I would like to begin this column by encouraging Director’s Corner readers to check out my recent conversation with new NIEHS Deputy Director Trevor K. Archer, Ph.D., to learn about what he hopes to accomplish in his new role. Given the importance of this announcement, I decided to highlight our discussion in a feature piece in this month’s issue of Environmental Factor. Dr. Archer’s scientific knowledge, passion for advancing innovative research, and ability to bring colleagues together to achieve ambitious goals will serve our institute and the environmental health sciences community well for years to come.
I thought I would also reflect on the past 12 months of the Director’s Corner. When I launched the column in January 2021, my inaugural piece highlighted my leadership philosophy, which is based on five fundamental aims.
- Empower strong leadership at all levels.
- Promote innovation.
- Encourage collaboration.
- Enhance communication.
- Strengthen the workforce through diversity.
After that first article, I sought to interview thought leaders and scientists in a variety of disciplines because the research that NIEHS tackles is multifaceted, involving everything from toxicology and data science to genetics and health disparities. My goals were — and still are — to increase the exchange of ideas so that researchers at NIEHS and elsewhere can learn about exciting new initiatives and find opportunities for collaboration.
Below is a rundown of all 12 Director’s Corner Q&As to date. With topics such as precision environmental health, environmental justice, climate change, the exposome, and natural disasters, there likely is something for everyone. Also, I invite readers to submit ideas for topics and experts they would like to see highlighted in my future columns. Please email your ideas to EnvironmentalFactor@nih.gov.
- Precision environmental health brings nuance to disease prevention — A conversation with Cheryl Walker, Ph.D., whose research explores the intersection of epigenomics, genomics, the environment, and data science.
- Paradigm shift needed in environmental health sciences — NIEHS grantee Gary Miller, Ph.D., and I discussed why more researchers should study the exposome, or the totality of our environmental exposures.
- Environmental justice champion speaks on challenges, opportunities — Addressing health disparities requires facing hard truths and conducting community-engaged research, said Robert Bullard, Ph.D.
- Addressing climate change and its health issues through collaboration — Joshua Rosenthal, Ph.D., and John Balbus, M.D., told me about a new effort that will draw on scientific expertise across the National Institutes of Health.
- In conversation with Elizabeth Martin, Independent Research Scholar — Martin, an NIEHS postdoctoral fellow, told me about her receipt of a National Institutes of Health award that helped her launch her own lab.
- After disasters, scientific partnership and local engagement are key — I spoke with Aubrey Miller, M.D., head of the NIEHS Disaster Research Response Program, who reflected on lessons learned during his career.
- Genetics holds key to making research more relevant to humans — I spoke with NIEHS grantee Fernando Pardo Manuel de Villena, Ph.D., about the importance of incorporating more genetic diversity into study designs.
- Good nutrition can help counter effects of contaminants, expert says — I spoke with NIEHS grantee Bernhard “Bernie” Hennig, Ph.D., about how healthy living can protect us against potentially harmful exposures.
- Research into gene-environment interactions advanced by NIEHS — Lead researchers on the Personalized Environment and Genes Study (PEGS) — Janet Hall, M.D., and Alison Motsinger-Reif, Ph.D. — told me why the effort means good news for participants, other scientists.
- The journal Environmental Health Perspectives aims to expand influence — I spoke with EHP Editor-in-Chief Joel Kaufman, M.D., about author-friendly submission policies, diversity efforts, preprint papers, and more.
- Innovation in toxicology demands novel strategies, public health focus — I spoke with Brian Berridge, D.V.M., Ph.D., who leads the NIEHS Division of the National Toxicology Program (DNTP), about his organization’s cutting-edge work.
- Exposures, diverse populations, and epigenetics merge in grantee’s lab — Cathrine Hoyo, Ph.D., spoke with me about how developmental exposure to cadmium and other toxic substances can lead to disease later in life.
(Rick Woychik, Ph.D., directs NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program.)