Dr. Erin Kobetz to Become Vice Provost as Dr. John Bixby Steps Down

After eight years as vice provost for research, John Bixby, Ph.D., who laid the foundation for the University of Miami’s burgeoning culture of interdisciplinary collaboration, plans to step down as vice provost next June and will work closely with his successor, Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., the associate director for population science and cancer disparity at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, until then.

Dr. Bixby will gradually transition the vice provost for research duties over the next nine months, while Dr. Kobetz’s responsibilities increase. Dr. Kobetz will serve as co-vice provost for research, assuring a smooth transition in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research in its critical mission of fostering the highest quality research and creative activities to advance knowledge and address regional, national, and global society needs.

“Dr. Bixby’s early announcement of his decision has allowed us to develop a thoughtful strategy for the future of this important office,” said Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Dr. Kobetz played an integral role in Sylvester’s efforts to develop interdisciplinary research and outreach initiatives, which helped the cancer center secure its recent National Cancer Institute designation, and I believe she is a natural fit to assume this role.”

Dr. Kobetz, who discovered an alarming rate of cervical cancer in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood shortly after joining the Miller School of Medicine faculty in 2003, will begin her tenure as vice provost for research in June 2020. But she already is spending most of her time with Dr. Bixby and his team to learn about the functions of the office. She will spend time on all three campuses to gain a comprehensive understanding of the needs, challenges, and opportunities in the research arena, and to take part in discussions and strategic planning efforts about the future of the office and interdisciplinary research.

“I am tremendously honored by this opportunity and look forward to Dr. Bixby’s mentorship,” Dr. Kobetz said. “The University of Miami is uniquely positioned to make inroads on global challenges through interdisciplinary research and collaboration, and I am eager to be a part of this work.”

Dr. Bixby joined the University of Miami in 1988, in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology. An early interdisciplinary researcher, Dr. Bixby has co-authored more than 140 publications and led numerous NSF- and NIH-funded research studies. Since 2003, he has successfully collaborated with Vance Lemmon, Ph.D., the Walter G. Ross Distinguished Chair in Developmental Neuroscience and professor of neurological surgery, in the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, to identify genes and signaling networks that promote or hinder axon regeneration following spinal injury. Under his co-leadership, the “LemBix” lab has paved the way for a multitude of synergies in fields such as drug discovery, high throughput screening, and machine learning.

A distinguished scientist and leader, Dr. Bixby also served as director of the UM Neuroscience Program (1998-2006), and as the Miller School’s senior associate dean for graduate and postdoctoral studies (2006-2012), and led the creation of the UM Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge (U-LINK), a university-wide platform for incubating ideas, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, and providing funding to facilitate new approaches to difficult problems.

“I am pleased that Dr. Kobetz and I will have the opportunity to work closely together this year to advance the University’s research efforts,” said Dr. Bixby. “With her on the team, I am confident that we can achieve a seamless leadership transition for this office.”

Dr. Kobetz received her Ph.D. from the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her M.P.H. from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

She has substantial experience with disparities-focused research, and has been involved in multiple community-based participatory research endeavors to understand racial differences in breast and cervical cancer outcomes. In 2004, Dr. Kobetz established Patné en Aksyon (Partners in Action), the campus-community partnership between Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and key community-based organizations in Little Haiti. Dr. Kobetz also founded the Firefighter Cancer Initiative, which is developing new prevention protocols and monitoring techniques to reduce the high risk of cancer among Florida’s firefighters.

Dr. Kobetz will begin her tenure as vice provost for research in June 2020. “I am tremendously grateful for this opportunity,” she said.

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