Til Stürmer, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology and director of the UNC Center for Pharmacoepidemiology, has been appointed department chair for epidemiology, effective March 1, 2018, according to an announcement from Dean Barbara K. Rimer. Stürmer has also been named Nancy A. Dreyer Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology.
Stürmer, an internist and epidemiologist trained at the University of Basel (Switzerland) and University of Heidelberg (Germany), also earned a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
His career as a medical researcher began when he assessed the role of analgesic abuse on kidney function and mortality, which culminated in a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. After formal training in epidemiology at Harvard, he continued his pharmacoepidemiologic research, analyzing the role of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and aspirin on cognitive function, risk for colorectal cancer and kidney function.
Since coming to the U.S. in 2003 to join the Harvard Medical School, he has focused on analyzing beneficial and harmful effects of medications, work primarily funded by an ongoing grant from the National Institute on Aging.
After joining the Gillings School faculty in 2008, he has mentored more than 20 graduate students, physician scientists and junior faculty members and has added more than 120 publications in refereed journals to his total list of more than 200. He has taught a number of classes in pharmacoepidemiologic methods and research, grant writing and propensity scoring, a statistical technique to estimate the effect of a treatment, policy or other intervention by accounting for the covariates that predict receiving the treatment.
From 2013 to 2014, Stürmer served as president of the International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology. At UNC, he leads one of the oldest and perhaps largest pharmacoepidemiology training programs in the world and is director of the Center for Pharmacoepidemiology.
“I am very glad to have been able to assemble an outstanding interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology, internal medicine, geriatrics and biostatistics, from within and outside of UNC, to enhance the evidence base for relative benefit and harm of clinically relevant treatment alternatives in older adults,” he said of his work at the center.
Dean Rimer called Stürmer an outstanding interdisciplinary researcher whose interests are central to the Gillings School.
“Dr. Stürmer brings a strong global perspective and track record,” Rimer said. “He has a deep commitment to training practitioners and researchers and to assuring that the Gillings School epidemiology department remains, as it has been from the beginning, one of the very top programs in the world. I am confident that he will move this outstanding department forward, evolve academic programs, and keep research robust, leading-edge and relevant.
“His own research is highly relevant. As about half of U.S. adults and almost 91 percent of people over age 65 used a prescription medication in the last month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assessing the impact of medications is of vital importance to the health and well-being of the country. Dr. Sturmer also is committed to enhance diversity and inclusion and assure the department’s financial stability.”
Stürmer is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) and will continue the epidemiology department’s close relationship with cancer research and treatment efforts at UNC.
“All practitioners and patients are heartened by the tremendous advances in prevention and therapy of human disease, but there are still many practical questions about the causes of disease and ways to best treat Americans and others around the world,” said Shelton Earp, MD, Lineberger Distinguished Professor, interim and former director of the LCCC and director of UNC Cancer Care, the UNC cancer treatment facility.
“These questions are particularly important in populations with modest means or in minority communities that suffer disproportionately from diseases such as cancer,” Earp said. “To have a true expert like Til Stürmer take a leadership position in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health gives comfort to all of us who care about these issues. Dr. Stürmer will continue the remarkable innovation and quality that we have come to expect from one of the world’s premier departments of epidemiology.”
Rimer expressed gratitude to Leslie Lytle, PhD, professor of health behavior and nutrition, and to members of the chair search committee.
“Dr. Lytle and the committee succeeded in bringing an outstanding pool of candidates to campus,” Rimer said. “For the past 11 years, Andy Olshan has led the epidemiology department with enthusiasm, skill, deep commitment, excellence and caring. We owe him our most sincere thanks.”
Stürmer succeeds Andrew Olshan, PhD, Barbara Sorenson Hulka Distinguished Professor in Cancer Epidemiology, who has served as epidemiology department chair since 2006. Olshan will remain on the epidemiology faculty.