Rosebud Roberts, 90MS, is a highly regarded scientist whose pioneering research in the field of dementia and mild cognitive impairment could benefit millions worldwide who suffer from such conditions.
The professor of epidemiology and neurology and chair of the division of epidemiology has spent more than 20 years at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, but she began her career far from there, in her home country of Ghana. She earned a medical degree from the University of Ghana Medical School in 1982 and then completed a master’s degree in preventive medicine and environmental health in 1990 at the University of Iowa.
Roberts’ work has had a profound impact on clinical care and national decision-making related to aging and cognitive impairment. She studies how specific diseases—such as diabetes, hypertension, smoking, heart disease, and high cholesterol—and dietary habits might affect the risks of developing mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
“Anything that is worth doing is worth doing well,” she says. “I’m driven by a desire for my research to make a difference in people's lives.”
A highly published scholar and dedicated mentor, Roberts has been author or co-author of more than 160 peer-reviewed publications and has influenced the careers of numerous graduate students, research and clinical fellows, and junior faculty. She has served as a reviewer for several medical journals and has presented at dozens of national and international meetings. In addition, she has served on study sections of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, as a member of the American Academy of Neurology Science Committee, and as associate editor of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Colleague and fellow physician Ronald Petersen has worked with Roberts since 2004, when she joined the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging as its epidemiologist. He says that “she was instrumental in the design of the study protocols, and her continued involvement has been crucial to the overall success of the study. Her work is highly respected and frequently cited by investigators in the field.”
Such impressive contributions have earned Roberts recognition throughout her career. In 1981, she received the University of Ghana Medical School Award for an elective in internal medicine at the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. She was the recipient of the Kellogg Fellowship at the UI in 1989, and in 2015, she received the UI College of Public Health’s Outstanding Alumni Award and also was inducted into the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health.
Beyond such professional accolades, Roberts also is an active member of her local community. She acted as a Rochester, Minnesota, facilitator for the American Anthropological Association’s project RACE: Are We So Different? and routinely presents her own research to seniors in the area.
“[Roberts’] humility and scholarly attitude make her a role model for all of us,” says Peterson. “She is a prime example of the type of scholar one expects from the University of Iowa.”
From Ghana to the Midwest, Rosebud Roberts has found meaningful ways to enhance medical scholarship, and she continues to conduct first-rate research that can dramatically improve people’s lives.
Roberts is a member of the UI Alumni Association’s Old Capitol Club.