Dietz Appointed Chair of Pharmacology and Toxicology

David Dietz, PhD

David Dietz, PhD

Published September 10, 2018

David Dietz, PhD, associate professor, has been appointed chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, made the announcement.

Cain said Dietz has the best administrative, investigational, scientific, leadership, educational and visionary skills needed to move the department forward, expand its research programs and enhance the excellence of its graduate education and mentored research training programs, as well as create new degree programs in neuroscience.

Dietz earned his doctoral degree in neuroscience/psychology from Florida State University and subsequently was a postdoctoral fellow in the Friedman Brain Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

“Being named chair is a fantastic opportunity presented to me by Dr. Cain and the leadership of the medical school,” Dietz said. “I look forward to continuing the department’s excellence in research and in teaching.”

New Curriculum, Expanded Research Key Goals

As chair, Dietz said he is committed to developing new curriculum to attract graduate and undergraduate students to the Jacobs School.

“We need to be thinking about what the next generation of students desire from our pharmacology and toxicology programs,” he said. “I want to continue building new curriculum and new programs to recruit the best and brightest students.”

Dietz said he is also focused on building on the research profile of the department to sustain the successful pursuit of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies.

Focus on Treating Substance Abuse, Addiction

Dietz has a special research interest in the pharmacology of psychiatric disorders and drugs of abuse.

A faculty member since 2011 and interim chair of pharmacology and toxicology since December 2016, Dietz has developed a nationally and internationally recognized innovative research program focused on understanding how molecular and behavioral plasticity in the brain mediates how susceptible individuals are to drug abuse and relapse.

The work is geared toward developing novel pharmacotherapeutic approaches for treating substance abuse and addiction.

Studying Changes in Brain During Addiction

Noting that Dietz has published in Science, Nature Neuroscience, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and other high-impact journals, Cain said: “His work has moved the field.”

Currently the principal investigator on two NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse grants to study cocaine-induced changes in the brain during addiction, Dietz and his colleagues have used an innovative “molecules-to-behavior approach” to developing a comprehensive understanding of how drugs of abuse hijack the brain’s reward circuits, creating addiction. 

He also is beginning to look at the neurobiology of heroin addiction.

Dietz trains several postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in his lab, where they have received prestigious awards and independent funding.