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The Role of PhD Faculty in Advancing Research in Departments of Surgery

Bell, Teresa M. PhD; Valsangkar, Nakul MD; Joshi, Mugdha MD; Mayo, John BS; Blanton, Casi BS; Zimmers, Teresa A. PhD; Torbeck, Laura PhD; Koniaris, Leonidas G. MD, MBA

doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000001657

Objective: To determine the academic contribution as measured by number of publications, citations, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding from PhD scientists in US departments of surgery.

Summary Background Data: The number of PhD faculty working in US medical school clinical departments now exceeds the number working in basic science departments. The academic impact of PhDs in surgery has not been previously evaluated.

Methods: Academic metrics for 3850 faculties at the top 55 NIH-funded university and hospital-based departments of surgery were collected using NIH RePORTER, Scopus, and departmental websites.

Results: MD/PhDs and PhDs had significantly higher numbers of publications and citations than MDs, regardless of academic or institutional rank. PhDs had the greatest proportion of NIH funding compared to both MDs and MD/PhDs. Across all academic ranks, 50.2% of PhDs had received NIH funding compared with 15.2% of MDs and 33.9% of MD/PhDs (P < 0.001). The proportion of PhDs with NIH funding in the top 10 departments did not differ from those working in departments ranked 11 to 50 (P = 0.456). A greater percentage of departmental PhD faculty was associated with increased rates of MD funding.

Conclusions: The presence of dedicated research faculty with PhDs supports the academic mission of surgery departments by increasing both NIH funding and scholarly productivity. In contrast to MDs and MD/PhDs, PhDs seem to have similar levels of academic output and funding independent of the overall NIH funding environment of their department. This suggests that research programs in departments with limited resources may be enhanced by the recruitment of PhD faculty.

Department of Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN.

Reprints: Leonidas G. Koniaris, MD, Department of Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, 550 N, University Boulevard, UH 1295, Indianapolis, IN 46202. E-mail:

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.