A Tribute to Dr. Philip C. Nasca

by Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH

Dr. Philip C. Nasca, an editorial board member of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, sadly passed away on December 6, 2019. He was the former dean of the University at Albany’s School of Public Health and professor of epidemiology. Prior to assuming his position in Albany, Dr. Nasca was a professor of epidemiology, chair of the department of biostatistics and epidemiology, and associate dean for Graduate Academic Affairs in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences. He also previously served as associate dean for research in the School of Nursing as well as a member of the Governor’s Public Health Council for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and co-chair of the SUNY Chancellor’s Task Force on “SUNY and a Healthier New York.”

Dr. Nasca’s expertise was on the epidemiology of cancer with an emphasis on cancers of the breast, ovary, reproductive organs, and childhood tumors. His research interests also included the use of routinely collected data from population-based cancer registries and vital records systems for prevention and control of cancer and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

He served as a member of numerous grant review boards for national agencies, including study section and ad hoc review committees of the National Cancer Institute and review panels of the American Cancer Society. Prior to his work at the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Nasca worked as a senior research scientist with the New York State Department of Health where he held a number of positions, including the director of the Bureau of Cancer Epidemiology. In addition to serving on the editorial board of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, he was also a board member of the Annals of Epidemiology. He was a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology and served as president of the college from 1995-1996. He was also a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and was the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships and the New York State Medical Society Medal for scientific writing.

He joined the board of JPHMP in 1995, serving as both an expert on cancer-related articles undergoing peer review and as guest editor of the Journal’s first international supplement in 2018: Public Health in Vietnam, a special issue he co-edited with Dr. Hoang Van Minh at the Center for Population Health Sciences at Hanoi University of Public Health. 

In the spring 1995 issue of JPHMP, Dr. Nasca advocated for critical ongoing surveillance systems, writing:

“It is vitally important to maintain adequate levels of support for existing data systems such as vital records, hospital discharge, and disease reporting systems, and ongoing behavioral risk factor surveys. As health dollars become scarce, it is all too tempting to eliminate or seriously reduce funding for critical surveillance systems. The continual waxing and waning of support for population-based tumor registries is a prime example. The Congress’ recent funding of the National Cancer Registries Act is encouraging, and should provide support for the enhancement of existing cancer registries and funding to develop new systems in states where they do not currently exist.”

Dr. Nasca was the author of important books, including The Fundamentals of Cancer Epidemiology,  Cancer: Epidemiology and Prevention, and co-editor, along with Colleen C. Mclaughlan, of Epidemiology of Childhood Cancers. As a dean and professor, he encouraged his students to seek internships and travel abroad, which was one of his many interests and hobbies, along with fishing, bird-watching, and coin-collecting.

He is remembered by his friends and colleagues at the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice as a dedicated public health leader, researcher, and educator who will be greatly missed.

Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Public Health at the Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University. Previously, he was chair of this Department. He has served as the Commissioner of Health and Secretary for Human Services of Vermont, Director of Health Services for Arizona, and Director of the Office of Public Health for New York State. Previous academic positions include Professor and Director of the Preventive Medicine Program for SUNY Upstate Medical University, Professor and Chair of Epidemiology at the University of Albany School of Public Health, and Clinical Professor and Director of the Teaching Program in Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Vermont, College of Medicine. [Full bio]

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