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Remembering Superfund Pioneer Dean Carter

By Eddy Ball
July 2010

Dean Carter, Ph.D.
Describing Carter, above, colleague Glenn Sipes, Ph.D., head of the department of pharmacology in the College of Medicine at UA, said, "He was a gentle man who had a remarkable career that enriched the lives of so many." (Photo courtesy of the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program)

Binational programs along the U.S.-Mexico border are helping people on both sides live healthier lives because of the efforts of pioneers such as toxicologist Dean Carter, Ph.D., who died May 21 at age 68 in Tucson, Ariz. Carter's initiative and leadership resulted in the establishment in 2003 of the NIEHS-funded U.S./Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Studies and Toxicology at the University of Arizona (UA), which has inspired and served as a model for programs in other border states.

As word spread of Carter's death from complications of Parkinson's disease, friends and colleagues at the university, NIEHS, and elsewhere remembered his monumental contributions to the science and translation of interdisciplinary research.

When he learned of Carter's death, NIEHS Superfund Basic Research Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., spoke of his friend and colleague of more than 20 years. "Thousands of people who will never know how Dean touched their lives are benefiting from his vision and hard work," Suk said.

"Binational programs like the one at UA use health science research to empower and inform people who often live in very difficult conditions to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of future generations," he continued. "Such programs take scientific research out the lab and into the communities where it can make a real difference in health, quality of life, and longevity."

A native of Michigan, Carter was a faculty member at UA from 1973 until 2007. He built an outstanding career in metals toxicology and established a research program at the UA that was continually funded by federal, state, foundation, and industrial sources. In 1992 he received the prestigious Education Award from the Society of Toxicology for his critical role in developing the toxicology program at UA. Carter also promoted interdisciplinary research and developed a unique outreach program for communities along the Arizona-Mexico border.

During his career at the university, his research resulted in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, along with 10 books or book chapters. The web-based toxicology textbook that he co-authored, Toxicologia Ambiental, receives more than 50,000 visits per month from Spanish-speaking countries. In 2008, Carter received the Achievement Award from the Metals Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology in recognition of his career accomplishments.

"More than 20 years later, Dean's legacy of interdisciplinary research continues," said A. Jay Gandolfi, Ph.D., associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Pharmacy at UA. "The University of Arizona Superfund Research Program was renewed until 2015 [by NIEHS] and involves investigators from five colleges. It is truly a model for interdisciplinary research."

Memorial services were held June 26 at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Tucson. Carter is survived by his wife, sister, daughter, and grandson.

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