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SLU Family and Community Medicine Ranks in Top 20 for NIH Funding

ST. LOUIS – Saint Louis University’s Department of Family and Community Medicine ranks in the top 20 in the nation in National Institute for Health (NIH) funding, per data compiled by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research. 

The SLU School of Medicine department had the 20th highest-funded department in 2022. The top funded family medicine departments were the University of California at San Diego, University of Minnesota, University of California at San Francisco, University of Utah and Oregon Health & Science University. The department has ranked in the top 20 twice before and has steadily increased annual NIH funding over the past 10 years.

Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., professor of family and community medicine and research director for the department, says a robust research program, a strong culture of development and mentorship, and the support of Joanne Salas, director of biostatistics at the AHEAD Institute, has led to funding success. 

“We're like ‘The Little Engine That Could.’ We're tiny, but we're doing what we're asked to do, and it's generating success,” said Scherrer, of the department.

In addition to physicians, the Department of Family and Community Medicine includes researchers and therapists, all supported by senior biostatistician Joanne Salas, research assistants Giulia Croce-Butler, Whitney Davidson and Scott Secrest, and doctoral student fellows Matt Amick and Lauren Wilson.

Scherrer says the research division is heavily interested in mental health and the impact of pain on a person’s health outcomes. He adds that the goal remains to increase research staff recruitment and engagement, which allows the department to help structure support for clinical faculty to pursue their research interests.

At the 2023 Grantwinner Reception hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research, Sarah Gebauer, M.D., and  Jennifer Bello Kottenstette, M.D., were recognized for receiving their first NIH awards. 

Gebauer is using geospatial information science and electronic medical records to study how neighborhood walking can impact osteoarthritis. The five-year grant totals $777,525 and will fund Gebauer’s research in knee osteoarthritis and how barriers to low-cost intervention can impact patients.

Bello Kottenstette is studying the effectiveness of a motivational interviewing intervention to address substance use before pregnancy. The five-year grant totals $866,710 and will fund Bello Kottenstette to adapt and test the evidence-based pre-pregnancy intervention, CHOICES, for use among incarcerated women with illicit polysubstance use. The pilot study will take place at the St. Louis County Jail with women of childbearing age in a 90-day substance use disorder treatment program.

Scherrer says one of the significant efforts moving forward is increasing collaboration between the Taylor Geospatial Institute and the AHEAD Institute.

“The research Sarah is doing will build that bridge,” he said. “The Geospatial Institute just put out a solicitation for proposals to hire new faculty, and we hope we get one of those spots because, with Sarah, and another person like her, they will have tremendous success in research.”

About SLU School of Medicine

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.