New joint chairs appointed for UCSF Epidemiology and Biostatistics

By Wallace Ravven

Robert Hiatt, MD, PhD, and Neil Risch, PhD, have been appointed joint chairs of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the UCSF School of Medicine.

Both Hiatt and Risch are prominent epidemiologists who joined the UCSF faculty in leadership positions in the last few years. Hiatt is director of population science and deputy director of the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center. Risch is director of UCSF’s Institute for Human Genetics. Each will retain these posts when they become joint chairs of epidemiology and biostatistics November 1. Both are also professors in the department.

Hiatt came to UCSF in 2003 after leading the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences as deputy director. After an early career in international health and tropical disease research, he has focused on cancer epidemiology, especially breast cancer and cancer prevention and screening. His interests are in the broad applications of epidemiology to clinical science, health care and population health.

Before his NCI position, he was director of prevention sciences at the Northern California Cancer Center and assistant director for epidemiology at the Kaiser Permanente/Northern California Division of Research. He continues at Kaiser Permanente in a senior scientist role.

Hiatt earned his MD degree from the University of Michigan, completed his internship at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center and an internal medicine residency at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in San Francisco. He received a PhD in epidemiology from UC Berkeley.

Risch is the Lamond Distinguished Professor in Human Genetics at UCSF. He is widely known for developing and applying an array of approaches to genetic epidemiology - the effort to identify the genetic basis for diseases caused by gene interaction with environmental and dietary factors.  His population-based and family-based studies employ gene-mapping and innovative bio-statistical tools to identify genetic and environmental risk factors for such conditions as coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

Risch was professor of genetics at Stanford with appointments also in statistics and health research and policy before coming to UCSF in 2005 to head the new Institute for Human Genetics. The Institute brings together scientists from a very broad range of human genetic studies - from basic to clinical, and from psychiatry to cardiovascular research - to identify genes that contribute to human disease and variation in response to drugs.

Risch earned a BS in mathematics from Caltech and an MS in mathematics from the University of Illinois. He received his PhD in biomathematics from UCLA in 1979.

Hiatt and Risch succeed Stephen Hulley, MD, who served as chair since 1994. Hulley led the department’s key role in UCSF’s recent successful effort to gain major NIH support for a university-wide institute aimed at accelerating the pace of translating scientific discovery into patient care. This month, seven universities, including UCSF, received the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award for each to establish a Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

As chairs of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Risch and Hiatt will each receive annual salaries of $325,000, funded by a combination of sources that includes state funds, proceeds of research grants and allocations from the School of Medicine.

UCSF is a leading university that advances health worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and health professions, and providing complex patient care.


NOTE: Additional information on compensation is available upon request from the UCSF News Office (415-476-2557).