NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) Director William Suk, Ph.D., will depart in late December for a six-month stay in Thailand, thanks to a coveted Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award, sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Suk will serve as a Fulbright lecturer in international and public health in collaboration with Mahidol University and its Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI), both in Bangkok. The grant will allow him to pursue a broad environmental health agenda in the region.
Building on his experience
Suk said he is looking forward to continuing his environmental health work in Thailand and Southeast Asia, which he has often visited. “I’ve been working with folks in that region on arsenic exposure for a long time,” Suk said. Among his charges will be helping universities to develop programs similar to the SRP.
One such program is the Center of Excellence in Environmental Health and Toxicology, a collaborative effort of several organizations with Mahidol University taking the lead. “The center mirrors the SRP in bringing together diverse disciplines for education, training, and research,” he said.
Suk’s work in Thailand dates back to 2002, when he helped organize the first international conference on children’s environmental health. The event took place at the Chulabhorn Institute, named for founder Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol, Ph.D.
“We met when the princess gave a keynote address at the conference. She is a real advocate for children’s health,” said Suk. “This fellowship provides me the opportunity to fulfill my goal of returning to Thailand to work on children’s environmental health.”
An ambitious agenda
Suk is working closely with the CRI to set up an ambitious schedule of visits, talks, and conferences. “The overall premise is to work toward reducing exposures and improving peoples’ health,” he said. His plans include the following.
- Organizing a regional children’s environmental health workshop.
- Visits to Chiang Mai University, home to a CRI research center.
- Regular visits to Thailand’s Khon Kaen University, which collaborates with CRI.
- A talk at a Bangkok conference in late January on children’s environmental health and climate change.
- Arranging collaboration among American, European and Thai researchers.
Suk said he will look for every opportunity to study chronic kidney disease of unknown origin and harmful exposures from electronic waste, or e-waste. Several countries outside of Thailand have inquired about his availability.
“The whole idea, from an institute standpoint, whether you’re talking about the Chulabhorn or NIEHS, is to develop collaborations and increase communication,” said Suk. “I’m especially interested in working with young investigators there and putting them in touch with investigators in the U.S. and Europe to see if they can develop meaningful collaborations.”
“We are very excited that Bill has been selected to be a Fulbright scholar,” said Gwen Collman, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training. “He has so much knowledge and experience to share with faculty and students in many universities across Thailand. I’m sure he will encourage and inspire them to pursue research in the environmental health sciences.”
(John Yewell is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)