Department Notes Archive – 2006

Department Notes – 2006

For EH Department Notes by year, click here:
2019,  201820172016201520142013201220112010200920082007

For regular updates, connect with us on Twitter @HarvardEnvHlth

Dr. Russ Hauser became Acting Chair, and then Chair, of the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on September 1, 2016. Dr. Douglas Dockery was the Chair from 2005 – 2016.


After the many weeks (months) of talking about the renovations, we are happy to report that we moved the department office down to our new digs on the 13th floor on Wednesday.  We are still unpacking, and as of today, we still do not have doors.  The carpenters and the IT staff are still putting the finishing touches on the offices and common spaces. But come up and see us. We would be happy to serve you and show you around.

By the way, the single elevator on the south end of Building 1 is now operating (although I am not sure it is officially open).  I guess this means we will soon be losing the use of one of the paired elevators at the other end of the hall.  After moving back from Landmark, I am still not used to adding the 5 minutes or more that is necessary for the elevator ride down from the upper floors.  I consistently just miss the shuttle.

Professor Mel First will celebrate his 92nd birthday on Saturday.  Best wishes to Mel, and thanks for his continuing contributions to our intellectual community.  Mel’s work these days focuses on control of airborne infectious agents.

On Wednesday we were saddened to learn of the death of Professor Elkan Blout. We remember Dr. Blout as chairman of our Department of Environmental Science and Physiology between 1986 and 1988.  Dr. Blout also served the school as dean for academic affairs, and director of the Division of Biological Sciences.  He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1990. There is a very nice tribute to Dr. Blout on the school web site (

Professor Whittenberger, chair of the Department of Physiology from 1948 to 1980, is currently resident at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Hospital in West Roxbury.

I want to thank Drs. Rose Goldman and Bob Herrick for the terrific job they did with the EH201 (Introduction to Environmental Health) course this term.  Along the TAs (Jamie Hart, Rebecca Lincoln, Amar Mehta, Ananya Roy, Elissa Wilker, and Ying Zhu) they put a huge effort into innovative approaches to engage this large class in case-based learning. The course finished Wednesday with the students presenting their projects in a very animated poster session.  We are looking forward to reviewing the feedback from the students.

I am looking forward to our extended holiday. We spend Christmas here in Boston with my wife’s family. My son is home from college and the grandparents have arrived. On the day after Christmas we drive down to Washington for a second Christmas with my family. I hope you and your families have a wonderful and refreshing holiday.



On Wednesday, December 20 the students of Rose Goldman’s EH 210 class will have a poster session in Rm 101a, just off the cafeteria.  Stop by 10:30 – 12:30 to see their work.

The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Seminar Series continues on Monday, December 18 with a presentation by Mark A.R. Kleiman entitled:  “The Dynamics of Deterrence”  3:30-5:00 p.m.  Landmark 414A.  Refreshments will be served.  All welcome.

Next Wednesday the Department Office will be moving to our newly renovated space on the 13th floor.  Prior to that we’ll need some time to pack. We will make every effort to be available during this time for normal business activities.  Please let Ken know if you have urgent needs at any point during the transition.  Please note that the office fax number will be changed to 617-432-6913 effective Friday 12/21.

Phase I construction on the third floor is scheduled for completion in January with a move in date of January 22, 2007.  Demolition for phase II begins January 25, 2007.

The next phase on the 13th floor is progressing to the point that we are planning where to move folks to accommodate the construction.  We’ll do our best to minimize disruption but some is unavoidable.  Thanks in advance for your cooperation. More on this as plans develop.

Thanks to the MIPS folks for a great party yesterday!  I was spared any great embarrassment and Les assures me there were no spills on our new carpet (or if there were I won’t notice them!)


Last week we passed the 54th anniversary of the Great London Fog.  At least 4000 people died from the smog caused  by the trapping of air pollution from coal burning over the period of December 5 to 9, 1952.  This anniversary was particularly poignant  given the loss of our friend and colleague David Bates three weeks ago.  David had been a  physician in London during this period.  He has written very eloquently about the event.  I also have a DVD of a BBC show featuring David on the fog event which is available if you would like to view it.

The semi-monthly breakfast meeting of the Gene-Environment Working Group on Wednesday, December 13th (8:00 in Kresge 110) will feature Andrea Baccarelli a Visiting Scientist in EER.  He will be presenting on “Molecular Epidemiology of Dioxin Toxicity in Seveso”.

Mark your calendars with 2007 dates and speakers for the Environmental Health Colloquium .  We will be featuring some of our senior faculty,  January 11 (Les Kobzik), February 8  (Petros Koutrakis),  and March 8 (David Christiani).  Future dates include April 12, May 10 and June 19, 2007.

While a few finishing touches remain, the small conference rooms on the 13th floor can be booked with Katondra for dates after the holiday break.  The two rooms are identical and perfect for small meetings,  stop by and take a look.  The rooms have been used already for a few meetings and Katondra will try to accommodate emergency requests but we are limited by the need to use them for staging of construction materials until December 20.

A floor plan for the next phase of renovations on the 13th floor has been developed and drawn up by the project architect.  Ken will be working with MIPS and Operations to develop a construction plan and schedule over the next couple weeks.


My schedule has been taken over by meetings this past week.  We hosted the annual meeting of the EPA PM Centers here (at the Newton Marriott).  Petros Koutrakis and Alice Smythe did a terrific job of organizing this meeting, with John Godleski working to provide an interesting program.  Brent Coull organized a concurrent workshop on biostatistical issues.  Our colleagues at the Health Effects Institute took advantage of having so many PM experts in town and arranged a workshop on the use of ambient PM data in health studies.  These meetings and workshops highlighted for me the continued leadership position that our Department has in air pollution research.

Today Joe Brain and I are at the annual NIEHS Centers meeting in Galveston, along with Jeffrey Adams, our Center Administrator, Ann Backus, the CEOP Director, and Louise Ryan, the Center Co-Director.  This is an important meeting for us as we look to the future of our Center and other funding. Earlier this year NIEHS Director David Schwartz announced he intended to cut the number of Centers from 24 to 18.  This is being driven by the flat NIEHS budget and to make more funds available for R01’s.  While we have several years before we have to reapply, it is important that we understand the priorities being set by NIEHS, and begin to position ourselves for the next application. At dinner last night, Dr. Schwartz indicated that he is looking for leadership, scientific accomplishments, innovation, and development of young investigators by the Centers.  To accomplish this, the Center Directors will have much more flexibility in the way the resources are used.  Joe and I see this as an opportunity to re-evaluate how our Center is organized, and to implement changes which will insure continued support.

Our construction efforts are beginning to show tangible results.  The furniture for the small conference rooms on the 13th floor should be arriving this week and I hope to open those rooms for use next week.  The Department Office is scheduled to move to the 13th floor on December 20.  Design drawings for the next phase on the 13th floor should be complete this week allowing us to plan how to proceed with the construction.  The current work phase on the 3rd floor is on schedule for January completion and is looking very good.  Every effort is being made to minimize disruption and I appreciate everyone’s continuing cooperation.

I am flying back tomorrow to attend Stephanie Shore’s presentation on “Obesity and Asthma: Lessons from Animal Models” at the Environmental Health Colloquium (3:30 in Kresge G2). Hope to see you there.  Note: the presentation is tomorrow, Tuesday, which is a change from our normal Thursday schedule.


Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed the break!  My wife and I had 24 family, friends and assorted college students for dinner at our house on the Cape.  We always look forward to this day when our family gets together, overindulges, and reflects on we have to be thankful for.

Now that we’re all in the holiday spirit it’s time to think ahead to our EH Holiday Party. We have traditionally had our party at the beginning of the spring semester, that is the week of January 29th to February 2nd. Once again we are appealing to the creative, imaginative and outlandish among us to plan this annual soiree!  We are looking for input from faculty, staff, fellows, and students!  Last years volunteers set the bar high, so it’s time to get to work.  If interested in helping everyone have a good time please let Katondra (2-1270) know as soon as possible.

The Women, Gender and Health Lunchtime Speaker Series will feature Yerby Visiting Professor Ken Olden next week.  Dr. Olden’s talk is entitled “Environment and Women’s Health”.  The talk will be on Tuesday December 5, 2006 12:30pm -1:20pm in FXB Rm G12.

Later on Tuesday, Dr. Stephanie Shore will be speaking on “Obesity and Asthma: Lessons from Animal Models” at the EH Colloquium, Tuesday December 5, 2006 3:30pm -4:30pm in Kresge G2.


I got back from Kuwait on Wednesday evening.  We are proposing to continue studies of the environmental exposures and public health consequences of the 1990/1 invasion and occupation of Kuwait.  This would be a collaboration of the Environmental Health and Population and International Health departments here with investigators at Kuwait University, the Ministry of Health, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science.  Our presentations this week were very well received, and we received encouragement from the potential funding agencies following the meeting.  Thanks to all who have helped put this project together, and particularly to John Evans and Bruce Boley for their leadership (and persistence).

There is no missing that the Holiday Season is upon us. I’d like to remind everyone of the sole source contract with Sebastian’s for food service here at HSPH.  At the request of the HSPH students, faculty, and staff, Sebastian’s agreed to pay a fair wage and provide benefits to their employees.  In exchange HSPH agreed that all food and beverages would be purchased from Sebastian’s.  I would like us to honor that agreement.  If given enough notice Sebastian’s can provide a very creative menu.  Some programs have had great success with more exotic foods by identifying their favorites from local menus and having Sebastian’s recreate the dish.  I’ve heard that they do a great job with Indian and Thai dishes!  Contact to explore menu options.

This enjoyable but unseasonably warm weather has caused some less than ideal office temperatures.  Thanks for your patience.  The long range forecast indicates cooler temperatures on the way.

Construction:  Third floor Phase I move-in on target for February 1,  Phase II target move in May 07,  2007.  13th floor move in date December 20, 2006.  Ken’s working with the builders to have the small conference rooms available in advance of that, possibly after the Thanksgiving break.  Schemes for renovation of the remainder of the 13th floor are being drawn up by the architect for review.

Have a good weekend!


Hope you all  enjoyed the long weekend!

I spent a good portion of the weekend traveling to Kuwait.  I am in Kuwait now with a large number of our faculty and staff discussing our proposals to continue the epidemiologic and exposure assessment studies we began in 2003 to assess the effects of the oil fires.  Our party includes Mey Akashah, Bruce Boley, Phil Demokritou, John Evans, Martha Fay, Petros Koutrakis, Rosalind Wright plus our friends Mike Voligny, Richard Wilson and Pierre Zalloua.  Here Friday is the holiday, and we have been in meetings steadily Saturday, Sunday, and today. Most of us are wiped out from the long days and the jet lag. On the other hand we have great colleagues here and have enjoyed the visit.  The weather is cool this time of year, and we have even seen a little rain.

Last week we were proud to award degrees to several of our students in Environmental Health.
Degrees were awarded on November 7, 2006 and included:

Doctors of Science in Environmental Health:  Christopher Guy Lewis and Pradeep Rajan.

Doctor of Science in Environmental Health and Epidemiology: Cathryn Cecelia Tonne

Doctor of Science in Health Policy and Management and Environmental Health: Katherine Ellen von Stackelberg

Congratulations to all and best wishes for future success!  Thanks to all in the Department that contribute to our educational process.  We all can be proud of the talent and expertise our students bring to the field of Environmental Health.

Construction continues to make progress.  A phone line was installed in the large conference room today for those that were asking.  The next anticipated milestone of note is the completion of the two small conference rooms on the 13th floor.  I’ll know better when I return but I’m hopeful that both rooms will be ready when we return from the Thanksgiving break.

Enjoy the week!


Our Department is well represented at the On My Own Time exhibit at the FXB atrium.  I encourage all to visit the display and enjoy the talents of our colleagues.  It was liberating to view a display without chemical formulas and big words!   I had offered to display the results of “my own time” passion, fishing, but was turned down.  Of course some would say that nothing to display is the typical outcome of my fishing trips!

At the risk of leaving someone out, my compliments to  Gail Fleischaker (Ceramics, electronic micrography and stichery), Patrice Ayers (Photography), Joy Crowther (sewing/quilting), Janna Frelich (photography), Beatriz Gonzalez-Flecha (poetry),  Celine Moniz (cake decorating), Denise Schwerzler (Halloween costumes),  Stephanie Shore (quilts), and  Rebecca Sterns (Poetry).  Well done and thanks for sharing your talents with us.

Thursday of next week following the EH faculty meeting, Tom Smith will be presenting at the Colloquium in Environmental Health.  His talk is entitled “Disease Process Models: A Way to Link Exposure and Outcomes in Epidemiology.  Please join us in Kresge G-2 at 3:30.

The Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) will take place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this Saturday, November 4, to Wednesday, November 8.

Construction Update:  13th floor conference room available for use.  The move in date for the office work on the 13th floor has slipped to 12/20/2006.  The move in date on the 3rd floor has slipped to 2/1/07.  Not a good week for schedules but it is possible time will be made up going forward.

Have a good weekend!



As expected, I did miss one of our colleagues who is presenting at the On My Own Time exhibit at the FXB atrium.  Please stop by and see the glass art work and jewelry by Trang Nguyen plus the other exhibits by our talented colleagues through the end of the week.

Rose Goldman has extended an invitation to anyone who would like to sit in on the EH201 (Introduction to Environmental Health) class on Wednesday. Dr. Howard Frumkin, an alumnus of our program and Director of the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR) at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will speak on Urban Settings and Effects on Health.  The class meets from 10:30 to 12:20 in Kresge G1.


First, congratulations to David Christiani and his colleagues on the 25th anniversary of the Shanghai Textile Worker Study.  This is one of the longest-running epidemiologic studies funded by NIOSH.  It is assessing the development of respiratory disease in cotton mill versus silk mill workers.  David just received a competitive renewal from NIOSH to complete the 25 year follow-up that will include further examination of the relations of airborne dust and endotoxin exposure with respiratory function in these workers, and gene-environment interactions for COPD in non-smokers. That’s a terrific anniversary present!

David Lee, a Doctoral Candidate in Ergonomics and Injury Prevention, is back from the 2006 Asia-Pacific Conference on Computer-Human Interaction in Taiwan.  David’s paper, “Characterizing Passive Forces at the Fingertip Across Various Finger and Wrist Postures Found During Computer Mouse Use,” received the “Best Doctoral Student Paper Award”.  Congratulations David.

This week a team from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), conducted a three day site visit to review our Industrial Hygiene Program.  This review is a critical step in the accreditation of this important program.  Preparing for this review took a good deal of effort and my thanks go out to all those behind the scenes who contributed.  Thanks also to Tom Smith and Bob Herrick for championing the process and more importantly for contributing to a top notch program.

At yesterday’s Faculty Meeting the main item of business was a presentation of the Allston Initiative plans by Eric Buehrens, HU Deputy Provost for Administration, and Christopher Gordon, COO of the Allston Development Group.  This was our first look at the plan envisioned for Allston. The proposal has the School of Public Health assigned to the premiere location in the center of the development.  The planners are working to create a lively community with much more open green spaces and walkways.  They plan to embrace the river as a part of the campus, rather than as a barrier. Buildings would use natural light and ventilation, with a goal of obtaining LEEDS certification for the whole development.  There has been a lot of attention to transportation issues, but there are still issues with the connections to the Longwood campus.  Nevertheless, the prospect of new space central to this new development, with adequate room to grow at least over the next twenty years is very exciting.  I was told that we will get copies of the drawings that were presented which we can share with you.

In our local construction, I have been assured that the conference room will be available for use on November 1, 2006. Amen!  The rest of the work moves forward at a rapid clip. Thanks to those of you on the 13th and 3rd floors as the noise level increases during this final push toward completion.

Remember the John B. Little Symposium next Friday and Saturday (Nov 3 and 4).  The theme is “The Environment or the Enemy Within? Cellular Mechanisms to Offset Genotoxic Threats”.

Also coming up is the American Public Health Association Conference here in Boston beginning November 4, 2006. We hope to see many of our alumni stopping by before and after the meeting.

I am heading off this afternoon for the Division of Biological Sciences retreat in Chatham.  It is a great location, but the weather forecast is terrible.

Speaking of bad weather, note that you can call 617-432-NEWS (6397) for inclement weather updates and information regarding cancellations and closings.  We also have a HSPH phone tree and a Department phone tree for emergencies.  Let Katondra know if you aren’t sure if you are on the list.



In my notes last week I forgot to thank Patrice Ayers and the other folks in MIPS for the nice party celebrating (belatedly) Les Kobzik’s promotion to Professor at the Brigham and here at HSPH.  It is refreshing to see talent and accomplishment appropriately recognized.  Tim Suahian and Amy Imrich produced a terrific video tribute.

At the monthly Department Chair’s Meeting this week, we had to chance to meet with two members of the Corporation and search committee (Nan Keohane and Robert Reischauer) to discuss qualities we would like to see in the new President.  The search committee is still gathering names and input, and has not started interviews. Names that were suggested included Howard Varmis (former Director of NIH), Harvey Fineberg (former Dean and current Institute of Medicine President), and Diane Chapman Walsh (President of Wellesley and former Chair of Health and Social Behavior).  There was also discussion of Allston plans and the impact on HSPH.

Speaking of Allston, all our faculty should plan to attend the HSPH faculty meeting next week on the 25th.  Chris Gordon will be presenting the Allston plans.  This will be our first comprehensive look at the plans.  This is an important opportunity to not only see how HSPH will be positioned in the development, but also a critical time in expressing our support and/or concerns for this enterprise.

I met with the Executive Committee (that is the three Program Directors) this week.  We discussed new procedures for review of promotions, and plans for environmental toxicology.  Marianne Wessling-Resnick, Chair of the Committee on the Concerns of Women Faculty (CCWF) reported to us on their review of faculty recruiting.   Over the past five years there have been 33 junior faculty searches at the school, with 36% of the hires being women.  In Environmental Health, we had four women hired in 10 junior faculty searches (40%).  We are concerned that this percentage of women is lower than the percentage women in the student body, 58% for both the school and the department.  Of greater concern is the fact that this department has never had a tenured woman faculty member.  We will continue working with the CCWF to improve our record.  We appreciate the work of Melissa Perry and Jonathan levy who are our represents on the CCWF.

Remember the second Gene-Environment meeting next Wednesday at 8:00 in Kresge 110. Joel Schwartz will speak on “Smoke and Genes”.

Construction:  The rumor is true, We spontaneously held a meeting this morning in the new conference room.  No the room is not done yet, we slipped in between the painter and the A/V installation.  It’s very nice but a door sure would help.  I’m told the room will be available starting Monday, October 30, 2006.  See Katondra for bookings.  The rest of construction on the third floor and 13th is on schedule.

Have a good weekend.


We were all saddened by the death of our colleague Joe Harrington last Monday.  Joe had been a member of our faculty since 1963.  Between 1982 and 1986, Joe was Chair of the new Department of Environmental Science and Physiology, bringing together the Departments of Physiology and Environmental Health Sciences.  He was one of the few faculty members to have joint appointments at School of Public Health and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  Joe taught many courses, most recently Water Systems Management (EH 264), and mentored many of our current faculty.

Recently Joe has shepherded our academic appointments and promotions through the School and University bureaucracy. He knew the history and precedents of the School and the University. He supervised our annual student admissions process.  He also played an important, but unrecognized role, as a passionate advocate for our faculty and students within the bureaucracy.

At the funeral service on Friday, Jack Spengler recalled Joe’s service to the Department and his commitment to public health.  After the service, there was a luncheon at the Sullivan Water Works in Cambridge.  Joe was President of the Cambridge Water Board since 1990, and the design and construction of this state of the art facility was one of his proudest achievements.

Thanks to Ken Wenger, Mary Jane Curran, and Tina Goldsmith for arranging transportation to the services.

Last Wednesday we had the first meeting of the Gene Environment Working Group. Joel Schwartz, one of the organizers, described this as a “dating service” for those working in this area. The majority of attendees were for the Department of Environmental Heath, but there were also attendees from Biostatistics and Genetic and Complex Diseases.  David Christiani, one of the organizers, presented an overview of this working group, plus summarized some of his own work on genetic express in workers exposed to metal particles.  The goal is to stimulate scientific interchange. Indeed there was a very animated discussion about David’s presentation and the gene-environment research in general. We noted that exposure assessment was a critical area for assessing gene-environment interactions, but there were very few faculty, fellows or students with an exposure perspective at this first meeting.   Hopefully, we can encourage some exposure folks to come to the next meeting on October 25th.  Joel Schwartz will be presenting.

Note, the Working Group welcomes participation from anyone at the School working on or interested in gene environment research.  Meetings are on the 2nd and 3rd Wednesday of the month from 8:00 to 9:15.  Breakfast is provided.  If you would like to be on the e-mail list, please contact Alix Smullin (  I hope everyone in this Department recognizes the need to understand these methods and to apply them in our research.

Philippe Grandjean will be presenting the next Colloquium in EH on Tuesday (October 17, 3:30 – 4:30, Kresge G-2), on “Developmental Neurotoxicity of Industrial Chemicals: A Silent Pandemic.”  Philippe has spoken passionately to me about this issue, and I know it will be an interesting and challenging talk. Look forward to seeing you there.

On the construction front we continue on schedule on all projects.  As you can see the large conference room on the 13th floor is tantalizingly close to completion.  Katondra is accepting reservations starting in November but I’m hopeful that start date can be moved up pending progress this week.  Planning is underway for the next phase on the 13th floor.  The third floor progresses nicely with a Phase I move in date of January 15, 2007 looking good.

Have a good week,



I had the pleasure today of meeting with the Landmark Methods Group.  This is a self-described “motley group of Landmark-based doctoral students, post-docs, research scientists and very junior faculty who meet every other Friday to discuss methodologic problems (and solutions), mainly of the epidemiologic variety.”  There was a lively discussion of practical, intellectually challenging problems, and I would encourage doctoral students who are in dissertation-writing mode, new postdocs and researchers located at Landmark, or even those willing to make the trek from HSPH to drop in on this lively discussion.  Contact Jennifer Weuve ( of the Metals Epidemiology Research Group for more information.

Please put on your calendar the next Environmental Health Colloquium, “Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals: A silent pandemic” by Philippe Grandjean, Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health, on Tuesday, October 17th  at 3:30 in Kresge G-2.

A meeting of the Senior Faculty this week resulted in a strong endorsement of the value of Environmental Toxicology in our training and research program.  I will be working with the Program Directors to put together a specific proposal on the future of Environmental Toxicology in the Department to present to the Deans by the end of the month.

The first meeting of the UCE Genetics and Environmental Health Series will be Wednesday, October 11, 2006 at 8:00 AM in Kresge Room 110.  David Christiani will present an “Introduction to the Series and Big Picture Issues In Genetics and Environmental Health”.  Please contact Alix Smullin ( if you plan to attend.

Don’t forget the State of the School address next Thursday, October 12, 2006 at noon in the cafeteria.

Construction Report:  Work on the third floor continues on schedule.  Thanks to Jeff Fredberg, Jay Mizgerd and Bob Banzett for their cooperation on access issues this week.  (Jay, send me a bill for the broken beaker!)

The 13th floor work is moving along smoothly.  I’m happy to announce that Katondra (2-1270) will now accept reservations for the large conference room for dates beginning November 6th.  The carpet is now being installed and when the A/V, furniture and punch list items are taken care I may be able to move that date up.  I’ll update you next week if the schedule changes.  Next week Les, Marshall, Ken and myself will meet with the architect regarding the next phase of construction on the remainder of the 13th floor.


The first month of the Academic Year comes to a close today and we and our students seem to have settled into a constructive routine.

This morning I am pleased to announce two new grant programs to support our tenure-track Junior Faculty with a primary appointment in Environmental Health.  In my discussions with our faculty, and from my own experience as a junior faculty member, I know that even a small amount of flexible funds can go a long way. Through Career Development and Strategic Seed grants, my goal is to provide flexible funding for innovation and creativity in a timely and painless process.  Details have been sent directly to the eligible faculty.

Congratulations to Joel Schwartz on his successful epigenetic grant application!  Joel continues to do groundbreaking work on the association of cardiovascular disease (CVD) with exposures to air particles, arsenic, cadmium, and lead. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among the elderly in the United States, accounting for 1 of every 2.6 deaths. Since the percentage of Americans over the age of 75 years is expected to increase from 6% in 2000 to 11% in 2050, the number of persons dying from CVD will likely rise dramatically in the coming years. Joel has assembled a strong team of investigators with the expertise to increase our understanding of the link between CVD and air pollution.

Speaking of air pollution:
The New York Times ran a story on Steubenville, Ohio this week.  This area is near and dear to a number of us as Steubenville was as the Times says a “Test Lab on Dirty Air”.  Times have changed for Steubenville but what hasn’t changed is the contribution the residents of Steubenville made to the clean(er) air we all breathe today.  Many of us in the Department worked with these residents collecting the data that made a large contribution to ground breaking regulatory changes in air pollution control.  It was also nice to see the picture of our friend and colleague, Jim Slater in the paper.  If you haven’t seen the article it’s worth reading.  The article is on the HSPH web site or use this link

I want to thank Rose Goldman, who along with Bob Herrick and Moly Kile has taken over responsibility for our core Introduction to Environmental Health (EH201) class.  Rose proposes to enhance the hands-on learning in this class through a case-based learning.  Rose has obtained a modest grant from the Dean’s to support innovative approaches to case-based learning in such large, traditionally lecture based classes.

On Thursday, the senior faculty will be meeting to discuss a proposal to formally incorporate environmental toxicology into our scientific research and training.  We will be discussing the role that environmental toxicology could have in strategically strengthening the Department in mechanistic based understanding of the effects of environmental contaminants.

The Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center is sponsoring a course on radioterrorism entitled “Radiological Science in the Context of Radiological Terrorism” on Friday, October 6  at the Conference Center at Harvard Medical.  Bruce Demple has more information if interested.

The Ninth Annual JBL Symposium: THE ENVIRONMENT OR THE ENEMY WITHIN? CELLULAR MECHANISMS TO OFFSET GENOTOXIC THREATS.  Scheduled for November 3, 2006.  See Bruce Demple for information.

Our construction projects are showing great progress with the conference room tantalizingly close to completion.  Roughly two weeks to go.  The other projects continue on schedule as well.



Yesterday, the EPA Administrator announced the new air quality standards for particulate matter. The 24-hour standard for fine particles was reduced to 35 micrograms of particles per cubic meter instead of 65 micrograms per cubic meter. However, the Administrator rejected tougher standards for long term annual average recommended by the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee.  Many of our faculty have worked hard in support of tougher particle standards.

The research done here in the department defined the importance of fine particles, and has provided most of the core information on exposures, community health effects, understanding of mechanisms, and valuing benefits of proposed regulations.  This has been a long struggle to develop a strong scientific basis for this decision, and the apparently political decision by the Administrator is a disappointment.  You can hear Joel Schwartz’ blunt assessment of this decision on NPR (You can hear the full NPR story at

We can be proud of what we have done in the fight for Clean Air, and can take this decision as a challenge to further strengthen the evidence.

You may have heard of the new Harvard Center for Geographical Analyses (CGA).  This is potentially an important centralized university wide resource which can help us understand and display the distribution of environmental exposures and health status.  I would encourage you to go to the upcoming presentation by the Harvard CGA  “Introduction to CGA Services and Relevance to Medicine” on Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at the Countway Library, Minot Room (5th floor) at 4 PM.

The Harvard 2006 Staff Survey (What’s your Harvard Like?) results were released this week.  If you missed the lunchtime presentation and have any questions please see Ken Wenger.  A number of issues raised are University or HSPH wide and I look forward to contributing to their resolution.  On Department issues I am committed to working with all our staff to address these concerns and my goal is that collectively we make this a Department we can all be proud of.

A good deal of progress on the construction this week with both the 13th floor and the 3rd floor progressing nicely.  We begin the planning for the next Phase on the 13th floor next week.  If you have any questions please see Ken Wenger.

Fall begins early Sunday morning (12:04 AM).  Rosh Hashanah begins tonight (Shanah Tovah), and Ramadan begins on Sunday (Ramadan Mubarak).

Enjoy the weekend and this beautiful time of year!




Dr. Ken Olden kicked off our Environmental Health Colloquium series describing his research on “Possible Role of Fatty Acids in Tumor Progression and Metastasis”.  Thanks to Ken for a terrific start to this series, and to Jeff Fredberg, Patrice Ayers, and Katondra Murphy for organizing this event.  Please watch for announcements of future presentations in this series.

Be sure to take the time to view the compelling photo exhibit in the school lobby — “Our Future in Retrospect? Coal Miner Health in Appalachia: Photographs by Russell Lee -1946 & Earl Dotter – 2006″. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think you will agree that Earl’s work is worth many more times that in putting a face on workplace health issues.  Thanks to Ann Backus and David Christiani for helping to bring this exhibit to HSPH.

We are happy to welcome Dr. Majid Ezzati as a new member of our department faculty. Majid has a primary appointment in the PIH Department. Majid has been working on international environmental health issues.  Many of you are familiar with and indeed have worked with Majid in assessing environmental health in developing countries.  This joint appointment in EH and PIH formalizes those ties, and I hope will lead to new initiatives in understanding environmental health issues in the developing world, acting on that understanding, and building capacity in those countries.

Construction activities continue.  The conference room is a few deliveries away from being able to nail down a completion date.  Early October is looking likely at this point.  The other construction (Phase II) on the 13th floor is on target for a December completion.  The third floor is on schedule.  There remains a little too much to do to predict an accurate completion date.  The anticipated dates of Phase I in January and Phase II in May are still valid based on the work done to date.

This week we reflect on the fifth anniversary of 9-11 and how our lives have changed since then.  We all have chosen a career here at HSPH that contributes to a better world.  Your contribution may be answering the phone, typing a letter, preparing a grant application, teaching the next generation of scientists, or conducting research.  In the day to day routine it may at times seem small or insignificant but when combined with your colleagues’ efforts it is very important.  Collectively we make a difference, and for that we all should be very proud.



This week I was at the International Conference for Environmental Epidemiology and Exposure in Paris. This was a joint annual meeting of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) and the International Society of Exposure Assessment (ISEA). There were approximately 1500 attendees.  Our Department was well represented in students, fellows, faculty, and alumni.

Indeed Sue Greco organized a terrific dinner for our Department members and alumni on Monday night at a restaurant appropriately called “Dock’s Café”.  We had 64 current and former EH Department members, and easily could have had twice as many based the number of alumni I saw at the meeting.  It was a terrific opportunity to catch up with the EH family.

I was also very proud of our current students and recent graduates who were recognized for their outstanding presentations.

Ami Zota received an Honorable Mention for Outstanding Student Abstract from ISEA for her paper entitled “Spatial Variation in Metal Biomarkers of Peripartum Women Near A Mining-Related Superfund Site”.

Catherine Tonne received an Honorable Mention for Outstanding Student Abstract from ISEE for her paper entitled “Long-term Exposure to Traffic Particles is Associated with Acute Myocardial Infarction”.

Jennifer Cavallari also received an Honorable Mention for Outstanding Student Abstract from ISEE for her paper entitled “Particulate Exposures and Heart Rate Variability during Sleep in Boilermaker Construction Workers.”

Molly Kile received the ISEE Rebecca James Baker Memorial Prize. This award recognizes a new investigator who follows Rebecca’s example in undertaking “a challenging area of research, requiring skills such as obtaining and processing new or hard to access data, or working with populations and/or collaborators of different cultures or socio-economic circumstances.”   Rebecca James Baker was a talented environmental epidemiologist who tragically died in 2004 at age 33 of a pregnancy-related heart condition. We are particularly honored to have one of our students receive this award, as Rebecca earned an MPH here and was well known by many in our Department.

Note the next ISEE meeting (Sept 2007 in Cuernavaca, Mexico) is being organized by our colleague Mauricio Hernandez-Avila.

I came back to find good progress on the Conference Room on the 13th floor.  If you get to look in, you will see that additional cooling units have been installed in the ceiling, which should make it much more comfortable when there are many people in that room. If all continues to go as planned we will have a welcoming open house in our new space soon.

Enjoy the weekend!


As you undoubtedly have seen, the students are back!  While I don’t relish the lines in the cafeteria I do welcome the energy and vitality that our students bring every September.  This year we have 38 new students, including 14 Doctoral candidates, 18 Master of Science candidates, 5 Master of Public Health (OEH) and 1 non degree student.  By program, there are 23 new students in EER, 13 in OHP, and 2 in MIPS.

Combined with our returning students, the Department has 86 students total — 52 Doctoral of Science and 1 Doctor of Public Health candidates, 26 Master of Science candidates, 6 Master of Public Health (OEH) and 1 non degree student.  The following is a breakdown of the students by region and country:

North America:
USA 52, Canada 2, Mexico 1

PRC 6, Taiwan 5,  Korea 4, Japan 1

Greece 2, Israel 1, Lebanon 1, Cyprus 1

Southeast Asia:
India 3, Philippines 1, Thailand 1

United Kingdom 1, Columbia 2, Ghana 1, Brazil 1.

Orientation was held on Wednesday and classes begin next week.  Thanks to all who contributed to our Orientation effort.  We all remember what it was like to begin as students and how we appreciated those who helped us acclimate and feel welcome.  Our largest class, Introduction to Environmental Health, will have over 100 students.  Rose Goldman and Bob Herrick along with Molly Kile will lead this teaching effort.  I am excited by their plans to build on Howard Hu’s past efforts with a case based teaching experience.  They have great ideas on how to engage the students in the case discussions using a core web site and blogs. This will certainly be a challenge with this large class.   Under their leadership I have every confidence that the students will have a rewarding educational experience.

Construction activities continue on schedule.  Ken has advised me that my constant “peaking” at the work will not make it happen faster. On the 13th floor the large conference room is beginning to look like a conference room and I am looking forward to putting it to use.  If all continues on schedule it will be available before the end of this month.

Hope you all enjoyed the long weekend! I am at the ISEE/ISEA meeting in Paris this week with many of our faculty, fellows, and students.


In my last notes I mentioned that Dr. Ken Olden will be joining us as the Yerby Visiting Professor in September.  I met with Dr. Olden last week and am happy to say he will start with us on September 6, 2006.  He will typically work at the Landmark Center on Mondays and the remainder of the week from his office in FXB 101.  His FXB office number is 432-6840.   Melisa Veno (432-2959) will be handling Dr. Olden’s calendar if you would like to schedule some time with him.  Please be sure to welcome our new distinguished faculty member to Harvard once again.

Our construction projects are continuing under the watchful eye of Jim Devito.  The third floor is progressing nicely and on schedule.  On the 13th floor progress is clearly evident on the new conference room and to a lesser degree the adjacent office space.  All work is on schedule.  See Ken Wenger with any questions.  Thank-you for your continuing support for this effort.

Next week we welcome our new students.  I am excited by the backgrounds and qualifications of the entering class and look forward to them joining us.  Please welcome them and offer a helping hand or word of advice as they adjust to their new surroundings.  Orientation will be held on Wednesday beginning at 1:30 p.m. in Kresge 213.  EER students will then visit the Landmark Center for the EER Program orientation followed by individual meetings with specialty-area faculty leaders.


Last week I sent the first of a number of emails that will keep you informed of progress with the renovations and some of our Department Activities.  Today I want to share a few general items as well as the construction schedule.  I know those of you impacted by the 13th floor renovation are anxious to hear the schedule.

We are finalizing plans for Department Activities for the 06/07 Academic year.  Jeff Fredberg is organizing the monthly EH Colloquium.  These colloquia will be preceded by Department Faculty meetings or the
Department Executive Committee meetings.   Faculty meetings will be the second Thursday of every other month starting in September (2 pm -3 pm).  Executive Committee Meetings will be on a Tuesday, every other month
starting in August.

Teaching continues in the summer session.  Drs. Rose Goldman, Molly Kile and myself are leading the EH 202 (Principles of Environmental Health) course with lectures by many of our faculty and assistance from Shona Fang
and Ananya Roy.   The class is fully subscribed with 60 students.

Next week I will be in Switzerland teaching in the Public Health course at the University of Basel.  Katondra and Frieda will also be on vacation.  However, Ken Wenger is settling in and should be able to sign for me or handle administrative issues.

As you can see if you walk through the 13th floor, demolition has started and is moving along at a good pace.  That pace of activity will accelerate August 14 when we begin to shift from demolition to construction.

I encourage all to take this disruptive opportunity to clean out “stuff” that is no longer relevant or needed.  It becomes clear in any move, whether it be at home or at work, that we all have more stuff than we need.  With space at a premium it is important to regularly evaluate what we have and what we need.  Keep in mind that there is a cost associated with every box and piece of furniture moved.  If storage is involved the cost (and space required) increases (I’m reminded of the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark!)  Please contact Katrondra if you are unsure of HSPH policies on record retention.

This week I wanted to pass along the tentative schedule that was discussed at the construction meeting Thursday.  Construction schedules are typically very fluid so changes should be anticipated.  Given that, here
is where we stand today:

Construction Schedule Bldg 1- 13th floor west

August 14 – Demolition complete, Construction begins;

September 18 – Large conference room construction complete;

September 25 – Large conference room available for use;

November 24 – All construction complete (offices, large conference room,
two small conference rooms);

November 29 – Tentative move-in date;

December 4 – Fully Operational

Renovations on the 3rd floor continue on schedule.

Feel free to touch base with Ken Wenger if you have any questions about the renovations. Again, thank-you to all for your continuing cooperation in this important endeavor.