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Environmental Factor, August 2015

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Wilcox named Mentor of the Year by pediatric epidemiology society

By Robin Arnette

Headshot of Allen Wilcox

Wilcox heads the Reproductive Epidemiology Group within the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS epidemiologist Allen Wilcox, M.D., Ph.D., was named 2015 Mentor of the Year by the Society for Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiologic Research (SPER). Wilcox accepted the award during the organization’s 28th annual meeting June 15-16 in Denver.

SPER was founded in 1988 with the objective of fostering epidemiologic research on pregnancy and children. Candidates for its Mentor of the Year serve as role models by demonstrating great communication skills, motivating their mentees to excel, and displaying high standards of scientific performance and integrity.

Wilcox has been a member of SPER since its founding and has been advising postdocs and students interested in the epidemiology of pregnancy, infancy, and childhood even longer. He said training young people to enter the field is nearly as important as the research itself, but he had to learn the nuances of mentoring on his own.

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"When I started as an epidemiologist, there were no postdoctoral fellowships — we were just thrown into the deep end," Wilcox said. "It took me a while to figure out how to be a mentor, but the rewards are fantastic. I learn as much as I teach."

One person who can attest to Wilcox’s mentoring skills is Anne Marie Jukic, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in his group. Jukic, who will join Yale University this year as an assistant professor, said she was well-positioned for a successful academic career as a result of his superb training. She and several other current and former postdocs nominated Wilcox for the award.

"Dr. Wilcox strikes a fine balance between encouraging independence and providing guidance," Jukic said. "I sincerely hope I can become the mentor he has been to me."

NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., echoed the SPER decision to choose Wilcox for this year’s award. "Allen Wilcox has been an outstanding mentor to countless numbers of students, postdocs, and faculty at NIEHS for several decades," Zeldin said. "This honor is long overdue and is a reflection of his firm commitment to supporting the careers of junior scientists."

The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, highlighted the award when it featured Wilcox as Tar Heel of the Week in its August 2 edition.

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