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UAB Dept. of Ophthalmology Ranks among Top 10 in NIH Grant Support


The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Ophthalmology reached a major milestone in 2017. According to figures available through the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, UAB Ophthalmology ranks No. 6 in the country for the amount of funding it receives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with over $7.9 million in NIH grant support during calendar year 2017. This represents a nearly fivefold increase in research funding since the department’s Vision of Excellence program began in 2012. This ranking also establishes UAB Ophthalmology as the fastest growing ophthalmology department in the country.

These highly competitive federal funds provide essential support for UAB Ophthalmology’s scientists to advance the departmental mission of translating knowledge from the bench to the bedside, providing robust training to the next generation of ophthalmologists, and improving eye health by alleviating blinding disease. This achievement reflects the tremendous efforts of UAB Ophthalmology researchers and further cements the department as a nationally recognized leader in vision research. Moreover, it represents a significant growth in research capacity and enhances the department’s ability to recruit and retain world-class researchers.

The Vision of Excellence initiative, sponsored by the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama, was designed to provide the capital investment to move UAB Ophthalmology into a Top 20 position for NIH funding. This effort – combined with the generous support from foundations such as the International Retinal Research Foundation, Research to Prevent Blindness, and several individual donors – has enabled the department to attract a much larger interdisciplinary team of researchers than anticipated. UAB Ophthalmology’s efforts have been critical in the renewal and enhancement of the university-wide core grant and growth of UAB’s vision science community. In fact, overall, UAB Ophthalmology vision research exceeded $11 million annually for 2017, which was second only to Johns Hopkins University.

“While I was excited to hear the accolades for our department’s success, I am humbled by the understanding of all of the efforts from so many that have made this growth possible,” says Christopher A. Girkin, MD, MSPH, EyeSight Foundation of Alabama Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. “I am also thankful for the foresight of our donors, supportive foundations, and the School of Medicine, which has provided the support needed to invest in the best and brightest at UAB. This achievement has been driven by our amazing team of researchers and clinician-scientists, who have built this remarkable program through their ingenuity, dedication, and resilience. It has been a profound honor for me to serve them as their chair through a remarkable period of change.”