New Friedman School Dean

Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and public health researcher, calls nutrition “the greatest global priority” for the next two decades
Dariush Mozaffarian
“This is nutrition’s time, and the Friedman School, in combination with all of Tufts’ nutrition efforts, makes Tufts a powerful place to study not only nutrition but policy,” says Dariush Mozaffarian. Photo: Kent Dayton
May 13, 2014

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Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist whose research has illuminated the connections between lifestyle and heart disease and informed nutrition policy internationally, has been appointed dean of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, the only graduate school of nutrition in the United States. He will assume the post on July 1.

Mozaffarian is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), where he is co-founder and co-director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology. He is also an associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Mozaffarian says he is excited to lead a school that recognizes nutrition as “the greatest global priority for the next 20 years” in light of its impact on health, disability and environmental costs.

“This is nutrition’s time, and the Friedman School, in combination with all of Tufts’ nutrition efforts—such as those at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA), the medical school, the dental school and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine—makes Tufts a powerful place to study not only nutrition but policy,” he says.

In announcing the appointment, Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris describes Mozaffarian as a perfect fit for Tufts. “His work is a blend of nutrition science and policy in the U.S. and internationally. His research expertise, professional and personal experiences and perspectives make him uniquely qualified to lead the Friedman School and to be a university-wide leader in the area of nutrition,” he says.

The director of the HNRCA, Simin Nikbin Meydani, agrees: “He is a world-class scholar, a visionary and someone whom I look forward to partnering with to take nutrition at Tufts to the next level.”

William A. Masters, professor and chair of the Department of Food and Nutrition Policy at the Friedman School and a member of the dean search committee, says Mozaffarian will be a great leader.

“He has a clear vision for the Friedman School, for nutrition at Tufts and for how our research, education and outreach efforts can nourish the world,” he says. “His ambitions match our own. Our students, faculty, staff and partners around the world will benefit hugely from his leadership as we enter the next phase of the Friedman School’s growth and development.”

He adds, “His track record of bold, high-impact research has shown why doing the best possible science is so important.”

Mozaffarian has written or co-written more than 200 scientific articles on the diet and lifestyle factors that contribute to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death worldwide, as well as on diabetes and cognitive decline.

Throughout his career, he has used scientific evidence to inform nutrition policy, noting that providing basic nutrition advice to people, and relying on personal responsibility, hasn’t been enough to improve public health. More recently, he has been collecting robust, quantitative evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of various nutrition policy approaches.  

“There is a gap between what the policymakers are doing and what the nutrition scientists know we should target,” he says. “And to bring all that together is probably the most important task for health. We know enough now to have clear sets of dietary priorities and to know which policies we need to enact.”

Christina Economos, the New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition at the Friedman School, director of ChildObesity180 and another member of the dean search committee, says Mozaffarian has established critical connections between nutrition science and policy. “He brings expertise, enthusiasm and strong leadership to steer the Friedman School into a new era of discovery, training and global impact,” she says.

Mozaffarian’s interests, like those of the Friedman School, are worldwide. As chair of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group, he led an international team looking at issues of diet and chronic disease, including the first analysis of sodium intake of populations worldwide. They found that sodium intakes exceed recommended levels in almost all countries.

Mozaffarian has served on numerous committees and advisory boards for national and international organizations, including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. A fellow of the American Heart Association, he was a member of the association’s task forces on reducing trans fats and sodium and was key in writing its 2020 strategic impact goals.

He received a B.S. in biological sciences from Stanford University, an M.P.H. from the University of Washington, an M.D. from Columbia University and a doctorate in epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. He joined the HSPH faculty in 2006, eventually co-founding the school’s Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology. From 2004 to 2007, he was an adjunct faculty member in what is now the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

He is board-certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular medicine and is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

His wife, Rebecca Mozaffarian, N06, MPH06, earned a master’s in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition from the Friedman School and an M.P.H. from Tufts School of Medicine.

Mozaffarian is the fourth dean of the Friedman School, which was founded in 1981. He will succeed interim dean Robin Kanarek, the John Wade Professor of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences and an adjunct professor at the Friedman School. Kanarek, a Tufts faculty member since 1977, also served as the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 2002 to 2007.

Julie Flaherty can be reached at julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.