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Rogan to Head Epidemiology Group

By Eddy Ball
May 2010

Walter Rogan, M.D.
A retired Public Health Service officer, Rogan, above, has enjoyed a productive career at NIEHS since joining the Institute as a staff associate in 1976. He has accumulated an impressive list of honors and accolades for his research and published more than 100 articles and chapters. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A photo of the AES symbol - a preserved section of the old wooden pipes crafted from hollow tree-trunks that had carried London's drinking water since the Middle Ages
Although Rogan is an athletic legend of sorts around NIEHS - the annual "Rogathon" running competition is named for him - he probably won't be carrying around the AES symbol as he serves as its keeper. (Photo courtesy of AES)

The prestigious American Epidemiological Society (AES) recently announced the election of NIEHS epidemiologist Walter Rogan, M.D., as its next president. Rogan is a principal investigator who heads the NIEHS Pediatric Epidemiology Group. At the Society meeting in 2011, he will succeed sitting president David Morens, M.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

During the 83rd annual meeting of AES( Exit NIEHS in Baltimore, March 25-26, where members voted for their new president, Rogan presented findings from a paper, "Soy Infant Formula and Early Menarche: A Test of the Endocrine Disrupter Hypothesis," co-authored by doctoral student Margaret Adgent and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Associate Professor Julie Daniels, Ph.D.( Exit NIEHS

Rogan's current work includes the Study of Estrogen Activity and Development (SEAD) and the Infant Feeding and Early Development (IFED) study. SEAD was a series of pilot investigations that established methods characterizing the effects of exogenous estrogens on infants using soy formula, which contains plant estrogens, as a model exposure. The IFED study uses those methods to follow 600 infants over their first year with careful measurement of estrogen effects. IFED will be conducted in collaboration with pediatricians at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

AES and the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch

According to NIEHS Epidemiology Branch Chief Dale Sandler, Ph.D., the AES( Exit NIEHS was established in 1927 by scientists affiliated with the Center for Disease Control and the Epidemic Intelligence Service to provide a scientific forum for senior epidemiologists. "Early members were leading experts in infectious disease epidemiology and vaccine trials," she said.

Since then, like the field of epidemiology itself, the organization has broadened its scope to include epidemiologists like Rogan - a member since 1990 - whose focus is on chronic diseases, genetics, environment, biostatistics, and other concerns beyond the scope of infectious disease and vaccination. Calling Rogan's election "a mark of distinction in the field of epidemiology," Sandler explained, "Membership in AES is by nomination, and selection is based on scientific contributions and stature."

Along with Rogan, several NIEHS epidemiologists are members. They include Sandler, Principal Investigator Donna Baird, Ph.D., a new member of AES, and Senior Investigator Allen Wilcox, M.D., Ph.D., a former president of the society. NIEHS Biostatistics Branch Chief Clarice Weinberg, Ph.D.(, is also a member.

A presidential tradition at AES

As president, Rogan will engage in one of the society's noteworthy traditions. During his term, he will serve as keeper of the AES symbol - a preserved section of the old wooden pipes crafted from hollow tree-trunks that had carried London's drinking water since the Middle Ages (see photo).

The city replaced the wooden trunks with iron pipes in the aftermath of one of epidemiology's legendary public health achievements during the mid-19th century - when physician John Snow implicated the city's water system in the outbreak of a cholera epidemic. In 1967, London's Wellcome Historical Medical Museum presented the section of wooden pipe to AES as an historic symbol of the society's scientific and social purpose.

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