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Nationally Known AIDS Researcher to Head the School of Public Health

David R. Holtgrave, who was named dean of the School of Public Health this week, will begin on March 1, 2018. 

ALBANY, N.Y.  — David R. Holtgrave, the incoming dean of UAlbany’s School of Public Health (SPH), has devoted his career to addressing public health challenges.

Much of that work has focused on preventing HIV infection, ensuring care and stable housing for people living with HIV and AIDS, and addressing the disproportionate burden HIV and other public health challenges place on underserved communities. He’s earned recognition from the New York State Department of Health – AIDS Institute, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, and POZ Magazine for his public health practice work in HIV prevention.

He is also well respected in the classroom, and won awards from students at both Emory and Johns Hopkins universities for outstanding classroom teaching.

As a first-generation college grad, those accolades are especially meaningful, Holtgrave said. “I’m eager to work with first-generation – and all students – at UAlbany.”

Holtgrave will have that opportunity beginning March 1, 2018, when he officially takes the reins as the dean of SPH. He succeeds former dean Philip Nasca, who retired on Jan. 1. Vice President of Health Sciences Laura Schweitzer has been interim dean since then.

Schweitzer has high praise for SPH’s new leader. “Dr. Holtgrave’s research expertise in the realms of both health disparities and HIV are synergistic with our health sciences research strengths,” she said. “His experiences stewarding a major department at Johns Hopkins and with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will serve the University well.”

Provost James R. Stellar, who announced the appointment on Nov. 16, called Holtgrave a “nationally prominent researcher and academic leader with strong management expertise.”

“His appointment will further propel the expansion of our health sciences enterprise,” Stellar said. “We welcome him with great enthusiasm.”

Darrell Wheeler, dean of the School of Social Welfare and a widely respected researcher on HIV prevention and intervention, has worked with Holtgrave over the years. Both served on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) during the Obama Administration.

“David Holtgrave is the real deal,” said Wheeler, who is also vice provost for public engagement. “I’ve had the remarkable pleasure of working with Dr. Holtgrave in many capacities over the past 20-plus years, including succeeding him as the vice chair of PACHA.

“David is not just a remarkable scholar with an outstanding commitment to and demonstrated expertise in HIV prevention and intervention research, but he's also a genuinely great colleague. His leadership and his national and international reputation will complement the great work and future direction for SPH and the University.”

In addition to being named dean, Holtgrave assumes the rank of full professor of Health Policy, Management & Behavior in SPH, and has been named a SUNY Professor of Empire Innovation — a competitively awarded designation that recognizes his standing as a world-class scholar with research contributions that have made a substantial impact in addressing state and global challenges. Over the course of Holtgrave’s career, he has earned significant research funding for his scholarship devoted to addressing public health challenges such as preventing HIV.

“David Holtgrave is an excellent leader who will fully leverage UAlbany’s significant academic and research assets in the School of Public Health,” said President Rodríguez. “David can significantly contribute to strengthening and expanding the health sciences and biomedical research. I am confident he will build on the achievements of our many partnerships in this area, especially with Wadsworth Laboratories and the New York State Department of Health.”

Holtgrave come to UAlbany from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins, where he is an endowed professor and founding chair of the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, a position he has held since 2005.

Before that he was professor, vice chair and director of graduate studies in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. From 1997-2001 he served as director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention — Intervention Research and Support.

Ellen MacKenzie, dean of Johns Hopkin’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, called Holtgrave “an inspired, dedicated teacher and mentor who has guided countless students during his time at the school.” She noted that during his 12-year tenure, the Department of Health, Behavior and Society grew from 22 to nearly 60 full-time faculty.

Holtgrave received his Ph.D. in quantitative psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University School of Public Health. A native of St. Louis, he did his undergraduate work at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

He said he’s “profoundly excited, honored and humbled” to be joining SPH.

“From the very first conversations at the University at Albany, I absolutely felt at home,” Holtgrave said in a letter to SPH faculty and staff. “When I got the chance to meet with the students, staff and faculty, I knew SPH was already accomplishing great things and that people were dreaming big — really big — to have even more impact on public health and the building of health equity.”

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