our success,” said Jay R. Lieberman, MD, chair and professor of orthopaedic surgery. “We are particularly excited that we have developed in our orthopaedic surgery laboratories two agents to treat osteoarthritis and cartilage injuries that will be undergoing Phase I human trials within the next two years.”