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Physician-Scientist Scores Top Seat with Jackson Heart Study

JACKSON — Dr. Adolfo Correa, a physician-scientist with a strong record of clinical care, population-based research and leadership, has been appointed director and principal investigator of the Jackson Heart Study (JHS), following a national search.

Correa was the unanimous choice of the chief executive officers of the study’s three participating institutions:  Jackson State University, Tougaloo College and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.  Their recommendation has been acknowledged by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provides funding support for the JHS.

“The NHLBI is confident in Dr. Adolfo Correa’s capacity to provide excellent leadership and stewardship over this important national study at this pivotal time in epidemiology and public health,” stated Dr. Gary H. Gibbons, director of NHLBI.  “Moreover, we look forward to continuing to work closely with Dr. Correa to advance an evidence-based elimination of health inequities in the US and around the world – beginning with the Jackson Heart Study.”

Supported by funding from the NIH since 2000, the JHS is renowned for its important scientific findings about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in African-Americans.  A population study that has followed the health of 5,000 participants, the study has produced a treasure trove of data that continues to yield insights into the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease.

“I see the position of director of the JHS as a unique challenge and an exciting opportunity to work on an important public health issue, using big data and collaborating with other major studies and researchers around the country and the American Heart Association.  The vision of the JHS from its inception has been to elucidate the reasons for the high burden of cardiovascular disease among African Americans.  Our task is now to make this vision a reality,” Correa said.

Correa joined the JHS as chief science officer in 2011 and has served as interim director since the departure of Dr. Herman Taylor in 2013.  He is a professor in the UMMC Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics.

Born in Mexico, Correa earned a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and master’s and medical degrees from University of California San Diego.  He also holds a master’s of public health and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.  He earned an MBA from the University of Georgia in 2010.

He completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and San Francisco General Hospital, including serving as chief resident.  He also completed a residency in general preventive medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.  He spent two years with the Centers for Disease Control’s Epidemic Intelligence Service.

Correa has held several scientific leadership positions with the CDC as well as academic appointments with Johns Hopkins.  He currently holds adjunct/associate faculty appointments with the schools of public health at Johns Hopkins and at Emory University.

Correa’s transition from interim director to director was effective December 21, 2015.

In 2013, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, each a part of the NIH, announced renewed funding for the study.

At about the same time, the American Heart Association announced a new collaborative research relationship intended to build a biobank of research data that bridges the Jackson Heart Study and the landmark Framingham Heart Study.  This venture has accelerated genomic investigations using the JHS and FHS databases.

“I have complete confidence in Dr. Correa’s ability to maximize the potential of the Jackson Heart Study to contribute to these exciting new opportunities to understand and ultimately prevent heart disease and to support the development of the next generation of medical scientists,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at UMMC.

JSU President Carolyn W. Meyers said, “Dr. Correa’s appointment underscores our commitment to ensure that the Jackson Heart Study continues the phenomenal work being done in the area of cardiovascular risk factors research. We are delighted by the leadership he has already demonstrated and are equally excited and energized about the opportunity to make a difference in health outcomes for minority populations for generations to come.”

“Tougaloo College fully supports Dr. Correa’s appointment. He is the consummate professional who brings a strong medical and scientific background to the Study. He has demonstrated commitment to the Jackson Heart Study, increasing productivity, and understanding of the importance of the study in helping to inform the social determinants that adversely impact a significant percentage of African Americans. He also supports our efforts to increase the pool of minorities in epidemiology and other health care professions,” said Dr. Beverly Hogan, president of Tougaloo College.

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