Castor Protests NIH Funding Cuts

Apr 11, 2017
Originally published on April 16, 2017 3:17 pm

The University of South Florida has received more than $260 million dollars in federal funding from the National Institutes of Health. President Trump’s budget proposes slashing the NIH by close to 20 percent.  

During a tour of the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute at USF Health, Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor spoke with specialists in cardiovascular health, Alzheimer's disease, and maternal health about their research and the extent to which NIH funding impacts medical progress.  

"The medical research that is going on at the University of South Florida is cutting-edge. We’ve got to keep it that way. Many of the medical research initiatives are funded by the National Institutes of Health," Castor said.

Castor also spoke about the link between health research and Tampa’s economy. 

"This has been a pathway to finding the treatments and cures for diseases and also, importantly for the Tampa Bay area, a pathway to higher paying jobs," Castor said.

According to Castor, the payoff for medical research is a healthy population and money saved in treatment. 

Hana Totary-Jain, an Assistant Professor at USF’s Morsani College of Medicine, argued that the United States should take a unified approach to funding medical science.

“I think we need to be proactive, not wait until bad things happen to start working as a country," Totary-Jain said. "The NIH funding has to be steady so scientists, instead of worrying all the time about new grants and getting more money, we can focus on innovation and research.”

Samuel Wickline, MD, is the director of the USF Health Heart Institute, a newly formed cardiovascular medicine and research program. He spoke with Castor about USF’s plans for the institute.

"We're building new buildings downtown. The Heart Institute will hope to attract new personnel, new faculty, and top notch scientists," Wickline said. "Not just from the area or from around the United States, but from around the world.  If the [NIH] funding gets cut, that'll put a serious damper on the programs that we hope to have in place in the next two years.”

Wickline said that scientists at all levels would feel the effects of an NIH funding cut.

“New people, young people, young scientists … Even scientists who are established will have a very hard time maintaining their labs,” he said.

USF is billed as one of the top research institutions in the nation.