Background: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary public funding source for surgical research in the United States. Surgical oncology is a highly academic career, but NIH funding for surgical oncologists (SOs) is not well characterized. Methods: The NIH RePORTER (Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools Expenditures and Results) was queried to identify R01-and-equivalents grants awarded to departments of surgery (DoS) between 2008 and 2018. Surgical oncologists were considered to be those who completed a Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO)-accredited fellowship (breast or complex surgical oncology). Results: Of 1101 projects, 510 (46.3%) were led by practicing surgeons. Among these, general surgeons accounted for most grants (31%), followed by SOs (20.8%). Women represented 211 (24.1%) of the grantees. However, SOs had a higher proportion of female investigators than other surgeons (30.0% vs. 16.1%; P = 0.001). The SO grantees had fewer years of experience (YoE) (12 years; interquartile range [IQR], 8.75 vs. 13 years; IQR, 13 years; P = 0.003), lower senior status (≥ 24 YoE), fewer investigators (4.0% vs. 18.9%; P < 0.001), and fewer PhD holders (30.8% vs. 65.5%; P < 0.001) than the overall cohort. Projects led by SOs accounted for 1121 publications (14.1%), with a higher proportion of high-impact articles (26.3% vs. 9.7%; P < 0.001), and were more likely to hold a registered patent (odds ratio [OR], 3.30; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.24–8.74; P = 0.016). Conclusion: Among surgical subspecialties, SSO-accredited surgeons accounted for the largest share of the NIH grants. The SO grantees were younger in their career and had higher-impact scholarly productivity. A smaller proportion of female SOs received NIH grants than males, but this gender disparity was less significant among SOs than among other surgical specialties. Fellowship programs should continue to stimulate groundbreaking research by integrating grant-writing training and mentorship.
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