Feinberg is Biggest Mover in NIH Rankings


In spite of a challenging national funding environment, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s rise in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding appears without equal. The medical school has risen to 21st among all 130 institutions awarded grants directly from NIH, and according to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, that move – 19 spots since 2001 – represents  the largest increase in rankings during that period.

The school’s ranking also represents an all-time high for Feinberg, and is up from 24 in 2011 and 41 in 1997. The rise illustrates the school’s steady climb as a research-intensive medical school. 

“This vital NIH funding enables our investigators to make breakthrough discoveries while mentoring and training the next generation of scientists and physician-scientists,” said Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean. “Our new ranking is a validation of our superb Feinberg faculty and their diligent efforts to conduct important biomedical research.”

While Feinberg’s ranking among all medical schools has increased in 2012, overall NIH dollars to medical schools have not.

“The NIH budget has been relatively flat for the last several years,” said Rex Chisholm, PhD, vice dean of scientific affairs and graduate education, and associate vice president for research at Northwestern University. “The medical school faculty hasn’t grown significantly. Feinberg faculty have been focused and effective in securing funding; we’ve been more successful than other institutions in competing for awards by increasing our market share.”

Departmental Rankings Success

In addition to rankings based on overall funding, NIH ranks individual departments within medical schools. In 2012, eight of Feinberg’s departments ranked in the top 10 of their research areas, and 11 departments ranked in the top 20:

  • Departments ranked in NIH top 10 in 2012: Physiology (3); Urology (3); Obstetrics and Gynecology (4); Preventive Medicine (4); Dermatology (7); Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (8); Cell and Molecular Biology (9); Neurology (10).
  • Departments ranked 10 through 20 by NIH in 2012: Medicine (17); Otolaryngology (20); Surgery (20).
  • Affiliated specialty hospitals ranked in the NIH top 10 for 2012: Rehabilitation Institute (1); Children’s Memorial Hospital (8).

Investing in Research, and Illinois

“Eight Feinberg departments earning rankings in the NIH top 10 for funding is a remarkable achievement,” Chisholm said. “In 2012, Feinberg received nearly $174 million directly from the NIH, the largest amount to any medical school in Illinois.”

A 2011 Association of American Medical Colleges report indicated that for every dollar invested in research at medical schools and teaching hospitals, approximately $2.60 of economic activity occurs. Additionally, federal and state research funding received by medical schools and teaching hospitals directly supports about one in every 500 jobs in the United States.

“Federal funding supports not only researchers at Northwestern University, but in the greater Chicago and Illinois economy as well,” said David Browdy, chief operating officer, Feinberg.

Extramural grants to American medical schools accounted for approximately $11.8 billion of NIH’s $30.9 billion budget in fiscal year 2012.

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