Schwartz named as founding chair of Department of Population Health

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News Article

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—Gary G. Schwartz, Ph.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., has been named the founding chair of the Department of Population Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He is a scientist and educator who is recognized internationally for his research on prostate cancer and on vitamin D. Since 1999, Schwartz was scientific director of the Prostate Cancer Center of Excellence at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., a National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. At Wake Forest, Schwartz was an associate professor in the Departments of Cancer Biology, of Urology, and of Epidemiology and Prevention.

At the UND SMHS, Schwartz will work collaboratively with faculty and institutional leaders to found the Department of Population Health and to develop and provide oversight of the department's programs in education, research, training, and service. As chair, he will work with the SMHS’s key leaders in helping to shape a population-based approach to health care delivery to North Dakotans.

Reducing the disease burden of North Dakotans is an integral goal of the Healthcare Workforce Initiative developed by the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences through its Legislature-appointed Advisory Council. The HWI identified a strategy of focusing on population health to positively influence the health of North Dakotans. The new Department of Population Health was established with the help of a generous appropriation by the 63rd North Dakota Legislative Assembly.

The department will provide the academic home for faculty who conduct research on the determinants of health and disease in populations, provide education and training in public health and related disciplines to students and faculty, and develop collaborative relationships with researchers, clinicians, communities and institutions to improve the understanding of health and to inform policy and practice.

Schwartz will begin work as chair on May 1, 2015.

“The School has had a long-term interest in population health, especially through our Centers for Rural Health and Health Promotion and Prevention Research, and the newly instituted Master of Public Health Program. But the faculty members in these units haven’t had a common academic home dedicated to population health,” said Joshua Wynne, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “Now they will, with a department chair who has dedicated his career to improving health through population-based approaches. I’m thrilled that Dr. Schwartz will be joining us soon.”

“It’s an honor to contribute to the growth of this new department,” Schwartz said. “Working to understand and to improve population health for North Dakotans is a wonderful mandate. I’m delighted to join the talent already assembled at UND and look forward to harnessing the department’s best efforts for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the state.”

Schwartz earned a Ph.D. in Biological Psychology at the Downstate Medical Center of the State University of New York. He completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cancer Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned a Master of Public Health and a Ph.D. in Epidemiology. Much of Schwartz’s research has focused on the epidemiology of prostate cancer, particularly the roles played by vitamin D and calcium and how these factors can be manipulated to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies. He has received research support from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute—the primary federal agency supporting cancer research—the American Cancer Society, and other private sources. He was recently the principal investigator for a grant from Golfers Against Cancer for a Phase II clinical trial of lowering calcium in blood as a treatment for recurrent prostate cancer.

Schwartz serves as a reviewer for the NIH and private foundations and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Future Oncology and Translational Biomedicine. He is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and is an inventor on several patents for biomarkers for the early detection of cancers of the pancreas, the prostate, and the ovary.