David Hunter_43

Dean David Hunter

Acting Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention
Dean for Academic Affairs

Department of Epidemiology
Department of Nutrition
Office of the Dean

Kresge Building, Room 1005
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617.432.1026


As Dean for Academic Affairs, I oversee the major academic operations of the School,
including Academic Affairs—inclusive of Faculty Affairs, Student Affairs, and Diversity and Inclusion, as managed by Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Michael Grusby; and Research Strategy and Development, as administrated by Senior Associate Dean for Research Francesca Dominici.

Faculty Affairs The Office of Faculty Affairs is responsible for all aspects of administration for faculty, research scientists, and annual appointments, as well as faculty searches and standing committees of the faculty.

Student Affairs The student body is an integral part of our community of scholars.Together, they are a rich global community, last year bringing together over 1,000 students from more than 70 countries supported by the Office of Student Affairs.

Diversity The School is strengthened by our diverse, cross-cultural community of students, faculty, and staff, who bring a multiplicity of voices and viewpoints to our shared endeavors. The School’s wide-ranging research, multidisciplinary education, and translation of knowledge on health affect individuals, communities, and nations around the world. This essential element of our global commitment is managed through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Research Administration The School has a large and comprehensive research portfolio, spanning the behavioral, population, and biological sciences. With research being conducted in nine academic departments and multiple University and School-wide research centers, our faculty receive funding from a wide range of federal and non-federal sources, managed through the Office of Research Strategy and Development (ORSD).


My principal research interests are the etiology of cancer, particularly breast, colorectal, and skin cancers, and prostate cancer in men. I am an investigator on the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-running cohort of 121,000 U.S. women, and was project director for the Nurses’ Health Study II, a cohort of 116,000 women followed since 1989. My focus is on genetic susceptibility to these cancers, and gene-environment interactions. This work was originally based in subcohorts of the Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study of approximately 33,000 women and 18,000 men who have given a blood sample that can be used for DNA analysis.

My teaching contributions have been mainly at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where I direct the Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics concentration in the Department of Epidemiology. From 1999 to 2005, I was Director of the Quantitative Methods Concentration of the Master of Public Health degree. Most recently, I have been Lead Instructor for Managing Epidemiologic Data, Studies in Molecular Epidemiology, and Molecular Epidemiology of Cancer.

Genetic Susceptibility to Cancer and other Chronic Diseases

The completion of the Human Genome Project and databases of population genetic variation presents the major challenge of determining how these genetic variants affect our health. Epidemiologists are responsible for assessing the proportion of specific diseases associated with particular genotypes, and how these genotypes interact with environmental and lifestyle factors in disease causation. Large, population-based cohort studies can be particularly helpful in studying these issues, and we are working with colleagues in the Nurses’ Health Studies, Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Physicians’ Health Study, to conduct nested cases-control studies of cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other phenotypes. With collaborators at the National Cancer Institute we have conducted genome-wide association studies of breast cancer and other cancers. These studies are discovering novel genetic variants associated with risk of these cancers, and multiple other phenotypes that have been collected in these studies. For instance, in 2007 we co-discovered the most common genetic variant associated with risk of breast cancer, and in subsequent years other variants associated with breast, prostate, and skin cancer, as well as other phenotypes such as age at menarche, hair color, and other biomarkers.

Cancer Consortia

To obtain the large sample sizes necessary, as well as to assess consistency of results across studies, we are members of large collaborative Consortia. I was until 2012 Co-Chair of the NCI Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium and Co-Director of the NCI Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS) Special Initiative.

HIV Research and Global Health

In the 1980s and 1990s, I collaborated with investigators in Kenya and Tanzania on early studies of HIV transmission, and subsequently collaborated on studies of nutritional aspects of AIDS progression and child survival. I am currently co-editing a Series of articles on Global Health being published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


ScD, 1988, Harvard School of Public Health
MPH, 1985, Harvard School of Public Health
MB, BS, 1982, University of Sydney Medical School