David B. Burr
Indiana University can, in no small part, attribute the growth of its reputation as a world-class center of excellence in musculoskeletal biology to the distinguished accomplishments of David B. Burr, professor and former chair of anatomy and cell biology in the School of Medicine on the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis campus. Burr has had an exemplary career in research, teaching, and academic and professional service. The Ohio native has also become a pioneer—and is known as a world leader—in two broad areas of investigation: the significance of skeletal micro-damage to bone health and metabolism, and the adverse effects of current treatments for osteoporosis.
His work over the past 30 years has greatly influenced the understanding of how the body regulates bone remodeling, and this work has rewritten the book on what future scientists are taught about one of the most dynamic processes essential to good health. The results of Burr’s research have also changed how therapies are administered in the treatment of osteoporosis. Burr earned a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Colorado in 1977 and then took a faculty position in anatomy at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He would move to West Virginia University with joint appointments in anatomy and orthopedic surgery before joining IU at age 38 as the chair of the Department of Anatomy in the School of Medicine at IUPUI. His charge was to develop interdisciplinary research programs in skeletal biomechanics. “He has been immensely successful here, attracting over $16 million in extramural grant funding while helping to grow a multidisciplinary community of investigators, the strongest bone research group— unsurpassed in breadth and depth—of any institution in the United States,” colleagues Kathryn J. Jones and James A. McAteer write in their letter nominating Burr for promotion to distinguished professor.
Burr’s reputation for research is matched by his reputation for leadership in professional service. “David is a superb communicator who is able to articulate a vision for, and to translate the needs of, our association into a form and substance that is widely understood and embraced,” writes Richard Marchase, American Association of Anatomists fellow and interim president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “He is a relentless advocate for what is right, with the highest ethical standards and an unparalleled conscientiousness that results in consistently thoughtful decisions and plans that lead to action and success.” Burr’s dedication as a mentor is evidenced by letters of support from those who credit him with energizing and inspiring their careers. For example, Mark Forwood, chair of anatomy at Griffith University in Australia, writes, “It is entirely due to the opportunities provided in Burr’s laboratory, his example as a scientist, teacher, colleague, and friend that I feel confident to compete in the challenging career of science and academia. David Burr fosters an environment that is intellectually challenging and exceptionally conducive to learning. Almost without exception his students leave with a heightened sense of scientific curiosity and remain close colleagues and collaborators throughout their careers.”