Robert Califf sitting at a desk cover with papers
Centennial Spotlights

Robert Califf

An internationally recognized expert in cardiovascular medicine, health outcomes research, health care quality, and clinical research, Dr. Robert Califf now heads the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s not an unfamiliar job. He also served as FDA commissioner from February 2016 to January 2017.

Califf’s ties to Duke University date back to the early 1970s when he graduated summa cum laude and went on to earn his medical degree at Duke as well. He left North Carolina to complete his residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco but returned to complete a fellowship in cardiology at Duke.

Aside from his time in California, Califf spent his entire career as a cardiologist, researcher and senior leader at Duke until leaving in 2015 to assume the posts of deputy commissioner and then commissioner at the FDA.

While at Duke, Califf obtained a global reputation as an innovative and highly knowledgeable expert in clinical trials, especially large, complex, and logistically challenging international ones.

His passion for clinical data and patient outcomes led to the creation of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, (DCRI), one of the world’s leading academic clinical research organizations. As the founding director of the DCRI, Califf oversaw and often led many clinical trials in cardiology and other specialties.

He left his leadership post at the DCRI in 2006 and served as vice chancellor for clinical and translational research at Duke before moving to the FDA for the first time.

After leaving the FDA in early 2017, Califf briefly came back to Duke to create and lead Duke Forge, a university center for health data science. In 2019, he became a senior adviser at Verily Life Sciences, a Google-affiliated company focused on health data. He stepped down after assuming the FDA position.