Dr. Russell Kirby adds ACE Board of Counselors to long list of professional appointments

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Dr. Russell Kirby, USF Distinguished Professor and Marrell Endowed Chair in the Department of Community and Family Health at the USF College of Public Health, has been elected to a three-year term on the Board of Counselors for the American College of Epidemiology, a professional organization that is different from most.

Russell Kirby, PhD, MS

Russell Kirby, PhD, MS

“It is a member organization,” Kirby explained, “but you don’t just join. You have to fill out a nomination form and be approved to become a member. It was created in the late 1970s at a time when epidemiologists who were not also MDs didn’t feel they were getting as much respect in health circles as they should.

“The College has three classes of members,” he said. “It has fellows, it has members, and it has associate members. The fellows are individuals who are deemed to have already made professional contributions to the field. It’s unusual for someone to become a fellow upon initially joining the College. You usually become a member, then after some period of time, as your career progresses, you can apply to become a fellow.

“The members, on the other hand, are individuals who have terminal advanced degrees in epidemiology, and then the associate members are individuals who typically have master’s degrees or are working on their doctorates but haven’t completed them yet.”

Kirby said he has been a member of ACE since 1993 and a fellow since 1996. All counselors serve three-year terms. Each may serve a second three-year term, but that’s the limit, Kirby said.

Among other functions, the board of counselors elects the organization’s president, secretary and treasurer.

Kirby said that while ACE is dwarfed by the Society for Epidemiologic Research, which publishes the field’s most widely read journal and holds its largest annual conference, ACE, with its more stringent membership guidelines, is more sought after as the profession’s representative to the world at large.

“ACE focuses more on epidemiology as a profession,” he said, “frequently representing the profession before Congress and in conversations with NIH and CDC.”

A colleague from ACE called Kirby and asked him to run for the board position, he said. If his curriculum vita is any indication, one thing Kirby may not be good at is turning down invitations to serve on boards, societies, associations and committees. Already with an overflowing plate of volunteer positions that includes the Independent Order of Foresters and the Unitarian Universalist Church, he chose to add one more to the list.

“I decided it was something I could do,” he said. “It’s not a huge amount of work in terms of meetings. They have a face-to-face meeting at their annual conference and a one- or two-day meeting mid-year, as well, and the rest is done by conference calls.

“No, it doesn’t pay anything,” he said with an amiable chuckle. “In fact, I have to come up with the funding to go to the traditional meetings, but it’s something to do for the profession.”

And Kirby is certainly no stranger to volunteering his weighty and far-reaching expertise for the profession, in addition to the March of Dimes and numerous other causes.

One requirement of being on the ACE Board of Counselors, Kirby said, is to serve on a committee. He asked to serve on the finance committee, having had previous experience as treasurer of two foundations. One was the Perinatal Foundation, of which he remains a board member.

He previously had served on the ACE publications committee, which oversees the organization’s monthly newsletter and selects the year’s best paper for an award at the annual conference, but thought he might get more involved with another aspect of the organization, and with good reason.

A one-man embodiment of the limitless interdisciplinary reach of public health, Kirby is a reviewer, editor, co-editor or editorial board member for more than 50 publications in epidemiology, teratology, reproductive biology, behavioral science, obstetrics, obesity, pediatrics and myriad others. He has been a reviewer for the New England Journal of Medicine since last year.

He also is a professor in two departments in the Morsani College of Medicine, the child and family studies department at the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, and the epidemiology and biostatistics department at COPH, all in addition to his distinguished professorship and endowed chair in community and family health.

As if all that weren’t enough, he’s slated to chair the Congress of Epidemiology for the Americas in 2016.

“Just more work,” he said with a grin.

Story by David Brothers, College of Public Health. Photo by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications.