An In-Depth Examination of Surgeon-Scientists’ NIH-Funded Areas of Research
Author(s): Lindsay A. Demblowski, Andrew M. Blakely, Martha A. Zeiger
Background: Few studies have examined which National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutes or Centers (ICs) provide most of the funding to surgeons, nor examined the specifics of their research focus areas. A better understanding of both the goals of ICs and research focus areas for surgeons may facilitate further alignment of the two.
Methods: A previously created database of NIH-funded surgeons was queried. To understand trends in funding, total grant cost was calculated for each IC in 2010 and 2020, and distribution of IC funds to each principal investigator (PI) category (surgeons, other physicians, and PhDs without a medical degree) was compared. Finally, total cost for Research Condition and Disease Categorization (RCDC) areas funded to surgeons compared to all of NIH was calculated. Statistical analyses were performed; a twotailed p value of < 0.05 was considered significant.
Results: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded the largest percentage of all 2020 surgeon funding, 34.3% ($298.9M). Compared to the other ICs, surgeons held the largest percentage of the National Eye Institute’s (NEI) total funding in 2010 and 2020 at 8.7% and 9.0%, respectively. The RCDC super category comprising the most funding for surgeons was health disparities with 14.5% of all surgeon funding, followed by neurology (13.8%) and cancer (11.4%). Surgeons were awarded 10.8% of NIH’s transplant-related research, 7.0% of ophthalmology-related research, and 3.4% of cancer-related research in 2020.
Conclusions: Our study shows surgeons have positioned themselves to examine new and myriad research topics while maintaining a focus on health disparities and cancer-related research.