University of Southern California

USC News logo

Public Health Expert to Join USC

06/09/08
Jonathan Samet will launch the Institute for Global Health and lead the Keck School’s Department of Preventive Medicine.
By Jane Brust
Samet will strive to expand research at the Department of Preventive Medicine.

Jonathan Samet, one of the world’s leading public health experts, has been named founding director of the new USC Institute for Global Health and chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Keck School Dean Carmen Puliafito, on behalf of USC Provost C. L. Max Nikias, announced the appointment, effective Nov. 1.

Samet comes to USC from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. An international authority on the effects of smoking and of air pollution, he has served as professor and chairman of the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins since 1994.

For the last 10 years, he also has directed the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at Johns Hopkins.

Elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997, Samet has contributed to many of the U.S. Surgeon General’s reports and was the senior scientific editor for the 2004 and 2006 reports on active and passive smoking, respectively.

He has worked actively to promote tobacco control around the world, particularly in China and Mexico. He also has addressed some of the most critical issues in indoor and outdoor air pollution, such as lung cancer and radon, and airborne particles and health. Studies done by Samet and his colleagues have been critical in setting air quality standards for particles and ozone.

“We are thrilled to bring to the University of Southern California an academic health leader of the stature of Jon Samet,” Puliafito said. “His international reputation for scientific excellence in the interest of global health involves a tremendous track record of leadership on scientific and advisory boards. It also includes a stellar roster of scientific publications and a deep commitment to excellence in the quest for improved public health around the globe.

“His appointment will generate significant momentum as we expand and strengthen the research enterprise at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. It will also enhance our ability to collaborate with other faculty across the university.”

Puliafito described the new Institute for Global Health as a catalyst for such collaboration.

“The Institute for Global Health will pull together USC faculty across numerous schools, all of whom have research interests in the arena of global health. Jon Samet’s expertise and experience are a perfect fit for USC,” he said.

Samet views the environment as the focal point for the new institute’s activities. “The damage done to the environment by human activities is no longer a ‘quiet crisis,’ ” he said. “The institute should move forward with an agenda of capacity building, research and policy formulation that will have immediate and profound impact.”

With annual federal research funding of $35 million, the Keck School’s Department of Preventive Medicine has the largest grant portfolio of any such department in a U.S. medical school. Puliafito has given Samet a mandate to launch a major initiative to expand the department’s research activities.

Puliafito noted Samet’s key role in promoting the training of clinical research leaders at the Keck School. “As a clinician scientist himself and as someone who has taught almost 800 Master of Public Health graduates at Hopkins, Jon Samet is a unique asset in our quest in making the development of clinician-scientists a high priority at the Keck School.”

At Johns Hopkins, Samet chairs the oldest and largest department of epidemiology in the country; the department has global reach in its training and research missions. The university’s global health activities are extensive and collaborative and give emphasis to infectious diseases.

Samet views his experience at Johns Hopkins as particularly relevant to USC, where he hopes to establish multidisciplinary collaborations that extend across departments and schools.

According to Samet, his decision to join the USC faculty was based on the opportunity to chair the Department of Preventive Medicine, one of the leading such departments within a medical school, and at the same time to lead the development of a model institute for multidisciplinary collaboration in global health.

“I found a perfect match between my view of needs in global health and what USC wanted to accomplish as an institution,” Samet said. “I also have the opportunity to work with the department, which has many long-term colleagues and friends among its faculty, and to lead its growth and evolution at a time when public health and clinical research are changing rapidly.”

A native of Newport News, Va., Samet earned his medical degree at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1970. He completed a master’s of science at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1977 and earned a bachelor’s in chemistry and physics at Harvard University in 1966.

At Johns Hopkins, he holds a joint appointment in the School of Medicine’s Oncology Center and in the Department of Medicine.

Samet is the editor of 19 books and monographs and has authored or contributed to 270 journal articles and an additional 400 chapters, reviews, editorials and other publications.

Among numerous honors, Samet has received two U.S. Surgeon General’s Medallions in 1990 and 2006. In 2005, his work received international recognition with the Prince Mahidol Award in Public Health, named for the father of modern medicine and public health in Thailand.