Roger Detels joined the UCLA faculty in 1970 as an associate professor in what is now UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health. "When I got here, there was only one faculty member in epidemiology, and he promptly retired upon my arrival," Detels said, laughing. As a young professor, Detels quickly learned how to teach courses and set about recruiting new colleagues and expanding the department, which today has approximately 40 faculty, including in-residence and adjunct appointments.
In 1981, Detels started a study of AIDS in young homosexual men in Los Angeles and, in 1983, he formed a collaborative study with centers at three other institutions: Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins. This study, known as the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), is still going strong some 30 years later.
Besides currently serving as adviser to 15-20 doctoral students, teaching two graduate courses and an introductory public health course for 280 undergraduates, and delivering guest lectures, Detels is also senior editor of the recently published book, "Public Health in East and Southeast Asia: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century" (UC Press, 2012).
Of the honor, Detels said that he was thankful to UCLA for giving him the opportunity and the support to conduct his research.
"A lot of [thanks] goes to my fellow faculty and my students. One of the things I've tried to teach students — and this is particularly difficult with students from Asia — is to tell me I'm crazy," said Detels, who encourages them to argue or question research on a collegial basis. "I'm reasonably successful. They don't let me get away with anything; they ask me questions and they demand an explanation."
This give-and-take, Detels said, has resulted in a circle of colleagues in the medical school and in the school of public health and epidemiology "who are constantly contributing ideas or arguing with ideas. I can have bull sessions with them. That is the way research advances, and it's a very exciting process."
"You know, I'm 76 years old and I haven't retired. And the reason I haven't retired is because I revel in the collegiality and excitement of research and teaching."
From Wendy Soderburg, UCLA Today