ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2011; 18:1001–1004 © 2011 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine


Objectives:  The purpose of this study was to compare National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding received in 2008 by emergency medicine (EM) to the specialties of internal medicine, pediatrics, anesthesiology, and family medicine. The hypothesis was that EM would receive fewer NIH awards and less funding dollars per active physician and per medical school faculty member compared to the other four specialties.

Methods:  Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT) were used to identify NIH-funded grants to 125 of the 133 U.S. allopathic medical schools for fiscal year 2008 (the most recent year with all grant funding information). Eight medical schools were excluded because six were not open in 2008, one did not have a website, and one did not have funding data available by medical specialty. From RePORT, all grants awarded to EM, internal medicine, family medicine, anesthesiology, and pediatric departments of each medical school were identified for fiscal year 2008. The authors extracted the project number, project title, dollars awarded, and name of the principal investigator for each grant. Funds awarded to faculty in divisions of EM were accounted for by identifying the department of the EM division and searching for all grants awarded to EM faculty within those departments using the name of the principal investigator. The total number of active physicians per medical specialty was acquired from the Association of American Medical Colleges’ 2008 Physician Specialty report. The total number of faculty per medical specialty was collected by two research assistants who independently counted the faculty listed on each medical school website. The authors compared the total number of NIH awards and total funding per 1,000 active physicians and per 1,000 faculty members by medical specialty.

Results:  Of the 125 medical schools included in the study, 84 had departments of EM (67%). In 2008, NIH awarded over 9,000 grants and approximately $4 billion to the five medical specialties of interest. Less than 1% of the grants and funds were awarded to EM. EM had the second-lowest number of awards and funding per active physician, and the lowest number of awards and funding per faculty member. A higher percentage of grants awarded to EM were career development awards (26%, vs. a range of 11% to 19% for the other specialties) and cooperative agreements (26%, vs. 2% to 10%). In 2008, EM was the only specialty of the five not to have a fellowship or T32 training grant. EM had the lowest proportion of research project awards (42%, vs. 58% to 73%).

Conclusions:  Compared to internal medicine, pediatrics, anesthesiology, and family medicine, EM received the least amount of NIH support per active faculty member and ranked next to last for NIH support by active physician. Given the many benefits of research both for the specialty and for society, EM needs to continue to develop and support an adequate cohort of independent investigators.