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The UF Preeminence Initiative: Progress Report for UF Health

On April 22, 2013, a bill to elevate the national stature of Florida’s public universities, which garnered strong bipartisan support in the state Legislature, was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. This bill, SB 1076, conferred “preeminent” status to a university if it achieved at least 11 of 12 “preeminence criteria,” including having a freshman retention rate of 90 percent, a six-year graduation rate above 70 percent, total research expenditures exceeding $200 million, a ranking within the Top 100 nationally for research expenditures, and $500 million or more in endowment.

The University of Florida was the only state university to meet all 12 metrics. Thus, UF (along with FSU, which met 11 criteria) became eligible for “preeminence funding.” There were two major funding initiatives at UF: faculty recruitment and support, and an online baccalaureate program. Indeed, UF was asked to take the lead in online education by developing the state university system’s first fully online four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Under this legislation, the state provided a total of $35 million over five years for UF Online, which started classes in January 2014 and has now grown to include 2,792 online Baccaulaureate students.

This issue of On the Same Page focuses on the faculty recruitment component of the preeminence initiative, specifically faculty recruited to the six health colleges associated with UF Health. Under the initial preeminence legislation, UF was allocated $15 million per year for five years to support faculty who were recruited under this initiative. Legislation in subsequent years, however, boosted this amount to approximately $52 million per year.

Background on Selection of Topic Areas

The deans of UF’s colleges were asked to prepare proposals for topic areas into which faculty would be recruited, which were reviewed by UF’s senior vice presidents. Deans were asked for proposals that built on existing research strength with a cross-disciplinary focus, or in some cases to forge an entry into important newly developing fields in which UF was not active. In the fall of 2013,16 topic areas were chosen, 10 of which included health college representation. Recruitment then commenced for the academic years beginning in July 2014. In total, UF recruited 120 faculty under the preeminence initiative, 40 of whom were appointed in the six health colleges.

Faculty Member Recruitment

For preparation of tables and much of the analysis in this newsletter, I am indebted to Tom Pearson, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for research and education at UF Health. The topic areas and colleges into which these 40 faculty were recruited are shown in Table 1. Of these faculty, five were jointly recruited through the UF Health Cancer Center initiative, allowing sharing of funding for salary and resources. The 40 faculty members who were recruited under this initiative, along with their topic and college, are shown in this link, by date of their arrival on campus.


Topic Health Colleges Number of faculty  Comments
Drug Discovery and Development COP 8 3 Jointly with Cancer Initiative, 1 at Lake Nona
Early Childhood Intervention COM, PHHP 2
Genomic Medicine COM, PHHP, COP 2
Informatics – Biomedical Science – Life Science COM, CON, PHHP 5 1 Unfilled
PHHP 1 1 Left UF
Metabolomics COD, COM, PHHP, COP 4 1 Joint with Cancer Initiative
Skeletal Muscle Biology COM, PHHP 2 Joint with HHP
Mucosal Immunology COD, COM, COVM 4 1 Joint with Cancer Initiative
Neuroscience COM, PHHP 6
One Health COM, COVM 3
Select Agents COVM, COM, PHHP 3

Table 2 shows a summary of college appointments and demographic data for the 40 faculty. Five were recruited to the departments of Biostatistics and of Epidemiology, appointed jointly to the College of Medicine and the College of Public Health and Health Professions; these faculty members are listed under PHHP in Table 3. The male/female ratio was 3:1. Three faculty members were recruited from universities outside the U.S. Three were from under-represented minorities. The vast majority had Ph.D.s as their terminal degree, with the exception of two M.D.s and two M.D./Ph.D.s.


Characteristics Number
College Appointments
Dentistry 3
Medicine 13
Nursing 1
Pharmacy 9
Public Health and Health Professions 10
Veterinary Medicine 4
Male 30
Female 10
Non-U.S. University of Origin (UK, Canada, Australia) 3
White 28
Asian 9
African American 0
Hispanic 2
Pacific Islander 1
Ph.D. 36
M.D. 2
M.D./Ph.D. 2

Faculty members with significant research programs add more than their own presence to the scientific community at UF and to economic development in our region. A number of additional scientific and support personnel were also hired in addition to the 40 faculty members themselves (Table 3). These included 46 doctorally trained researchers and 36 nondoctorally trained research staff who came with the relocated laboratories or were recruited to UF staff them. An additional 56 postdoctoral fellows are also assigned to these 40 laboratories. This constitutes an approximate 20 percent increase in the number of postdoctoral fellows previously employed at our health colleges. An additional 86 graduate students are now working in these laboratories; about 1/6 of the graduate students are now working in our research programs.


College of Appointment Doctorally Trained Staff NonDoctorally Trained Staff Postdoctoral Students Graduate Students
Dentistry 3 1 3 1
Medicine 21 17 14 35
Nursing 2 1 0 2
Pharmacy 9 12 13 23
Public Health and Health Professions 1 1 10 13
Veterinary Medicine 10 4 16 12
Total 46 36 56 86

Additions to Our Research, Clinical and Entrepreneurial Programs

Several faculty members recruited under the preeminence initiative proposed the formation of organizations within the health colleges associated with UF Health as part of their vision of their new roles at UF. Table 4 describes six centers thus created. These centers, by definition, usually engage many additional faculty from more than one college, including those beyond UF Health. In some cases, grants for federal sources or philanthropies awarded to the faculty members allowed the centers to be organized. In others, a sizable number of smaller awards were brought together. These new centers have attracted further federal and private sector funding, training grants, degree-granting educational programs, etc. All have contributed to building UF Health’s national or international reputation in their respective fields.

Another beneficial outcome was the formation of clinical programs that can offer new clinical services to UF Health patients. These include a Smell Disorders Clinic, a new clinical psychology program (Healthy Action to Benefit Independence and Thinking™ or HABIT) and a clinic focused on patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and related disorders. Moreover, at least two start-up companies have formed: Curtiss Health focuses on Veterinary Vaccine development, and Healthteam IQ creates software to support nursing programs.

(as of 10/01/17)

College Center
Veterinary Medicine CDC Southeastern Regional Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases: Gateway Program (Dinglasan)
Pharmacy Translational Drug Discovery Core (CTSI) (McCurdy)
Public Health and Health Professions UF Center for Respiratory Research and Rehabilitation (CRRR) (Mitchell)
Medicine UF Myology Institute (Sweeney)
Medicine OCD, Anxiety and Related Disorders (CORRD) (Mathews)
Medicine Division of Biomedical Informatics (Hogan)
Clinical programs Program
Medicine Smell Disorders Clinic (Munger)
Public Health and Health Professions HABIT Program (Smith)
Start-up companies Program
Veterinary Medicine Curtiss Health (Curtiss)
Nursing Healthteam IQ (Keenan)

Facilities and Equipment Improvements

Many of the faculty hired under the preeminence initiative required renovations of the physical space to be occupied by their programs. Twenty-one laboratories and new clinical research spaces were constructed or renovated for these faculty members, including biomedical, animal and clinical research facilities. Additionally, 20 offices were renovated or constructed to house the faculty and their 200+ researchers. Most faculty moved research equipment to UF as part of their laboratory’s relocation, the value of which is substantial. These transfers to UF generally escape accounting and valuation of their worth, but certainly represent a strenghthening of research infrastructure.

Research Grants and Contracts Relocated or Awarded to Preeminence Initiative Faculty

The holding of research awards or the capacity to obtain research grants from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies were major criteria for recruitment of faculty to UF Health under the preeminence initiative. As of October 2017, 59 grants had been transferred to UF by these new faculty members and 93 new research awards were obtained by UF through grants won by them (Table 5). Most of the awards are from federal agencies, particularly NIH. The large number of Department of Defense and foundation grants is notable. The additional 47 grants on which the faculty member is a collaborator confirm that these investigators are contributing collaboratively to research teams at the University of Florida.


Funding Source Relocated Received as PI Received as CO-I
RO1 35 14 13
R21 8 7 5
Other 4 13 10
Other Federal
DOD 1 11 2
NSF 1 6 0
FDA 0 2 2
Other Government 3 11 7
Foundations 7 29 8
Total 59 93 47

Research funding contributed by the relocated or newly acquired research grants is shown in Table 6. Approximately $118 million has been received as total (direct and indirect) awards by the health colleges. Of that $118 million, approximately $88 million was from NIH. These grants represent a significant incremental contribution to our overall research portfolio and funding level.


College # Hires Source Grants relocated New grants received as PI
Dentistry 3 Total 2,393,406 4,510,235
NIH 2,393,406 4,510,235
Medicine 16 Total 22,721,583 18,531,579
NIH 19,898,528 14,310,932
Nursing 1 Total 2,166,220 88,800
NIH 2,166,220 88,800
Pharmacy 9 Total 13,551,070 9,673,266
NIH 12,583,935 3,281,314
Public Health and Health Professions 7 Total 18,456,601 3,410,742
NIH 16,919,578 1,921,250
Veterinary Medicine 4 Total 6,545,424 16,053,853
NIH 5,205,424 4,094,117
All Colleges 40 Total 65,834,303 52,268,475
NIH 59,167,091 28,406,648


Another valued metric of academic productivity is the publication of research studies in peer-reviewed journals. Table 7 identifies 466 publications with authorship by the 40 faculty hired under the preeminence initiative, across all six colleges. Another measure of success is the extent to which research discoveries patented for potential licensing and commercialization; there have been eight such patents thus far.


Colleges Publications Patents
Dentistry 11 0
Medicine 234 2
Nursing 23 0
Pharmacy 113 2
Public Health and Health Professions 50 2
Veterinary Medicine 35 2
Total 466 8

Impact of the Preeminence Initiative on Educational Programs

As noted above, our educational programs have been enhanced by the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows being trained by faculty members hired under the preeminence initiative. Table 8 identifies new educational programs, certificates and courses affiliated with these faculty. The training grants shown in Table 8, both institutional and individual, while adding to the tally of research funding, are mainly contributions to the education mission of UF Health. While the number of newly offered courses is remarkable, it often requires two to three years of development and institutional approval prior to becoming fully included in the educational programs of the colleges.


Educational Contribution Dentistry Medicine Nursing Pharmacy Public Health &
Health Professions
Veterinary Medicine
Degree Programs 1 M.S.
1 Ph.D.
Certificate Programs 1
Courses 7 3 2 4 2
Training Grants
- T32 1
- F31 1 1
- Other 2
CDA with Faculty Mentor 1 1 1

Honors and Awards to Preeminence Initiative Faculty

As expected of highly productive investigators and educators, a number of nationally prestigious honors and awards documents their recognition by peers. Four faculty members hired under the preeminence initiative were elected as fellows in their respective professional societies. Carol Mathews, M.D., was awarded a Brooke Professorship upon initiation of her new center. Glenn Smith, Ph.D., received a Distinguished Clinical Neuropsychologist Award. Three faculty members were elected as president of their professional societies by their peers, and three others serve as chairs of national boards, panels and associations.

Ripple Effects of the Preeminence Initiative

The direct benefits of the preeminence initiative to UF Health, expressed in terms of the work generated by the faculty hired, are clear. As referenced throughout this newsletter, however, there are other beneficial “ripple” effects as well. These occur at several levels:

  • Table 5 demonstrates the synergy with and activation of other UF faculty via grants received and submitted with the new faculty as collaborators.
  • A second activation exists with research training in which new faculty members both lead efforts to develop individual and institutional training awards and serve as mentors or advisors in support of doctoral programs, postdoctoral fellowships, training grants or career development awards.
  • New faculty are already impacting clinical training, especially physician-scientists and translational research programs involving teams of clinicians and scientists.
  • A less appreciated ripple effect is the favorable impressions of the large number of faculty candidates who were brought to our campus but, for whatever reason, were not hired. We estimate that, for the 40 positions hired, more than 200 senior faculty from prestigious institutions across the U.S. and, in a few instances, internationally, visited the University of Florida. During interviews with these candidates, they frequently volunteered extremely positive impressions of UF in general and of UF Health in particular.
  • Finally, while forward-looking, it is hoped that the ultimate ripple effect will be the future impact of faculty research on scientific discovery and, in turn, on clinical care through the translation of laboratory, informatics or population science findings into diagnostic or therapeutic applications.

Future Directions

The University of Florida Preeminence Initiative came at a very opportune moment for UF Health. Beginning in 2010, in accordance with the Forward Together strategic plan, we sought to increase the size, scope and stature of research in the health sciences. In the wake of a major international financial crisis, it was clear at that time that neither the state nor the university could provide substantial incremental support for research programs at UF Health. Therefore, we approached our research goals with two major strategies: 1) consolidating college funds allocated to research with the hiring of a small number of high-impact scientists, and 2) facilitating the ability of our health colleges to make such hires by improving hospital operations, which then led to an increased transfer of funds within UF Health (from hospital to college) to support research. These strategies were quite successful, as measured by a steep increase in NIH funding, an increase in center and program project awards, and increased publications, including more in high-impact journals. Moreover, a buzz of excitement around research at UF Health began to gain momentum.

By 2014, however, our ability to further augment recurring research support was reaching capacity. Thus, the hiring of faculty under the UF Preeminence Initiative allowed us to maintain research momentum, which continues to this day. This past year, the University of Florida has announced the hiring of large numbers of new faculty with state support — up to 500 faculty over the next several years — in our quest for an improved teaching and research environment and enhanced national stature. Most of these hires will focus on disciplines in which faculty will either focus on undergraduate teaching or combine undergraduate teaching with research. In accordance with the legislation that funds this new initiative, however, some of this support will also be allocated to the health colleges for the hiring of “world-class scientists.” Taking into account the strong research foundation that has now been built by or faculty — both extant investigators and those attracted to UF through preeminence initiatives — the future for research at the University of Florida and UF Health, the university’s academic health center, is shining brightly.

The Power of Together,

David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D.
UF Senior Vice President for Health Affairs
President, UF Health