Dr. Erin Kobetz is well-versed in the important role that cancer research plays in saving lives. As the vice provost of research at the University of Miami, she is responsible for overseeing research across the University, and plays a major role in communicating with both federal and private sectors. But what makes her most effective at her job is her uncanny ability to thread science through emotional human narratives.
Dr. Kobetz largely credits her personal experience for her professional success. As a cancer survivor, and director of Sylvester’s Firefighter Cancer Initiative, she is a powerful advocate for Florida’s courageous first responders. Through her team’s work, they have translated Sylvester’s scientific research into practical solutions to reduce firefighters’ exposure to dangerous carcinogens in the field.
Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Vice Provost for Research & Scholarship
Associate Director, Population Sciences and Cancer Disparity
Professor, Medicine and Public Health Sciences
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Not all cancer research is done in the laboratory. Dr. Kobetz and her team spend much of their time in the field, talking with firefighters and studying their cancer risks in order to develop lifesaving protocols. An expert field researcher, Dr. Kobetz has listened to firefighters and learned from their stories about their exposure to cancerous substances in smoke, soot, ash, and other residue.
Dr. Kobetz and her team have developed best practices for decontaminating fire vehicles, equipment, and personal protective gear after a fire. That way, firefighters don’t bring dangerous carcinogens back to the firehouse or home to their families.
The team has written a cancer-fighting curriculum that is distributed to rookie firefighters throughout Florida. Among its initiatives is helping to influence, and change, old fire service culture that promoted pride in soot-covered work gear.
One of the greatest accomplishments of the Firefighter Cancer Initiative was spearheading efforts to convince Congress to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create the National Firefighter Registry. The NFR will track and analyze cancer trends and risk factors among the U.S. fire service so that the public safety community, researchers, scientists, and medical professionals can find better ways to safeguard those who protect our communities and environment.Share this story