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Patricia Hartge, “The People’s Epidemiologist,” Retires from DCEG

November 2013 - Linkage Newsletter

by Jennifer Loukissas, M.P.P.

After 36 years at NCI, Patricia Hartge, Sc.D., Deputy Director of DCEG’s Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program, retired at the end of the summer. Dr. Hartge is known internationally for her methodological contributions to epidemiology, from the first application of random-digit dialing in the 1970s to conducting genome-wide association studies (GWAS) today. During her tenure at NIH, she carried out pathbreaking research on ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma, and other malignancies.

“As a key member of the DCEG leadership, Trisha’s influence over the course and direction of our research agenda and training program yielded innumerable benefits to the health of the American public and the world,” said DCEG Director Stephen J. Chanock, M.D. “She is truly ‘the people’s epidemiologist.’”

From the establishment of DCEG as a Division, Dr. Hartge has been instrumental in the scientific management of its research programs, serving as the Deputy Director of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program since 1996. She is perhaps best known as the architect of international, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional consortia in cancer epidemiology, including InterLymph and the NCI Cohort Consortium.

When asked to reflect on Dr. Hartge’s career accomplishments, Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., founding Director of DCEG, remarked: “Trisha is not only a gifted epidemiologist and mentor but she is also a visionary leader. She is a most talented ambassador to the extramural community. It was her passion and commitment that set the foundation for the NCI Cohort Consortium.”

Robert T. Croyle, Ph.D., Director of the NCI Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, had this to say about Dr. Hartge: “Trisha has that ideal combination of diplomatic skills and scientific rigor. I relied on her sound advice and support, especially the key role she played in facilitating collaboration across our Divisions. Junior investigators owe her a great debt, as well, because her work behind the scenes always included concern for and advocacy on their behalf, even when that meant giving away an idea or an opportunity to lead an important publication.”

In the year leading up to her retirement, Dr. Hartge took on additional responsibilities, including chairing the DCEG Promotion and Tenure Review Panel. She took great pride in shepherding investigators through the NIH tenure review process.

“Trisha’s legacy to the Division is not only a robust infrastructure for future research, but also a burgeoning class of young and mid-career investigators,” said Lindsay M. Morton, Ph.D., a tenure-track investigator in DCEG’s Radiation Epidemiology Branch and one of Dr. Hartge’s mentees. “She is an irreplaceable mentor and champion to me and many others.”

Dr. Hartge received a B.A. in social studies from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a master’s in economics from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. After working for a few years as a health economist, she pursued a master’s and her doctorate in epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in Boston, Massachusetts. Her work at NCI on the landmark National Bladder Cancer Study was the basis of her doctoral research.

Dr. Hartge is the recipient of many prestigious awards recognizing her exceptional scientific contributions, including an NIH Merit Award for research on ovarian cancer, the Congress of Epidemiology Outstanding Scientist Award, the HSPH Alumni Award of Merit, and the Department of Health and Human Services Career Achievement Award. She also has been widely recognized for mentoring and has received the DCEG Exemplary Service and Outstanding Mentor awards, the NCI Women Scientist Advisors’ Achievement Award, the NIH Director’s Award for Mentoring as well as the American College of Epidemiology Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Hartge remains committed to DCEG.  Recently named as a Scientist Emerita by the NIH Scientific Directors, she plans to continue mentoring junior scientists and offering her expertise in the arena of study design for GWAS and other large-scale projects involving pooled data. 

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