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Department of Public Health Sciences More Than Doubles in NIH Research Grant Funding


An annual report from the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research shows that the Department of Public Health Sciences in the Miller School of Medicine more than doubled in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in one year. 

Out of 45 public health departments within medical schools nationwide, the department was No. 13 in the 2019 federal fiscal year (FFY), receiving $11.8 million in NIH-funding. In FFY18, the annual report showed that the department ranked No. 19, which received $5.4 million for that year.

“The Department of Public Health Sciences has seen a steady rise in this type of research productivity over the last number of years,” said J. Sunil Rao, Ph.D., who served as interim chair of the department from June 2016 to December 2019. “It is a testament to the persistence and hard work of our talented faculty, but also reflects important contributions from our staff, graduate students, research collaborators and community partners.”

Increasing four spots in FFY19, the department is the fourth highest NIH-funded department within the Miller School of Medicine, with the Departments of Genetics, Medicine, and Neurology in the top three. For rankings compared to schools of public health, the department is now No. 20 out of 67 schools – a seven-spot increase from 2018 (No. 27).

“These accomplishments are representative of the significant and impactful public health work that our department is carrying out locally in our communities, nationally and internationally,” said Margie Jimenez, M.A., C.R.A., assistant chair of the department and its centers. “We are public health in action.”

Using only data from the Blue Ridge report, multiple principal investigators of the Clinical Trial Network’s (CTN) Florida Node Alliance (FNA) received $4.9 million in NIH-funding for FFY19. These principal investigators include Jose Szapocznik, Ph.D., who is chair emeritus and professor in the Department’s Division of Health Research Services and Policy, Daniel Feaster, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Biostatistics, as well as the executive director of the FNA, Viviana Horigian, M.D, M.H.A., who is associate professor in the Division of Health Services Research and Policy.

Moreover, in FFY19, Lily Wang, Ph.D., associate professor in the Division of Biostatistics, received $2.1 million from the NIH.

"The amazing improvement in NIH ranking of our department in FFY19 is evidence of the hard work and excellence in the scholarly productivity of our faculty, with strong support from our staff, graduate students, and partners in the community and other healthcare institutions in South Florida," said Hermes Florez, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., who is the current interim chair, professor and director of the Division of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Department of Public Health Sciences. 

Four department faculty from the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health received more than $500,000 in NIH-funding that supported a myriad of projects in HIV/AIDS, prevention science, community health initiatives, mental health programs and environmental health.

They include Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., dean of the University of Miami Graduate School; division director, and professor, Seth Schwartz, Ph.D., professor and director of the Ph.D. in Prevention Science and Community Health program; and Adam Carrico, Ph.D., associate professor. Naresh Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the M.S. in Climate and Health Program in the Division of Environment and Public Health, also received more than $500,000 in NIH funding.

Proposal volume and percent of awarded proposals also increased in fiscal year 2019, which is from June 2018 to May 2019.

The department successfully submitted 135 proposal applications, compared to 86 in the 2018 fiscal year – a 64 percent increase. From the 31.4 rate in the 2018 fiscal year, the department had 38.3 percent awarded proposals in 2019.

“The department has received $20 million in new total awarded funded proposals to date,” said Jimenez. “We are expecting additional awards as 62 proposals are still pending review by funding agencies. This is a groundbreaking record for the Department of Public Health Sciences. These are challenging, but exciting times for public health.”

“The increase in NIH and major extramural funding that the department is expecting for the federal fiscal year 2020 will provide a major platform to enhance learning experiences for our graduate students and post-doctoral trainees, and is in alignment with the strategic priorities of the Miller School of Medicine and other UM schools, departments, and centers that are engaged in public health research,” added Dr. Florez.

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on February 27, 2020