Jan. 4, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 8

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    Bailar head of new Health Studies Dept.

    John Bailar III of McGill University, an internationally recognized authority on research methods, has been appointed Chair of the newly created Department of Health Studies. The department will serve as a center for research and teaching in areas such as epidemiology, biostatistics and the complex relationships between the provision of medical care and long-term health outcomes.

    "The Department of Health Studies is designed to pull together people with radically different backgrounds but similar interests," Bailar said. "It presents us with a remarkable opportunity to draw on a wealth of resources that are already in place and to recruit new faculty in order to build a new academic focus.

    "With unparalleled strengths in areas such as sociology and economics, as well as statistics, medicine and law, and the presence at the University of the Harris School of Public Policy and the National Opinion Research Center, the University of Chicago can move quickly to become a major power in understanding the forces that play a role in issues such as risk assessment, health-care policy and the application of new medical technologies," he said.

    Glenn Steele, Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine, said, "John Bailar brings an extraordinary breadth of experience, dogged determination and a vast international network of contacts to the job of chair of this new department. He is the ideal person to attract and focus a group of innovative scholars and to guide them in creating a new discipline."

    Bailar comes to Chicago from McGill University in Montreal, where he was chair of epidemiology and biostatistics. He has also been active in research and administrative roles at the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Veterans Administration, the Health Effects Institute and the National Academy of Sciences.

    Bailar's first act upon arriving at the University in November was to test the Department of Surgery. At a scientific meeting in China, he began having symptoms from a benign but painful tumor in his stomach. When he returned to Chicago, a faculty surgeon removed the tumor laparoscopically -- without a surgical incision -- and Bailar left the hospital cured. "I was convinced this was the place to be," he said.

    The author or co-author of more than 200 scientific articles or book chapters and the author or editor of 12 books, including Medical Uses of Statistics, a standard text, Bailar has received numerous awards for his work. He is a former MacArthur fellow, a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    Despite these awards, he is perhaps best known for a political firestorm he created in 1986. Fifteen years after President Nixon initiated his "war on cancer," Bailar carefully examined the changes in cancer mortality rates since 1950 as part of a formal evaluation of the national cancer program, and he came to the conclusion that "our decades of war against cancer have been a qualified failure." He has since become a vocal advocate for shifting the research emphasis away from cancer treatment and toward prevention.

    Bailar received his B.A. in chemistry in 1953 from the University of Colorado, his M.D. in 1955 from Yale and his Ph.D. in 1973 in statistics from American University. After completing an internship at the University of Colorado Medical Center, he joined the National Cancer Institute in 1956 and was named head of the institute's Demography Section in 1962. He was director of the Third National Cancer Survey from 1967 to 1970 and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute from 1974 to 1980.

    In 1980, he joined the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health and became the statistical consultant for the New England Journal of Medicine, where he serves on the editorial board. He also served as a senior scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Bailar has been active as a member of numerous research committees at the National Academy of Sciences. From 1988 to 1991, he was chair of the committee on human tissue monitoring, and since 1994 he has been chair of the committee on the health consequences of service during the Persian Gulf War.