By JILL PEASE
The University of Florida has appointed internationally recognized epidemiologist Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., the founding chair of UF’s department of epidemiology, a newly created department administered jointly by theCollege of Medicine and the College of Public Health and Health Professions.
The department was established in June. It brings together epidemiology faculty from both colleges, to be complemented by the recruitment of new faculty members under Cottler’s leadership.
“This innovative cross-college structure draws on the strengths of both colleges and offers new opportunities for research collaboration and growth of the educational programs,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., UF’s senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System. “The establishment of this department reflects the integration and collaborative nature of UF&Shands, the University of Florida Academic Health Center.”
Cottler will begin her UF appointment July 1. She currently serves as a professor of epidemiology in the department of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where she directs the Epidemiology and Prevention Research Group, the Center for Community Based Research and the Master of Psychiatric Epidemiology program.
“We are extremely pleased that we are able to attract such an outstanding behavioral scientist as Dr. Cottler to head our new department of epidemiology,” said Michael G. Perri, dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions. “She clearly has the talent and leadership skills to expand the department’s research portfolio and academic enterprise.”
Cottler founded and leads the program HealthStreet, which connects St. Louis residents to health care referrals, medical care, social services and opportunities to participate in research. The unique approach puts HealthStreet workers on the street outside grocery stores, bus stops, parks and many other locations throughout the city, to interview residents about their health concerns and link them to services and research opportunities at Washington University.
Cottler’s research has focused on drug and alcohol use and dependence in vulnerable populations such as injection drug users, criminal offenders, women and African-Americans. She has developed internationally recognized assessment tools for drug, alcohol and nicotine use and gambling. A recent study led by Cottler, published last month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, showed that former NFL players use painkilling opioid drugs at a rate four times higher than the general public.
“Dr. Cottler’s expertise makes her an exceptional candidate to serve as founding chair of epidemiology and Dean’s Professor of Epidemiology,” said Michael Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “Her pioneering work in community-based research will play a major role in UF&Shands’ work to increase community engagement in our research and services.”
The department of epidemiology will be housed in UF’s Clinical and Translational Research Building when construction is completed in 2013. The new building is designed to encourage multidisciplinary research across several departments that will share the facility with UF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and theInstitute on Aging.
The collaborative spirit of UF investigators is one of the reasons Cottler was drawn to the position.
“There will be many opportunities for faculty in this new department and I am excited to be working with my colleagues at the College of Medicine, College of Public Health and Health Professions, the CTSI and throughout UF,” said Cottler, who will also serve as co-director of community engagement for the CTSI. “My goal is to work on the problems that are of the greatest concern to the community and make the department one of the strongest in the country.”