July 15, 2005

Pediatrics makes big jump in NIH ranking

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Thomas Catron, Ph.D.

Pediatrics makes big jump in NIH ranking

The Pediatric Research Program at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt has made a tremendous leap in its standing in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) rankings.

The Department of Pediatrics is ranked eighth in the nation for NIH funding with 51 awards totaling $17.9 million, an increase of nearly $5 million from the previous year. The rankings, released at the end of June, reflect a nearly 40 percent increase from last year's 16th place ranking.

“The NIH funding progress in the Department of Pediatrics is just astounding,” said Jeffrey R. Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research for Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “It is rare to see a large, diverse clinical department experience a 40 percent increase in NIH funding, and pass eight other major academic medical centers, all in one year.”

The commitment to making Children's Hospital a world-class facility goes along with the tremendous expansion the of Pediatric program into the new free-standing building.

New faculty hires have been carefully sought and recruited.

“We have been steadily increasing our funding over the last several years,” said Arnold Strauss, M.D., James C. Overall Professor and chair of Pediatrics and medical director of Children’s Hospital. “But an important change has also been adding a number of faculty members who came to us with NIH funding in place or a history of excellent funding in their areas of research. Building a base of faculty with very strong research backgrounds was a goal from the start.”

Several of the top NIH researchers in Pediatrics are new to Children's Hospital, including Michael Aschner, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics, Pharmacology and the Grey E.B. Stahlman Professor of Neurosciences, and Judy Aschner, M.D., chair of the Division of Neonatology.

But Balser said the entire Pediatric research team has had success in a year when many other institutions saw decreases in funding.

“Senior investigators have found ingenious ways to expand their existing funding, and junior faculty have been well mentored and have achieved their initial funding in a fiercely competitive environment,” he said.

“Pediatrics developed a clear vision for what it takes in the post-genome era to achieve national prominence as a science-intensive clinical department, and they have executed beautifully.”

Other top researchers recognized in the Department of Pediatrics include: Kathryn Edwards, M.D., director of the Pediatric Clinical Research Office, for her work on several epidemiologic and vaccine trials; Strauss, for his research in mitochondrial defects and metabolic disorders that affect the heart; Scott Baldwin, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology, for his work on the genetic causes of heart defects; S.K. Dey, Ph.D., director of the Division of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, for his research on embryo implantation and causes of infertility; John Phillips III, M.D., David Karzon Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Genetics, for research that includes a project on the genetic basis of diseases like diabetes; James Crowe, M.D., professor of Pediatrics, for his research on the biology of viruses like RSV and metapneumovirus; D. Brent Polk, M.D., director of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, for his research on cell signaling in gastrointestinal cells and inflammatory bowel diseases; Terence Dermody, M.D., professor of Pediatrics, for his work with reoviruses; Mark Denison, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, for his work with SARS and coronavirus; Wendy Stone, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and Psychology, for her work with autism spectrum disorders; and Paul Spearman, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, for his work on HIV.