A building with columns and a sign reading National Institutes of Health

Columbia Mailman Ranks Third in Nation for NIH Public Health Funding

December 18, 2023

The U.S. National Institutes of Health lists Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health as third in the nation for NIH Prime Awards to schools of public health for fiscal year 2023, with a total of $74 million in funding. Columbia Mailman has seen a dramatic improvement in this metric since 2018 when it ranked seventh with $46 million in Prime Awards—achieving gains of 61 percent over this period.

Recent Columbia Mailman NIH funding highlights include a $20 million grant to address the high burden of chronic diseases among Black and Latinx populations; a $10 million grant to investigate and remediate the health effects of arsenic and uranium in the Northern Plains; and an $8 million grant to study the impact of environmental exposures on children’s health.

NIH Prime Awards, defined as awards in which the prime recipient is the contact PI and performs a substantive role in the conduct of the planned research, represent close to 23 percent of total grant awards for the School totaling $324M. It is also the most common funding mechanism for faculty. The bulk of the School’s research funding comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), as well as subcontracts on NIH grants, other federal and non-federal funding, and foundation support.

According to Gary Miller, Columbia Mailman Vice Dean for Research Strategy and Innovation, the growth in NIH Prime Awards is attributable to several factors: a focus on interdisciplinary science around key threats to human health, a recent boom in faculty hiring, and an increase in the number of submissions, as well as amplification of research resources to support grant proposals. Research leadership in critical areas like environmental health sciences, health equity, and infectious diseases have propelled the growth. Teams in Sponsored Projects Administration, led by Associate Dean Rosa Rivera, and in Research Resources, led by Associate Dean Pam Factor-Litvakhave been critical in managing the increased volume of submissions.

“Across our school, faculty are doing an outstanding job in developing and leading research projects that employ cutting-edge methods like machine learning and omics in service of advancing science for public health,” says Miller, who is also a professor of environmental health sciences. “We’ve also seen an increase in large cross-disciplinary collaborative research projects and centers of the kind championed by the NIH.”

The School’s NIH funding portfolio growth also has a positive impact on predoctoral students by providing support for research grants, training grants, and fellowships. Likewise, trainees themselves contributed to this growth through their research work.

“NIH funding is critical to advancing public health science and making a substantive difference in improving population health on critical health challenges here in the U.S. and around the world,” says Columbia Mailman Dean Linda P. Fried. “We are grateful for their continued partnership and support.”