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School of Public Health appoints inaugural associate dean for research

Savitz to encourage collaboration among departments, expand research funding

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

On April 10, Professor of Epidemiology David Savitz was announced as the inaugural associate dean for research for the School of Public Health in a community-wide email. Savitz will play a key role in consolidating research efforts at the School of Public Health as well as establishing connections with other areas of research at the University.

Savitz cited increasing research productivity, creating opportunities for more collaborative research and fully utilizing the talents and resources at the School of Public Health as key goals of the position.

Dean of the School of Public Health Bess Marcus stressed the amount of collaboration that the new role entails. “I wanted to have someone with a big picture view of our strategic plan and … make sure we’re not missing any opportunities to do collaborative research,” Marcus said.

The school contains 12 distinct research centers with individual faculty members responsible for directing research at each center. Because of public health’s unique interdisciplinary nature, Marcus expressed a need for the school to have someone representing research at a higher level, while also establishing connections with other schools and departments within the University. She also said the person filling the new role had to be someone who was a successful researcher in their own right and was familiar with both the School of Public Health and the University in general.

Before his recent appointment, Savitz served four years as vice president of research for the University. In addition to his new role, he currently serves as associate director for perinatal research at the Alpert Medical School.

Savitz was unanimously chosen for the position via an internal search process, Marcus said. Faculty members praised Savitz’s selection and the experience he brings to the new role. “Because of his former role as VP, he knows the players across campus,” said Alison Field, chair of epidemiology. “One of the challenges at Brown is that there are other departments that we don’t interact with enough. … There needs to be more connecting of people, and (Savitz) is incredibly well suited for the role.” Field added that encouraging interaction between different departments within the University is essential for not only expanding research opportunities but also for creating a healthier school environment.

As vice president for research, Savitz was responsible for university-level functions, which he termed the “machinery of research.” This included areas such as the financial processing of grants, the institutional review board and the management of intellectual property. Savitz’s new role also encompasses a number of administrative responsibilities, such as increasing and diversifying research funding, a large portion of which currently comes from the National Institutes of Health.

While Savitz had a positive experience in his previous role as vice president for research, he said he appreciates the different opportunities that the new position provides. His position should not be seen as an isolated administrative role, he added. “In comparison (with his previous VP role), this is dealing with a much more circumscribed substantive area, which actually is going to give me more of a chance for one-on-one engagement with faculty and working on individual projects,” Savitz said.

Besides serving as associate dean for research, Savitz said he will continue his previous teaching responsibilities and personal research projects, which focus on reproductive and environmental epidemiology. He sees his new role as being connected with his other positions. “Basically, I want to help the school foster an environment that I want to be in,” he said. “If it helps me get my grants out, it will probably help others as well. … So much of the generation of good ideas and the pursuit of successful grants really is about collaboration. There’s very little that we do by just sitting here, closing the door and thinking.”