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Scientist conducting research

CU Department of Surgery Among Top 15 in Funding From National Institutes of Health

The department moved up two spots in this year’s Blue Ridge research rankings.

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Written by Greg Glasgow on March 11, 2024

The University of Colorado Department of Surgery continues to move up on the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research Rankings of National Institutes of Health Funding, an annual ranking of the NIH funding allotted to researchers at medical schools and their departments.

With $12.8 million in NIH funding in 2023, the CU Department of Surgery ranks number 13 on the Blue Ridge list, up from $11.5 million and a number 15 ranking in 2022. In 2021, the department ranked 25th on the list, with $7.7 million in NIH funding.

“Having more NIH-funded research improves our reputation around the country,” says Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD, vice chair of research for the CU Department of Surgery. “NIH-funded research is among the most stringent in terms of the review process. It is peer-reviewed by experts in the field who use an evaluation process to compare grant applications. Only about 10% of the grants that are submitted receive funding.”

The NIH funds help to support a portion of the salary of the faculty member who serves as the principal investigator on the grant, as well as the salaries of their staff members and trainees, including surgical residents doing research during their training. It also helps researchers purchase supplies for their labs.

Making an impact and attracting talent

Funding from the NIH not only rewards high-impact research, Kovacs says, but it helps the department recruit faculty, residents, and fellows who want to conduct research and work with other highly ranked investigators. She is already looking toward next year’s Blue Ridge report and ways to move the CU Department of Surgery even farther up the list.

“Most of the NIH funding in our department is centered in two divisions, surgical oncology and GI, trauma, and endocrine surgery,” Kovacs says. “Both divisions have well-funded principal investigators and have developed a critical mass of basic and clinical researchers. This makes it easier to obtain large multi-investigator collaborative funding. In my second year as vice chair of research, I hope to focus on strategic hiring of additional research-focused clinical faculty. This will help us rise further in the Blue Ridge ranking and increase cross-disciplinary work, leading to a larger number of big NIH grants that are focused in certain research areas. 

“We have great momentum, and I expect more funding and more of a push to write NIH grants in the future, as people catch the wave.”

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Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD