Published: April 9, 2018

MSU department climbs in rankings for NIH funding

Contact(s): Geri Kelley College of Human Medicine office: (616) 233-1678 cell: (616) 350-7976, Sarina Gleason Media Communications office: (517) 884-3755

Michigan State University’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology in the College of Human Medicine has grown in prestige in the number of top researchers it has attracted, as well as garnering more federal grant funding.

Just last year, the department ranked 12th out of 146 similar departments in the country in National Institutes of Health funding, climbing from No. 20. MSU researchers in this specialty area received more than $4.2 million in these federal grants in 2017 alone, according to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research.

Richard Leach, chair of the department, has spent the past decade recruiting some of the country’s top researchers in women’s health, as well as many up-and-coming scientists.

“If we’re going to sustain our mission over the long term, we need to mentor very talented investigators early in their careers,” Leach said. “In five or 10 years, we hope they are going to be the investigators that are changing lives.”

At a 2009 conference, Niraj Joshi met Asgi Fazleabas, a University Distinguished Professor in the department, and decided he had found the scientist he would like to work for.

"Being mentored by a renowned scientist such as Fazleabas is really important,” Joshi said, who is now an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at MSU. “He has the vision of what the bigger picture is.”

Mentorship to young researchers in women’s reproductive health is a common practice in the College of Human Medicine in order to further success and research.

After completing her doctoral degree, Amanda Patterson set an ambitious goal - she wanted to work with Jose Teixeira, a professor and nationally noted expert in women’s reproductive health.

“I knew his work, I trusted his work,” Patterson said, now a research assistant professor in the department. “I came here to work with Jose and to get more experience that would allow me to study a disease (uterine fibroid tumors) that affects so many women.”

Leach noted that NIH grant proposals are highly competitive and are “judged by national experts in the field” and that “the fact that NIH is supporting [the department] through this very rigorous process is significant."

“It’s a recognition not only of the growth of the department, but also of the stature of researchers we have here,” Leach said.

In addition to the NIH funding, grants from other agencies and foundations are critical in helping young researchers establish their work and qualify for additional funding for studies that could lead to better treatments and cures for various diseases.

In March, the Society for Reproductive Investigation and Bayer announced they had awarded a grant to Patterson for her study of uterine fibroid tumors and to Niraj for his endometriosis research.

Another young faculty member, Tae Hoon Kim, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, recently received a highly competitive grant from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for his uterine cancer studies.

“It’s now very common for us to hear that the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology is an outstanding place to do this research," Leach said. "We are attracting investigators from across the country who want to contribute to the vision that serves a broad range of research interests and needs.”

Researchers Niraj Joshi, middle, and Amanda Patterson, right, came to Michigan State University College of Human Medicine for the opportunity to collaborate with the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology’s renowned scientists. Richard Leach, left, is the chair of the department, which recently climbed the rankings in NIH funding among similar departments in the country. Courtesy photo.