PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — David Savitz, currently professor of epidemiology in the Brown School of Public Health and professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Alpert Medical School, will become Brown’s vice president for research. Savitz will begin his duties as vice president on Sept. 1, 2013, Provost Mark Schlissel announced today.
Savitz succeeds Clyde Briant, who announced in January that he would return to the faculty in the School of Engineering at the end of the current academic year, June 30. Schlissel announced that Susan Alcock, the Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology, will serve as interim vice president during July and August. Alcock, director of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, is also Briant’s deputy vice president and a special assistant to the provost for signature academic initiatives.
“David is both an active researcher and an experienced and talented administrator,” Schlissel said. “His work on public health issues has underscored the value of well-supported university research programs in building healthier communities and stronger economies. I look forward to his work here as Brown continues to build its research enterprise.”
Brown established the research vice presidency in the fall of 2002 to consolidate and strengthen administrative support for research. The office serves as a primary advocate for research, facilitates grant applications, manages research support and reporting, provides a variety of “seed” grants for promising proposals, and coordinates intellectual property efforts including patents, licensing, and business start-ups. The office recently entered into an agreement to provide intellectual property management and commercialization services for Lifespan and Care New England.
Brown’s vice president for research and the research vice president from the University of Rhode Island serve as co-chairs of the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council. RI STAC, established in 2005 and sustained by statute of the General Assembly in 2006, assists state leadership in developing programs and policies to build the state’s research and development capacity and to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.
The vice president for research also serves as a member of the President’s Cabinet.
“Since my arrival at Brown two and a half years ago, I have enjoyed an academic culture that values innovation, collaboration, teaching, and engagement with the community beyond campus,” Savitz said. “This is an exciting time for Brown. I look forward to helping shape and enhance such a promising research environment.”
A graduate of Brandeis University (B.A. with highest honors, psychology), Savitz continued his studies at Ohio State University (M.S., preventive medicine) and the University of Pittsburgh (Ph.D., epidemiology). He did early work in ecology and ecosystems analysis at a commercial laboratory in Ohio and trained with the Public Health Service in psychiatric epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
He began his academic career in preventive medicine and biometrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1981. He moved to the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill School of Public Health as an assistant professor of epidemiology in 1985. He advanced through the ranks, becoming chair of the Department of Epidemiology and the Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished professor.
In 2006, Savitz became the Bluhdorn Professor of Preventive Medicine and director of disease prevention and the Public Health Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, from which he moved to Brown’s School of Public Health in 2010. He is also professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Alpert Medical School and associate director for perinatal research at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island.
His epidemiological research has extended to many important public health issues including toxins in the workplace, the environmental effects of oil shale extraction, childhood obesity, pesticides and breast cancer, pregnancy risks from environmental toxins, drinking water standards and safety, ethnicity and birth outcomes. On one occasion, his research brought him suddenly to CNN’s attention: A paper he co-authored about risks faced by Spanish workers who clean up oil spills appeared in Annals of Internal Medicine after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Savitz, a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, is the author of nearly 350 papers in professional journals and editor or author of three books on environmental epidemiology.