My principal research interests are the etiology of cancer, particularly breast, prostate, pancreas and skin cancers. I am an investigator on the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-running cohort of 121,000 US women, and was project director for the Nurses’ Health Study II, a newer cohort of 116,000 women. I founded the Pooling Project of Diet and Cancer, a collaborative analysis of dietary risk factors for breast, colorectal and lung cancers. I analyze inherited susceptibility to cancer and other chronic diseases using genetic analyses. This work is largely based in subcohorts of the Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study of approximately 50,000 women and 25,000 men who have given a blood or saliva sample that can be used for DNA analyses. I have led collaborative analysis across large Consortia, leading to the discovery of multiple genetic associations including the common genetic variant in FGFR2 with the strongest association with breast cancer. I developed and supervised laboratories at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health in which gene sequence information from these samples is obtained.
I have also studied HIV transmission for over twenty-five years, initially in Kenya and then in Tanzania. I have collaborated with investigators in Dar-es-Salaam to understand the relationship of nutritional status with progression of HIV disease and perinatal transmission.
I was the Director of the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention from 1997-2003. In June of 2009, I was appointed Dean for Academic Affairs at the School. I am also the Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention. I am the founding Director (2003) of the Harvard Chan School’s Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology and Principal Investigator of a number of ongoing breast and prostate cancer studies. I co-chaired the Steering Committee of the NCI Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium, was co-Director of the NCI Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS) Special Initiative, and was a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute. I am contact Principal Investigator of the DRIVE (Discovery, Biology and Risk of Inherited Variants in Breast Cancer) Consortium. According to Thomson Reuters I am one of approximately 3,000 highly cited researchers in all branches of science worldwide. I am the author of over 700 peer-reviewed articles and commentaries, and have co-edited three books, most recently Readings in Global Health (Oxford University Press).
As Dean for Academic Affairs I led the Harvard Chan School strategy for developing HarvardX and other online courses. Over 250,000 students have enrolled in one or more of these courses, and over 15,000 have received Certificates of Completion. In 2015 HSPH offered a blended residential and online MPH in Epidemiology, the first such Master’s degree at Harvard University. I was appointed Acting Dean in 2015, serving until July, 2016.