Family Medicine Department 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.
SLU had the 19th highest funded department in 2017, bringing in $897,547 for NIH-funded
research. The top funded family medicine department was University of California at
San Diego. Dartmouth College, UCLA, University of Utah and the University of New Mexico
Health Science Center round out the top five. The University of Missouri – Columbia
comes in at 22 on the list.
Jeffrey Scherrer, Ph.D., professor of family and community medicine at Saint Louis
University and research director for the department, credits SLU’s standing to a culture
of research and an investment in research infrastructure.
“David Schneider, the previous department chair, made an investment in our human resources,”
Scherrer said. “We have three full-time research assistants and a senior biostatistician
Scherrer said the addition of the research staff allowed the department to help structure
support for clinical faculty to pursue their research interests. Faculty researchers
- Jennifer Bello-Kottenstette, M.D. – Improving prenatal health and sustaining recovery
from substance use disorder among women who have been incarcerated in the county jail
- Dawn Davis, M.D. – Refugee health and obesity
- Sarah Gebauer, M.D. – Societal determinants of health, as well as issues around chronic
- Katie Heiden-Rootes, Ph.D. – Health needs of LGBTQ adolescents
- Dixie Meyer, Ph.D. – Physiological markers of distressed couples in therapy
- Fred Rottnek, M.D. – Addiction and training in therapies for opioid dependence
- Carissa van den Berk-Clark, Ph.D. – Traumatic stress, vulnerable populations, pain
and social support and behavioral economic approaches to health behavior
- Max Zubatsky, Ph.D. – Geriatrics and caregiver stress
In addition to physicians, the family and community medicine department includes researchers
and therapists, all supported by senior biostatistician Joanne Salas and research
assistants Catherine Hearing, Scott Secrest and Sarah Skiold-Hanlin.
"With our staff, and with our business manager, Virginia Westermeyer, we have a streamlined
grant submission process which allows the investigator to remain focused on the research
content while the staff pull together all the other components of proposal submissions,"
"We can support clinicians who do not have protected time by helping them turn their
clinical observations into research questions.”
Using SLU's primary care patient data registry, the department has been successful
in generating numerous publications in clinical epidemiology and health services research
by creating collaborative teams of mentor, biostatistician and clinical faculty.
“Another piece of our research infrastructure is our practice based research network,
‘ARCHNet’ which was launched in 2016," Scherrer said. "This network of SLUCare Family Medicine practices, residency sites and private family physicians will be
a valuable resource for conducting funded research.”
Clinical faculty have focused their research around health disparities related to
race and sexual minority status, pain management, diabetes control and the interface
of physical and mental illness.
The department has funded research in the health consequences of PTSD, chronic prescription opioid use and risk of depression, studies of patient and provider comfort level with trauma screening in primary care,
and most recently, a new grant on the association between metformin and dementia.
Research by and for primary care physicians is critical to increasing our effectiveness
in promoting the health of our patients and the community.”
Christine Jacobs, M.D., interim chair of family and community medicine
A 2018 study found that opioid cessation in non-cancer pain may be more successful when depression is treated to remission.
In 2017, researchers received a grant from the National Institute on Aging to investigate the relationship between the diabetes drug Metformin and dementia
risk. It was the first study of metformin use and dementia risk in patients from the
U.S. and the first to include a large proportion of African American and Hispanic
In 2016, the department received a $1.87 million grant to strengthen behavioral health
training for family physicians, who often are the primary physician seen by many adults
and children, and for medical family therapists who practice alongside them.
The five-year Primary Care Training and Enhancement Award from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funds training for family
medicine residents and medical family therapy doctoral students in a Family Medicine
Behavioral Health Collaborative Curriculum. The integrated program was honored by Focus St. Louis for making a difference in the St. Louis community by improving racial equality and
Under the medical family therapy program, Katie Heiden-Rootes, Ph.D., has found that
male and female same-sex partnered patients fail to identify as such in medical records and that failure may contribute to poorer health outcomes.
“Family physicians care for adults, children and families over a lifetime, treating
obesity, hypertension, diabetes, addiction and mental health, and addressing social
determinants that influence these conditions,” said Christine Jacobs, M.D., interim
chair of family and community medicine.
“Research by and for primary care physicians is critical to increasing our effectiveness
in promoting the health of our patients and the community.”
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: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease,
aging and brain disease, and infectious diseases.