Ezemenari Obasi, Ph.D., appointed Wayne State University's next vice president for research
DETROIT – Wayne State University has appointed Ezemenari Obasi, Ph.D., as its new vice president for research, President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D., announced this week. Dr. Obasi, set to start on Feb. 1 pending final approval from the Board of Governors at its Jan. 31 meeting, is transitioning from a pivotal role at the University of Houston.
At the University of Houston, Dr. Obasi currently serves as the associate vice president for research administration, and previously served as an associate dean for research and as a department chair. Notably, he is the founder and director of the university’s HEALTH Research Institute, which was established in 2016 and has become one of the top-ranked institutes at the university in terms of research proposals, awards and expenditures. Under his guidance, the institute established the NIH/NIMHD-funded U54-RCMI Center for Addictions Research and Cancer Prevention and made profound strides in health equity initiatives, especially within Black and Latino/a communities.
A key figure in advancing the University of Houston's health and medical sciences, Dr. Obasi led team science initiatives that advanced novel interdisciplinary collaborations aimed at addressing urgent societal challenges, built infrastructures to support community-based translational research and crafted innovative strategies that enhanced the university's research capabilities. In the College of Education, he developed transformational research policies that incentivized grant productivity and grant development programming, streamlined grant administration, and fostered consultation services, leading to a 2.5-fold increase in federal research funding.
“Dr. Obasi brings a wealth of experience as a faculty leader at the unit, college and university levels, and has an impressive track record of success in health research addressing disparities in urban communities,” President Espy stated. “His work to bring together faculty in transdisciplinary teams to address national priorities across campus, as well as through external partnerships, will advance our capabilities and competitiveness for new research growth. In his current role, he has promoted the growth of sponsored research at the University of Houston, and the university has doubled its expenditures and improved its institutional rank from #140 to #113 over the last decade. This success will prepare him well to achieve the goals set out in our strategic plan.”
Prior to his appointment at the University of Houston, Dr. Obasi was a researcher and faculty member at the University of Georgia, where he was promoted and tenured. He received his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and completed his clinical internship at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital.
Dr. Obasi's research, which has attracted more than $35 million in grants, including $19 million as the primary investigator, focuses on advancing health equity science and the neurobiology of stress. This expertise aligns seamlessly with Wayne State’s mission, particularly as the university expands its commitment to public health research and education.
“Dr. Obasi's expertise is well aligned with Wayne State's mission and will serve us well as we expand our commitment to public health research and education,” said Acting Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Laurie Lauzon Clabo.
Dr. Obasi said he is eager to begin work in Detroit.
“Wayne State is a fantastic institution, and I’m impressed by the research that is already a collective impact on its local community,” he said. “I’m excited about how we can further this research and continue to contribute to the thriving of Detroit and the state of Michigan.”
President Espy thanked Dr. Timothy Stemmler for his work as interim vice president for research. During his time in the position, Stemmler helped realign and stabilize Wayne State’s research administration and infrastructure, including securing final approval for two transdisciplinary centers, the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases and the Ben L. Silberstein Institute for Brain Health. President Espy also highlighted Stemmler’s collaboration with General Counsel Mike Poterala on Wayne State’s tech transfer review, which she said set the stage for future success in tech commercialization and increased industry engagement that will be mutually beneficial to both Wayne State and the city of Detroit.
“I am deeply grateful for his service and leadership in this position,” she said.
The search for a new vice president of research included the participation of individuals from throughout the Wayne State community. President Espy thanked the members of the search advisory committee for their outstanding work, and those who took time to participate in open forums and discussion sessions, as well as Acting Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Laurie Lauzon Clabo for leading the search to a successful conclusion.
“We are eager to welcome Dr. Obasi to Wayne State University,” said President Espy. “His arrival marks an exciting new chapter for our research community, and I am confident in the growth and innovation he will bring to our institution for years ahead."
Director, Research Communications