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Arnold School of Public Health

Nationally recognized cancer researcher Anthony Alberg joins epidemiology and biostatistics department as professor and chair

August 28, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, 

Anthony Alberg has joined the Arnold School of Public Health as chair of the epidemiology and biostatistics department. The cancer epidemiologist brings more than three decades of public health experience to the role, most recently serving as the Blatt Ness Endowed Chair in Oncology and the associate director of population sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) Hollings Cancer Center.

“This department-chair search produced an impressive slate of candidates from the best epidemiology and biostatistics programs around the country,” says Dean Thomas Chandler. “I am so pleased that we were able to recruit a leader of such accomplishment, international stature, and desire to do public good. Dr. Alberg’s experience in cancer prevention through research in smoking cessation and healthful lifestyle promotion will complement our existing teaching and research programs in the Arnold School. His commitment to educating the public health workforce and also providing impactful community service is evident throughout his long career.”

I am so pleased that we were able to recruit a leader of such accomplishment, international stature, and desire to do public good.

-Thomas Chandler, Dean of the Arnold School

Alberg first became interested in public health shortly after earning his undergraduate degree in zoology from the University of California, Davis. He then spent a year as a volunteer in inner city Dayton, Ohio at a halfway house for individuals who had recently been released after incarceration.

“This experience opened my eyes to the tremendous public health needs and health disparities that exist,” Alberg says. “So I went to the library to learn more about what careers I could pursue to help with these issues, and I discovered epidemiology.”

He returned to school, this time at Yale University, to earn a master of public health degree. After gaining experience in the field as a project director for the American Health Foundation, Alberg earned a Ph.D. in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

He remained at Johns Hopkins University for another 12 years, conducting scientific research and rising through the ranks to co-direct the Comstock Center for Public Health Research and Prevention and direct the cancer epidemiology program. Eleven years ago, Alberg moved to South Carolina—a state that faces tremendous public health disparities and challenges.

At MUSC, Alberg helped grow the cancer control program within the Hollings Cancer Center to achieve national recognition and help the Center achieve and renew National Cancer Institute Designation. For the past two and a half years, Alberg has led the Center as interim director. 

“It was an honor to contribute to building the cancer control program by developing a shared vision, recruiting and mentoring faculty, fostering interdisciplinary research, and growing the research funding,” says Alberg. “And this experience, along with the opportunity to serve as interim director, cultivated leadership skills in me that I am looking forward to applying in my new role at the Arnold School.”

Training the next generation of future biostatisticians and epidemiologists to meet not only the needs of today but also those that we can’t even foresee yet is an exciting opportunity.

-Anthony Alberg, Epidemiology & Biostatistics Chair

The American College of Epidemiology Fellow says he is thrilled to rejoin a school of public health, especially one with such a proud history and a strong commitment to research, teaching and mentorship. “I’m very impressed with the leadership team and the faculty and staff at the Arnold School and in the department—which both have stellar reputations,” Alberg adds. “Training the next generation of future biostatisticians and epidemiologists to meet not only the needs of today but also those that we can’t even foresee yet is an exciting opportunity.”

In particular, Alberg looks forward to helping the department to build on its strong foundation and top notch areas of scientific expertise with a focus on the future. “How will we rise to meet the most pressing public health concerns of our time? How can we elevate the Arnold School and the department even above and beyond where we are now?” he says. “I’m interested in increasing our expertise in key areas of growing importance. For example, with increased concern for global health, emerging infectious diseases resulting from climate change, and with an expanding body of evidence linking infections with chronic disease risk, we need to enrich our expertise in infectious diseases. As a department, we need to ensure we are addressing the foremost public health issues of our time.”

Alberg focuses his own research on some of the most critical current public health issues. His 11-year tenure in South Carolina has both deepened his commitment to the state and facilitated his relationships with others who strive to improve public health in the areas of cancer prevention and tobacco control. Alberg has already collaborated with many partners, including members of the Arnold School, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the South Carolina Cancer Alliance, and the South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative.

His 175+ peer-reviewed journal publications and book chapters and 40 funded research grants predominantly focus on cancer prevention and control. Specific areas of interest include the health effects of tobacco smoke exposure, tobacco control, and cancer epidemiology with an emphasis on non-melanoma skin cancer and lung cancer. 

With an active service record that stretches back to his first academic appointment, Alberg continues to contribute to national professional organizations in numerous capacities—in addition to the aforementioned state-level partnerships. For example, he is currently working as a contributing author on an upcoming Surgeon General’s Report on the health benefits of smoking cessation; he and his collaborators are focusing on the benefits of smoking cessation in patients even after a diagnosis of cancer or heart disease. Alberg is also working on a National Academy of Medicine committee to determine what is known about the health effects of electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes.

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