A Remarkable Year

Reflecting on our accomplishments in 2017.









Record-breaking research activity. A curriculum that better prepares students for clerkships. A new skyscraper takes shape on campus. Read on for some of the top news from the Feinberg School of Medicine in 2017.


Feinberg’s Funding REACHES $471 Million

Sponsored research awards secured by principal investigators at the medical school grew to $471 million last fiscal year, a 6 percent increase over the previous year.

“Feinberg’s remarkable research growth continued last year, despite overall National Institutes of Health funding staying flat for medical schools as a whole,” said Rex Chisholm, PhD, vice dean for scientific affairs and graduate education.

“We’re proud to say that last year’s funding covered a wide variety of disease-based science and cross-cutting biomedical themes,” he added. “Our strengths in leveraging big data, reducing health disparities and fundamental science have translated to new techniques and clinical questions that we’re just now beginning to explore.”

Feinberg's sponsored research awards totaled $471 million in 2017.


Feinberg generated 72% of all research dollars at Northwestern University.


Sponsored research awards were up six percent in 2017 from 2016.

High-Impact Research

A sampling of the breakthrough findings published by Feinberg-led research teams in the previous year.

Surgical residents across the country have grown accustomed to flexible duty hour requirements, without rules on maximum shift lengths and time off between shifts, which were previously shown to be safe for patients and better for resident education. (New England Journal of Medicine)

Simple behavioral interventions can effectively curb inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, if adopted for the long term. (Journal of the American Medical Association)

Normal agers lose volume in the cortex, which contains neurons, twice as fast as SuperAgers, a rare group of older people whose memories are as sharp as those decades younger. (Journal of the American Medical Association)

A promising bioactive nanomaterial has the potential to stimulate bone regeneration and improve quality of life for surgical patients and lead to less-invasive procedures. (Nature Nanotechnology)

The neuronal degeneration in patients with Parkinson’s disease was linked to a toxic cascade beginning with an accumulation of oxidized dopamine and the protein alpha-synuclein, providing a possible therapeutic pathway. (Science)

Inhibiting the process of autophagy — a natural process of cell destruction that also plays a protective role under stress conditions — may enhance the effects of radiation therapy for glioblastoma. (Cancer Cell)

A new method of analyzing non-coding regions of DNA in neurons may pinpoint which genetic variants are most important to the development of schizophrenia and related disorders. (Cell Stem Cell) →

The human immunodeficiency virus uses proteins called diaphanous-related formins to hijack the cytoskeleton of healthy cells. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

Two commonly used drugs, thyroxine and metformin, erased the learning and memory deficits in rat pups caused by fetal alcohol exposure when the drugs were given after birth, potentially identifying a treatment for the disorder. (Molecular Psychiatry)

A unique population of immune cells called monocyte-derived alveolar macrophages plays a key role in the development of pulmonary fibrosis; targeting such cells could lead to new treatments for the disease. (The Journal of Experimental Medicine)

This work could not have been done anywhere in the world except Northwestern Medicine, because of all the scientists and physicians who have been recruited here during the past five years and how they work together to link basic scientific research to the clinic.

Groundbreaking Molecular Discoveries

The lab of Ali Shilatifard, PhD, the Robert Francis Furchgott Professor of Biochemistry and Pediatrics and chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, had a prolific year, publishing papers in journals including Science, Nature Medicine, Cell and Genes and Development.

Among the discoveries, the team identified the genetic driver of mixed lineage leukemia and a targeted molecular therapy that halts the proliferation of leukemic cells. The scientists also found a molecule that stops the growth of aggressive pediatric brain tumor diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, and they learned that targeting the SET1B protein in the cytoplasm of cells may be able to treat triple-negative breast cancer. Other findings elaborated on scientists’ understanding of gene expression and embryonic stem cell development.

Shilatifard will also lead Feinberg’s new Simpson Querrey Center for Epigenetics.


New MD Curriculum Assessed

Last fall, Northwestern Medicine faculty described the medical school’s comprehensive curriculum redesign, rolled out in 2012 with the graduating class of 2016, and reported early outcomes on student achievement, confidence and engagement in a paper published in Academic Medicine.

Students’ U.S. Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 and Step 2 scores stayed stable between the old and new curriculums, while student surveys demonstrated that those in the current curriculum felt significantly better prepared in clinical skills before entering clerkships compared to those who went through the former curriculum. Further, students reported greater confidence in their professional development.

“We have significantly more clinical immersion now, and our students tell us that as a result, when they see patients they understand the importance of basic science content that might have otherwise seemed dry,” explained Heather Heiman, MD, leader of the curriculum’s clinical medicine element. “[Students] see they are making a meaningful difference in patients’ lives, and that’s invigorating.”

We have significantly more clinical immersion now. [Students] see they are making a meaningful difference in patients’ lives, and that’s invigorating.

Record-breaking Research Day

More than 400 abstracts showcased the diversity of innovative research taking place at Feinberg. The 13th Annual Lewis Landsberg Research Day last spring included projects on basic science research, clinical research, public health and social sciences research, and education research. Winners of the poster competition focused on areas of research spanning from myofilament components in arrhythmia and dilated cardiomyopathy to longitudinal studies of primary care clerkships and patient outcomes.

Read a full recap here.

Celebrating PhD Students

In 2017, Feinberg welcomed 30 new PhD students from as far away as Puerto Rico, Russia and India to the Walter S. and Lucienne Driskill Graduate Program (DGP) in Life Sciences. During the sixth annual Driskill Day last fall, DGP students and faculty received awards for their innovate research and mentorship. Among them, Kaylin McMahon, ’17 PhD, was recognized for her work developing bioinspired delivery vehicles for nucleic acid therapies for cancer, while Doug Wilcox, ’16 PhD, an MD/PhD student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, received an award for his research on the age-dependent mechanisms of pathogenesis in herpes simplex virus encephalitis.

Doctor of Medicine Program

Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

Driskill Graduate Program in the Life Sciences

Medical Scientist Training Program

Number of Students By Program →

Clinical Psychology PhD Program

Health Sciences Integrated PhD Program

Doctor of Physical Therapy/PhD Engineering Program


Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center Nears Completion

Above: The Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center in early 2017. Right: The building in late 2017.

Over the course of 2017, the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center progressed from an extensive underground construction project to a 300-foot tall, 14-story structure.

In June, the Northwestern community gathered to celebrate as a ceremonial steel beam was set in place atop the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center. The ceremony marked a major milestone in the construction of the 600,000-square-foot building, which will significantly expand the medical school’s research enterprise.

In October, two years after the university broke ground on the building, extensive mechanical, electrical, duct and piping work was taking place behind the exterior of the building by more than 200 skilled trades workers onsite.

Over the next year, the team will finish installing windows on the outside of the building and begin connecting a bridge to the Ward Building. The outdoor plaza work will also start to take shape and the interior work on the lab floors will become a main focus.

This building is a blend of a new construction and stacking on the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center. Each floor will be connected to the Lurie facility, and it will be wrapped with a full plaza featuring green space on the outside. The building will also have a sky bridge that connects to the Ward Building.

– Chris Jones, senior superintendent at Power Construction, general contractor of the project


Medical School and Hospital Affiliates Rank High

In 2017, Feinberg maintained its standing among the best research-oriented medical schools in the country, placing 17th in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. Meanwhile, the company recognized three Northwestern Medicine hospitals in its 2017-18 rankings of America’s Best Hospitals. The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab once again earned the top spot among rehabilitation hospitals in the country, and Lurie Children’s ranked first among children’s hospitals in Illinois.

Faculty Recognized With Prestigious Awards

Many Feinberg faculty were recognized nationally by their peers as leaders in their fields.

Among them, Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research and chair of Preventive Medicine, who was named Physician of the Year by the American Heart Association and a member of the Association of American Physicians.

Karl Bilimoria, MD, ’08 MS, ’10 GME, director of the Northwestern Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center and the John Benjamin Murphy Professor of Surgery and Medical Social Sciences, and Sarki Abdulkadir, MD, PhD, the John T. Grayhack, MD, Professor of Urological Research and professor of Pathology, joined the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Melissa Simon, MD, the George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology, was appointed to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to make evidence-based recommendations for preventive screenings, counseling services and medications.

Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM

Sarki Abdulkadir, MD, PhD

Karl Bilimoria, MD, ’08 MS, ’10 GME

Melissa Simon, MD