Objective: To determine the relative contribution and importance of five surgical specialties (general surgery, urology, otolaryngology, neurosurgery, and orthopedics) to the total National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding at medical schools. Methods: Publicly available NIH funding data from 1996 to 2004 were analyzed. Results: From 1998 through 2003 the NIH budget increased from 11.2 billion to 21.9 billion dollars. Overall, NIH funding to departments of medicine was the greatest contributor to any individual medical school's total NIH funding, comprising 28.4% of total NIH awards on average, with a correlation coefficient highly predictive of medical school's ranking for NIH awards (cc = 0.93). Total NIH funding by different surgical specialties varied greatly, both within and between institutions. Together all of the surgical subspecialties combined accounted for 4.8% of medical school NIH awards on average from the years 1996 to 2004. Among the surgical specialties, general surgery received the largest fraction of NIH dollars followed by otolaryngology, neurosurgery, urology, and orthopedics. Although general surgery had the highest overall correlation coefficient of the surgical departments during the early years of the study period (r = 0.71 in 1996), its correlation significantly decreased during the period of study (as low as r = 0.54 in 2002). Conclusions: Surgical departments as an aggregate have continued to receive a stable overall fraction of NIH awards. The total funding to the different surgical departments varies considerably between institutions and does not correlate well with total institutional funding. The downward trend in the correlation of general surgery funding to total institutional funding suggests a decline in support for surgical research in this specialty nationwide.
- health care
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