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Collman Honored by UNC

By Eddy Ball
May 2010

Gwen Collman, Ph.D.
Collman, above, is a long-time advocate of environmental justice and community-based participatory research. Under her leadership, DERT is entering the first phase of its new Partnerships for Environmental Public Health initiative - an umbrella program for advancing the impact of environmental public health research at local, regional, and national levels. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Herman Alfred (Al) Tyroler, M.D.
During his long career at UNC, Tyroler received many honors for his influential studies in the areas of cardiovascular disease, genetic epidemiology, minority health, women's health and international health. (Photo courtesy of UNC-CH)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) recently conferred its distinguished alumni award on one of the top scientists at NIEHS - Gwen Collman, Ph.D., acting director of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT).

The UNC-CH Epidemiology Chapter of the General Alumni Association formally presented Collman with the 2009 H.A. Tyroler Distinguished Alumni Award at her keynote presentation on "Community Engagement in Environmental Epidemiology" on April 28 at the UNC-CH School of Social Work.

An award from fellow alumni

In a letter to Collman announcing the award, UNC Epidemiology Alumni Association President Aaron Fleischauer, Ph.D., wrote, " Your nominators highlighted your contributions as a scientist and administrator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in developing and advancing the field of environmental and genetic determinants of chronic disease."

"From basic science to applied public health, mentorship of junior scientists, and advancement of extramural research and training programs, you have embodied the spirit of this distinguished award during your illustrious career," Fleischauer continued. "We, as fellow alumni, are proud to be bonded to you through our University."

Remembering an outstanding scientist and teacher

The award is a memorial to the late Herman Alfred (Al) Tyroler, M.D., Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health, who died in 2007. The award honors Al Tyroler's life-long dedication to teaching and mentoring and four decades teaching and mentoring at UNC. Each spring the Epidemiology Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of an alumna or alumnus for outstanding career contributions in specific areas of epidemiology during the prior year.

The award is especially meaningful for Collman, who worked with Tyroler from 1979 to 1981 when she came to UNC as part of the Lipids Clinics Program coordinating center.

A stellar career at NIEHS

Collman joined NIEHS as an epidemiologist in the Institute's Epidemiology Branch, following completion of her doctorate in Environmental Epidemiology at the UNC-CH School of Public Health in 1984. In 1992, she moved to DERT as a scientific program administrator overseeing grants for breast cancer research, environmental and molecular epidemiology, and children's health and disease prevention.

In 2003, Collman became chief of the DERT Susceptibility and Population Health Branch, a post she held until being named acting director of the division in 2008. She has been recognized many times for her work and has to her credit an impressive list of NIH Merit and Directors Awards and other honors, scientific and policy publications, and presentations to a wide variety of audiences.

Previous Tyroler awardees were Ed Wagner, M.D., a senior investigator in the Center for Health Studies of the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Wash., as well as director of The W.A. MacColl Institute for Healthcare Innovation, for 2007; and Louise A. Brinton, Ph.D., chief of the NCI Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch, for 2008.

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