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IU School of Public Health-Bloomington names new dean: David B. Allison

For Immediate Release Jun 16, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – David B. Allison, a renowned scientist and researcher, is expected to bring a cross-disciplinary approach to research in his new role as dean of the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington. The appointment was approved today by the IU Board of Trustees at its meeting in South Bend.

Allison, former associate dean for research and science in the School of Health Professions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Medicine. One of the most prestigious medical societies in the world, the academy serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as adviser to the nation and the international community. Allison will be the third active National Academy of Medicine fellow at Indiana University Bloomington.

He will begin his new position Aug. 15.

“David Allison will continue to propel the School of Public Health-Bloomington forward, advancing the school’s research profile, positive impact on education and community engagement,” said IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel. “His research in the sciences and expertise in the areas of obesity and prevention align perfectly with our state’s health mission and partnerships with organizations throughout Indiana.”

In addition to his associate dean position at University of Alabama at Birmingham, Allison is a Distinguished Professor, the Quetelet Endowed Professor, director of the Office of Energetics and director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center. He served as director of the Section on Statistical Genetics from 2001 to 2011.

His research includes a breadth of activity – including basic science using drosophila (fruit flies), rodent models, epidemiology, human clinical trials, statistical methodology, meta‐analysis, mathematical models and human behavioral research – which is helpful in cross-disciplinary collaborations with faculty from a broad range of academic backgrounds.

“I enjoy working and collaborating on nutritional questions with people in many disciplines – for example, psychology, my original discipline,” Allison said, adding that he has collaborated with researchers in biostatistics, epidemiology, education, health economics, engineering, nutrition, mathematics, entomology, environmental health sciences, genetics, medicine, nursing, psychiatry, biology, kinesiology and agricultural science. 

As director of the Section on Statistical Genetics, he developed a robust teaching program and suite of courses; increased grant funding; built National Institutes of Health‐funded training programs; and brought the department recognition as a national presence in the field of genetics. Beginning in 2008, he conceived and successfully led the fundraising for the William “Student” Sealy Gosset Endowed Professorship in Biostatistics, the first endowed professorship in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health. He has since created three other endowed professorships in that school.

During his tenure as director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s NIH-funded Nutrition Obesity Research Center, he secured funding over three competitive renewal cycles and expanded its scope. Allison obtained funding for both pre- and postdoctoral training grants in obesity research; increased philanthropic fundraising; expanded the breadth and depth of the science base of the center; and extended outreach and the center’s local and national profile through a national conference series. 

“Science is my abiding passion, and I never get tired of learning new things, exchanging ideas and trying to figure things out,” Allison said. “I really look forward to working with other researchers at IU and collaborating with our surrounding communities on projects to improve communities and support IU Bloomington’s School of Public Health students in exploring bold new ideas and pursuing truth through science.”

Allison received his Ph.D. in clinical and school psychology from Hofstra University in 1990; his master’s degree in clinical and school psychology at Hofstra in 1987; and his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Vassar College in 1985.

In 2006, Allison received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, the nation’s highest award for mentoring, given to no more than 10 individuals nationally each year and selected through a peer-review process. In 2008, Nature listed Allison as one of the 22 scientists in the world with the most NIH grants. In 2012, he received a Transformative R01 grant from the NIH, a grant given to only 20 research groups in the country, to conduct seven interrelated experiments designed to test an integrated theory connecting adiposity, longevity, perceptions of “energetic insecurity” and disparities in social status.

Many of the tasks Allison enjoyed at Alabama will play some part in his role as School of Public Health dean at IU Bloomington, including school‐level strategic planning, fundraising, school reaccreditation, faculty recruitment, grant acquisition, budgetary and fiscal management, representing the school on university-wide committees and more.

Allison said he visited IU Bloomington several years ago and fell in love with the beautiful campus. “I have multiple colleagues at IU and in the School of Public Health, so I am familiar with the university’s prestigious scholarly reputation,” Allison said. “The School of Public Health in particular is known as a place of academic integrity, with a true commitment to diversity and inclusion and an expanding research profile. I look forward to helping expand research support research for students and faculty.” 

Allison succeeds Mohammad R. Torabi, founding dean of the school, who in July announced his plan to step down from his administrative role, returning to the faculty. Torabi, a Chancellor’s Professor in Applied Health Science, led the school for seven years and oversaw its accreditation in 2015; he has served IU and the School of Public Health-Bloomington in faculty and leadership capacities for 35 years. 

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