Skip Navigation
Return to NIEHS | Current Issue
Increase text size Decrease text size

NIEHS Center Intern Recognized by EPA Head

By Eddy Ball
November 2009

Otana Jakpor
Shown working on her latest mapping project, Jakpor is a part of the SCEHSC community outreach program directed by USC Associate Professor of Clinical Preventive Medicine Andrea Hricko( Exit NIEHS. SCEHSC is directed by Principal Investigator Frank Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS (Photo courtesy of SCEHSC)

Lisa Jackson and Otana Jakpor
Following her talk, Jackson posed with Jakpor. Referring to new EPA measures on greenhouse gases and efforts to work with Congress to "build a strong climate bill," Jackson assured the audience, "The journey [to a greener America] is now underway."
(Photo courtesy of EPA)

Lisa Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jackson and Schwarzenegger shared the stage once again on October 1 at nearby Long Beach as she announced $26.5 million in funding for diesel emission reduction projects in Southern California under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Jackson praised California and its governor for leadership in the area of environmental health.
(Photo courtesy of EPA)

Fifteen-year-old NIEHS-supported center intern Otana Jakpor enjoyed the latest boost in her burgeoning career in the environmental health sciences on September 30 when she received special recognition from Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), during Jackson's visit to Los Angeles. Jakpor is affiliated with the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (SCEHSC)( Exit NIEHS at the University of Southern California (USC) Keck School of Medicine.

Jakpor was part of an audience of more than 2,000 international attendees and dignitaries at the three-day Governors' Global Climate Summit 2: On the Road to Copenhagen, as Jackson delivered a videocast keynote address( Exit NIEHS. Jackson pointed to new rules issued by EPA under her leadership to "put climate solutions into action" as this administration takes creative, responsible and aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Toward the end of her talk, Jackson made an appeal on behalf of "generations yet to come" and singled out Jakpor for "her extraordinary work [that] helped to move California to pass [stronger] legislation on clean air."

At Jackson's request, Jakpor stood, and the audience gave her a vigorous round of applause. Moving to the end of her address, Jackson used the intern's advocacy of clean air to challenge her audience. "She is an extraordinary young woman [who] has done her part," Jackson said. "Now it's time to do our part."

On the opening day of the summit, Jackson shared the stage with keynote speakers California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Harrison Ford. Among the other distinguished scientists and political figures at the historical event were Former Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, and Rajendra Pachauri, Ph.D., Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former North Carolina State University professor. Blair and Pachauri joined Schwarzenegger for a "Very Special Conversation"( Exit NIEHS about the challenge and promise of the upcoming the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

With her remarks about Jakpor, Jackson joined an impressive list of officials at EPA, scientific groups and elsewhere - including former President George W. Bush - who have acknowledged the young woman's contributions to environmental health. She first came to public attention at age 13, and since then, has continued to win recognition and awards for her work (see text box).

In the years to come, state and federal regulatory agencies will no doubt hear much more from the young scientist, who was first inspired by the difficulties her mother, obstetrician Karen Jakpor, faced with severe chronic asthma. As Jakpor digs deeper into the health effects of air pollution, she is sure to bring additional evidence to support her scientific and humanitarian crusade for stronger efforts to ensure people have cleaner air to breathe everywhere - in their homes, schools and offices as well as outdoors.

One Teenager's Personal "Road to Copenhagen"

When SCEHSC epidemiologists first encountered Jakpor, the Riverside, Calif. high-school junior was presenting her research findings at the May 2009 meeting of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) in San Diego. They immediately recognized a talented young scientist they wanted to help nurture.

At the same ATS meeting, Jakpor also caught the attention of representatives of the American Lung Association. She is currently a volunteer spokeswoman for the American Lung Association in California - Inland Counties chapter as well as a USC intern.

Jakpor first came to the public's attention in 2007 during a California Air Resources Board meeting, where she spoke as an advocate for people with asthma exacerbated by poor air quality. Since then she has articulated her concerns at conferences and federal hearings - consistently winning over audiences with her insightful statements, professionalism and persistence.

In the past few years, Jakpor has won science fairs, received awards from the Discovery Channel( Exit NIEHS and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, been honored by the Environmental Protection Agency with a 2007 President's Environmental Youth Award, and earned recognition from members of Congress and President George W. Bush in 2008 for her research into the effects of ozone-producing air purifiers on lung function. Earlier this year, Jakpor received a first-place Action For Nature 2009 International Young Eco-Hero Award Exit NIEHS.

During her internship at the USC NIEHS Center, the aspiring environmental health scientist has worked on projects mapping demographic issues around rail yards and exploring environmental justice issues that arise when schools are planned near sources of air pollution generated by highway, ship and rail traffic. She has also developed an interest in the health effects of water pollution.

The future looks bright for Jakpor. She skipped a grade at Riverside's Woodcrest Christian High School and is now starting to apply to colleges. She already has the ATS conference presentations( Exit NIEHS to her credit and a paper accepted for publication.

Jakpor may not be able to attend this year's conference in Copenhagen, but her friends and colleagues probably won't be too surprised if her research takes her deeper into the issues surrounding global climate change - and the important co-benefits for respiratory health that could come from decreasing the accumulation of greenhouse gases worldwide.

"WETP Grantees Look at Global Issues in ......" - previous story Previous story Next story next story - "Superfund Announces Wetterhahm ......"
November 2009 Cover Page

Back to top Back to top