Determining the drivers of academic success in surgery: An analysis of 3,850 faculty

Nakul P. Valsangkar, Teresa A. Zimmers, Bradford J. Kim, Casi Blanton, Mugdha M. Joshi, Teresa M. Bell, Attila Nakeeb, Gary L. Dunnington, Leonidas G. Koniaris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: Determine drivers of academic productivity within U.S. departments of surgery. Methods: Eighty academic metrics for 3,850 faculty at the top 50 NIH-funded university- and 5 outstanding hospital-based surgical departments were collected using websites, Scopus, and NIH RePORTER. Results: Mean faculty size was 76. Overall, there were 35.3%assistant, 27.8% associate, and 36.9% full professors. Women comprised 21.8%; 4.9% were MD-PhDs and 6.1% PhDs. By faculty-rank, median publications/citations were: assistant, 14/175, associate, 39/649 and full-professor, 97/2250. General surgery divisions contributed the most publications and citations. Highest performing sub-specialties per faculty member were: research (58/1683), transplantation (51/1067), oncology (41/777), and cardiothoracic surgery (48/860). Overall, 23.5% of faculty were principal investigators for a current or former NIH grant, 9.5% for a current or former R01/U01/P01. The 10 most cited faculty (MCF) within each department contributed to 42% of all publications and 55% of all citations. MCF were most commonly general (25%), oncology (19%), or transplant surgeons (15%). Fifty-one-percent of MCF had current/former NIH funding, compared with 20% of the rest (p<0.05); funding rates for R01/U01/P01 grants was 25.1% vs. 6.8% (p<0.05). Rate of current-NIH MCF funding correlated with higher total departmental NIH rank (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Departmental academic productivity as defined by citations and NIH funding is highly driven by sections or divisions of research, general and transplantation surgery. MCF, regardless of subspecialty, contribute disproportionally to major grants and publications. Approaches that attract, develop, and retain funded MCF may be associated with dramatic increases in total departmental citations and NIH-funding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0131678
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 15 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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