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Robert Craft Millikan ’79

Robert Craft Millikan ’79, October 7, 2012, in Carrboro, North Carolina. Robert was at Reed for two years before transferring to UC Davis, where he earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Following an internship at the University of Pennsylvania, he opened a private veterinary practice. Two years later, he entered the field of molecular biology through a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. He then earned a PhD in epidemiology from UCLA and joined the epidemiology faculty at the University of North Carolina in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. In 2006, Robert was awarded a grant from the CDC to create a Center for Genomics and Public Health at UNC, focusing on genetic susceptibility to cancer with the outcome of creating programs to reduce cancer risk. “Dr. Millikan and his colleagues conducted three waves of this country’s groundbreaking longitudinal study of breast cancer in African American and Caucasian women,” said Shelley Earp, MD, director of UNC Lineberger. “Through the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, he sought to understand the complex reasons for poor breast cancer outcomes in African American women. His seminal findings, published in 100 papers, have changed the face of breast cancer disparities research.” In 2008, Robert was appointed Barbara Sorenson Hulka Distinguished Professor in Cancer Epidemiology. “Dr. Millikan had a major impact on the field of cancer and molecular epidemiology,” said UNC professor Andy Olshan, chair of the epidemiology department. “His innovations led the field and created opportunities for countless epidemiology and other public health students. The department has lost not only a great scientist and teacher but a wonderful friend and colleague.” In 2011, Robert won a $19 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for an ambitious study of breast cancer in African American women. “Dr. Millikan had remarkable breadth in his approach to disease and the health of the public,” said Barbara Rimer, dean of the UNC public health school. “His encyclopedic knowledge of epidemiology, breast cancer, and melanoma were fully matched by his compassion for and understanding of all aspects of health disparities. The nation has lost a brilliant, humane public health leader.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2013

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