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Environmental Factor, October 2012

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Woychik addresses environmental epidemiologists at 24th ISEE

By Ed Kang

NIEHS Deputy Director Richard Woychik, Ph.D.

“There’s a part for each one of you [in the strategic plan],” Woychik said to the gathering of about 700, representing the epidemiology, exposure assessment, toxicology, biochemistry, and biostatistics fields. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Bruce Lanphear, M.D., Gwen Collman, Ph.D., and Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D.

Collman, center, is pictured with 2012 ISEE award winners and NIEHS grantees, Lanphear, left, and Eskenazi. DERT was well represented at this year’s meeting, with Collman leading the planning activities as co-chair of the ISEE Scientific Program Committee. (Photo courtesy of Ed Kang)

At the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) conference Aug. 26-30, NIEHS Deputy Director Richard Woychik, Ph.D., framed a future for environmental epidemiology, in light of the newly released NIEHS strategic plan. His plenary presentation, “Planning the Future: Strategic Directions for NIEHS and the Environmental Health Sciences Community,” outlined critical linkages between the future of NIEHS and the role of the environmental health researchers who were gathered in Columbia, S.C., to hear the latest in exposure assessment, methodologies, and gene-environment interactions.

Woychik’s keynote speech addressed not only interdisciplinary and international research, but also emerging global environmental health issues. “NIEHS will prioritize and assign resources and funding to make this plan come alive,” he said.

His keynote presentation was part of a substantial NIEHS presence at the meeting. In addition to Woychik, conference attendees were also able to hear from numerous NIEHS extramural program administrators, grantees, and intramural scientists.

According to NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) Director Gwen Collman, Ph.D., "The meeting gave NIEHS scientists and grantees extraordinary opportunities for networking and exploring international and cross-disciplinary partnerships."

Representatives from the extramural division led several important seminars. Collman was a key speaker on multiple panels addressing data sharing initiatives and concerns, while Health Scientist Administrator Caroline Dilworth, Ph.D., who co-directs the extramural environmental epidemiology program, helped provide guidance to new and rising researchers on how to navigate the NIH funding system. Claudia Thompson, Ph.D., Susceptibility and Population Health Branch chief, brought her expertise on community-based participatory research to several discussions on science and policy best practices.

NIEHS Epidemiology Branch Chief, Dale Sandler, Ph.D., led several discussions on research in the context of environmental disasters, using the Gulf oil spill research efforts as a framework.

NIEHS grantees take top honors

Two high-profile NIEHS grantees were awarded top honors for their outstanding and sustained efforts in the field. Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D., from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health received the John Goldsmith Award for Outstanding Contributions to Environmental Epidemiology. Additionally, Bruce Lanphear, M.D., is this year’s ISEE Research Integrity Award winner. Lanphear is a clinician-scientist at the Child and Family Research Institute at British Columbia Children’s Hospital and a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

NIEHS provided financial sponsorship for the meeting, which drew researchers from around the world to an extensive program cleverly organized around themes of land, sea, and air. Next year’s conference will focus on the group’s quarter-century milestone and will be held in Basel, Switzerland.

(Ed Kang is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)

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