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October 27, 2005

Ness named interim dean of GSPH

The chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) last week was named interim dean of the school, effective Dec. 1.

Roberta Ness, professor of epidemiology at GSPH, and professor of medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine, who also holds an adjunct appointment in women’s studies, will succeed Bernard D. Goldstein as dean. Goldstein will continue on the school’s faculty.

“To assure a smooth transition, Dean Bernard D. Goldstein will work with Dr. Ness during the month of December, formally ending his service as GSPH dean at the end of 2005,” stated Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences, who announced Ness’s appointment Oct. 18 in a posting on the GSPH web site.

Ness told the University Times, “As the chair of the school’s largest department, I was an obvious choice to be asked to step in as interim dean to help maintain the continuity of the school, and I agreed to do it for a short period of time. I am not a candidate for the permanent position,” Ness said.

In November 2004, Goldstein announced his intention to step down as GSPH dean, effective Aug. 31, 2005. A search committee was named earlier this year, but has not concluded its work, according to Ness, who serves on the search committee.

The search has taken longer than expected, Ness said, adding, “I would emphasize that we have a number of outstanding candidates for the position.” The hope is to have a permanent dean in place by July 1, if not sooner, she said.

“Since the announcement of the appointment was made, I’ve already had a tremendous outpouring of support from the faculty,” said Ness, who is the founding director of GSPH’s epidemiology of women’s health program and previously served as director of the cancer epidemiology program, which is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

“Even though I’m not in it for the long-term, I believe there are some things to get jump-started,” she said. “My leadership style is to talk to the key players in the school and to understand their priorities and to understand how these priorities intersect among the departments and programs. I look forward to that challenge.”

According to Levine, Ness has been a leader in developing innovative research and educational programs that transcend schools and disciplines. “Dr. Ness is well known for her prolific scientific contributions in the field of women’s health. Her work has included groundbreaking studies on the etiology of pelvic inflammatory disease, preeclampsia and ovarian cancer,” Levine stated.

Among many honors, Ness is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the American Epidemiology Society, a fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the Institute of Medicine committee on asbestos and an associate editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Ness said she foresees no major changes in the public health school’s direction during her interim tenure.

“I would underscore that this school has done and continues to do extraordinary work,” Ness said.

As one example, Ness cited a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, which has two articles on how HER2neu blockers can substantially reduce breast cancer and the promising clinical implications of that finding.

“The data for one of those studies was coordinated at GSPH,” Ness pointed out. “My point is that weekly, or at least monthly, GSPH constantly continues to contribute to health improvement and to reducing morbidity. There is a tremendous amount of research talent here.”

Ness earned a B.S. in microbiology from the University of Maryland, an M.D. from Cornell Medical College and an M.P.H. in epidemiology from Columbia. She completed residency training in medicine at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, followed by fellowship training at Columbia’s School of Public Health.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 38 Issue 5

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