OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess the contemporary trends in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants awarded to surgical investigators, including potential disparities. BACKGROUND: The NIH remains the primary public funding source for surgical research in the United States; however, the patterns for grants and grantees are poorly understood. METHODS: NIH RePORTER was queried for new grants (R01, -03, -21) awarded to Departments of Surgery (DoS). Principal investigators' (PIs) data were extracted from publicly available information from their institutions' websites and/or professional social media accounts. RESULTS: The NIH awarded 1101 new grants (total: $389,006,782; median: $313,030) between 2008 and 2018. Funding to DoS has doubled in the last 10 years ($22,983,500-2008 to $49,446,076-2018). Midwest/Southeast institutions and surgical oncologists accounted for majority of the grants (31.9% and 24.5%, respectively). Only 24.7% of the projects were led by female PIs, who were predominantly nonphysician PhD scientists (52% vs 37.7% PhD-only male PIs; P = 0.002). During this time, there was a significant increase from 12.4% to 31.7% in grants awarded to PIs with >15 years of experience. These grants were associated with 8215 publications; however, only 13.2% were published in high-impact journals (impact factor ≥10). 4.4% of the grants resulted in patents, and these were associated with higher award amounts ($345,801 vs $311,350; P = 0.030). On multivariate analysis, combined MD/PhD degree [odds ratio (OR) 5.98; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.18-16.39; P < 0.001] was associated with improved odds of patent creation; conversely, practicing surgeon PIs affected patent creation negatively (OR 0.31; 95% CI 0.11-0.85; P = 0.024). CONCLUSION: In the last decade, a greater proportion of NIH grants in DoS were awarded to more experienced investigators. Disparities exist among grantees, and female investigators are underrepresented, especially among practicing surgeons.
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