New CHS Chair Richard Saitz, MD, MPH, Begins Expanded Role At SPH

November 1, 2013

Deepening his connection to the BU School of Public Health, Dr. Richard Saitz begins his appointment as Chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences at BUSPH.

Saitz has been a faculty member at BU since 1993, after training as a resident at Boston City Hospital during the late 1980s. During his residency, he repeatedly observed and treated patients suffering from the medical consequences of alcoholism.

Richard SaitzThe experience shaped more than two decades of research into alcohol use and abuse and influenced Saitz to become an advocate for broadening the age-old term alcoholism into the more accurate description of unhealthy alcohol use. The change, Saitz said, returns the focus on patient health and better encompasses the spectrum of use that increases the risks for and the consequences of the medical conditions Saitz has observed through the years.

“Rich Saitz’s recruitment to SPH is a major plus for the school in general and for the our Department of Community Health Sciences in particular,” said Dean Robert Meenan. “Rich is a highly respected and well-funded investigator in the field of alcohol use and abuse who has made major contributions in areas ranging from population impacts to treatment options. He will further strengthen our collaborations with the School of Medicine in this important field.”

His primary areas of expertise and research are unhealthy alcohol and drug use, integrating substance-related and general health care (e.g., chronic disease/care management), and improving the quality of care for people with addictions across the spectrum of use, particularly in general medical care settings.

His portfolio of research includes studies that have helped influence how doctors treat alcohol withdrawal, have explored how simple questionnaires can identify unhealthy alcohol and drug use, and ways that research findings can be used most effectively in the practice of medicine.

Saitz holds a primary appointment as a professor of medicine at BUSM and a secondary appointment as a professor of epidemiology at BUSPH. Until his appointment as chair, he was the director of Boston Medical Center’s Clinical Addiction Research & Education (CARE) Unit, as well as the former director of the Division of Clinical Research Resources for the BU Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI). He will continue to advise and consult the CARE Unit as a member.

Interim CHS Chair Mary Jane England will resume her role as a clinical professor at SPH, with expertise in both community health sciences and heath policy and management. England, a former president of Regis College, stepped in to serve as interim CHS chair when former Chair Deborah Bowen became assistant dean for research.

With experience as an addiction researcher, journal editor, and specialist in evidence-based medicine, Saitz has developed numerous collaborations with SPH faculty throughout the years. Said Dean Meenan, “Rich is well known to many people at SPH and is widely respected as a scientist, a colleague and a leader. Given his talent, interpersonal skills and institutional connections I anticipate that Rich will be an outstanding department chair.”