Department Notes Archive – 2008

Department Notes – 2008

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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.

Notes – 12/23/08

It’s been very busy leading up to the holidays and the long anticipated break.  I want you all to know how much I appreciate and recognize the hard work that keeps the department incredibly productive and at the forefront of public health research and teaching.  I know I’ve said it before but I truly believe that regardless of your role you contribute to a larger effort that makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives. As we head into a well-deserved break you should take comfort and pride that you make a difference.  Thank you and happy holidays!

What better segue to acknowledge Mel First’s 94 birthday!  Hard to imagine anyone who has worked harder or longer to advance the public health than Dr. First.  Mel came to HSPH in 1947 and was appointed to the faculty in 1963.  His classes in air pollution control, industrial hygiene and air and gas cleaning have stimulated a generation of HSPH students.  His pioneering and innovative work on electrostatic precipitators, fabric filtration systems and acid gas scrubbers have made workplaces safer.  His work continues, stop by his office (1-B29)and wish him a happy 94th birthday.  Congratulations Mel!!

Congratulations to Russ Hauser for his article in Public Health Now and his spotlight on the HSPH web site.  See the link below for more information on Russ.

Melissa Perry recently returned from a trip to Japan.  She discussed research collaborations with Environmental Health faculty at Teikyo Universityin Tokyo.  At the Japanese Society of Public Health Meeting in Fukuokashe spoke to a group of 300 Japanese public health researchers and educators.  She was hosted by Dr. Eiji Yano, Chair of the Department of Hygiene and Public Health, a longtime friend of this department, and director of the Teikyo-Harvard Program.  Melissa is advising members of his department on developing public health case-based teaching curricula.  All this while traveling with her infant son Justin!

We recently hosted John Groopman, Chair of the Environmental Health Department at Johns Hopkins.  John spoke on “Translation of Molecular Biomarkers to cancer Prevention Strategies”.  Given all that is going on with the economy and in public health it was good to have the opportunity to chat with John and compare notes.

I also had the opportunity to meet with Dean Frans Spaepen of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).  We exchanged information about what our department does and has to offer and how we can increase collaboration with SEAS.  Both Dean Spaepen and I look forward to building future collaborations that capitalize on our respective strengths.

After some early success the recycling rate in thecafeteria has dropped off.  Let’s practice what we preach and recyclewhen possible.  The economics are such that it pays to have a personsort through the compost bags to take out non compost products.  Keepthat employee in mind before you fail to sort properly or pour liquidsin the compost bags.


Notes – 12/5/08

On Wednesday, we learned that Dr. Linda Birnbaum was named the new Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).  Many of us have had the opportunity to work with Linda in the past and know her well from her years at EPA.  She is an excellent choice and I look forward to working with her in her new role at NIEHS. For more info see:

Jack Dennerlein just returned from Bogota, Columbia where he visited with HSPH graduate Lope Barrero to teach a Fulbright course entitled “Applications of Electromyography in Occupational Health.”  The fifteen students from academia and industry included engineers, physical therapists, and physicians,  all with a common interest in occupational ergonomics and safety.  Many of you know Lope who received his Sc.D. in 2007.  After graduating from HSPH, Lope returned to Columbia to continue his public health work.  Great to see our alumni doing well and making a difference.

Congratulations to Jon Levy for his National Academies work on the Committee on Improving Risk Analysis Approaches Used by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The committee published a report this week entitled “Science and Decisions, Advancing Risk Assessment”.  The impact of Jon’s work continues to grow as does the recognition of the importance of his contributions to risk assessment science.  To read the report see:

Next Wednesday, John Groopman, the Chair of the Environmental Health Department at Johns Hopkins will be visiting.  He will speak on “Translation of Molecular Biomarkers to cancer Prevention Strategies” on Wednesday at 10:30 in I-1302.   On Thursday, Tom Webster, Associate Chair of the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University, will speak on “Exposure to PBDEs: From Product to Person”.  Both are terrific speakers. Hope you can attend.

Congratulations to Petros Koutrakis on his milestone birthday this week. The Mediterranean diet (and lifestyle) must delay the aging process.  Hasn’t aged a bit!

Have a great weekend.


Notes – 11/21/08

Last Friday the Department hosted the 11th James L. Whittenberger Symposium at the Conference Center.  The focus of this Symposium was the “Fetal Origins of Chronic Disease: Effects of Perinatal Environmental Exposures”.  Dr. David J.P. Barker gave the Whittenberger Lecture on “Nutrition in the Womb: The Origins of Chronic Disease”.  Dr. Barker is credited with developing the so-called “Barker Hypothesis” on the fetal origins of disease.  All who attended found his talk fascinating.

We also had three terrific talks from our own researchers working on the effects of perinatal environmental exposures – Rosalind Wright, Alexey Fedulov, and Susan Korrick.

It was a wonderful afternoon with stimulating speakers followed by a lively reception.  I trust those of you who attended agree.  It was also nice to host and visit with members of the Whittenberger family.  Tom and Debbie Whittenberger joined us from Wisconsin and Francine, Hannah, and Scott Whittenberger from nearby Weston.  Thanks to Robert Wright, Russ Hauser, and John Godleski who organized this fascinating program, and to Barbara Zuckerman and Ken Wenger who organized the logistics of the event.

Dr. Ian Noy, Director of the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety in Hopkinton presented at our monthly Environmental Health Colloquium yesterday.  Ian spoke on “Occupational Safety Science: Where to from Here?”  using examples from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute experience and the partnership with the Harvard Education Resource Center. Our long partnership with Liberty Mutual has been instrumental in helping us maintain our leadership in occupational safety, injury prevention, and ergonomics.

I was in Dubai last week speaking along with Petros Koutrakis and Phil Demokritou at the “EnviroCities 2008 International Air Pollution Conference.”  We cosponsored this conference along with the Environmental Centre for Arab Cities and Towns of the Dubai Municipal government.  This conference brought together experts from the US, Europe, and the Gulf region to discuss the specific air pollution problems being faced in this rapidly developing region.  We were all amazed at the scale of construction, and the magnitude of the planned development.  Traffic congestion is a huge problem, although they are building a massive public transportation system.  Per capita water consumption in this desert kingdom is the highest in the world.  Almost all is from desalinization plants.  Alice Smythe did a great job coordinating the logistics of this meeting.

Please check out the terrific story on Monica Ter-Minassian in the Harvard Public Health Review.

Have a great weekend!


Notes – 10/31/08

Happy Halloween!  I saw many scary “things” walking the halls, including some people in costume!

Thursday we had a terrific lecture by Dr. Randy Jirtle on “Epigenetics in Human Health and Disease.” Thanks to Les Kobzik for organizing this event.  For those interested in this topic, the James L. Whittenberger Symposium on November 14th will be addressing the “Fetal Origins of Chronic Disease:  Effects of Prenatal Environmental Exposures.” We are particularly excited that Dr. David  Barker will present the Whittenberger Lecture on “Nutrition in the Womb: The Origins of Chronic Disease”.

The EER students had a lot of fun at their October Festival Party on Thursday.  There was a terrific turnout at the “Cambridge 1” across from Landmark. Leon Hsu and Mathilda Chiu did a terrific job putting this event together.  I never thought I would like potato pizza.  Thanks for the invitation.

I want to add my voice to the many messages you’ve received encouraging you to participate in the ongoing staff survey “What’s Your Harvard Like”?  It’s a great opportunity to have a say on your work environment and that never ending quest for work life balance.  It’s almost as important as voting in the Presidential elections next week!  Make a note to vote on Tuesday and to complete your survey by the Wednesday.   See the supplement in this month’s Resource for more on the 2008 workplace survey or the HSPH Staff Survey page or HARVie.

Have a great weekend!


Notes – 10/17/08

I just returned from the 2008 Joint Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology and the International Society of Exposure Analysis in Pasadena.  Our Department was well represented and had high visibility at the scientific sessions.

I always enjoy this conference, not only for the science but for the opportunity to see so many of our former students, fellows, and faculty.  We had a get together of more than 50 Harvard alumni on Monday night, but there must have been 2 or 3 times that many attending. As has been the tradition, I was presented with, and photographed in a silly hat.  I expect the evidence will appear on the web site.

Joel Schwartz received the John Goldsmith Award for Outstanding Contributions to Environmental Epidemiology.  This award recognizes “sustained and outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of environmental epidemiology.” Congratulations to Joel for this well-deserved honor by your peers.

Jaime Hart was recognized for Best Student Abstract for her poster entitled “Long-Term Ambient Multipollutant Exposures and Mortality.”  Well done Jaime.

I hope you saw the news that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson yesterday lowered the ambient air quality standard for lead by a factor of ten from 1.5 to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter.  This major decision is the result of decades of research and advocacy by many of our current and former faculty and fellows.

The news of this important environmental health achievement was lost for many in the coverage of the elections and the financial markets. The instability in the financial markets is certainly impacting institutions across the country.  Colleges and universities are being particularly affected, and Harvard is no exception. The financial landscape is changing rapidly, making it difficult to predict how we will be affected.

President Faust and leaders from across the schools have been meeting to understand options and weigh issues brought about by the crisis in the global financial markets.  Our Deans and the Department Chairs are closely watching indicators that might suggest potential impact on programs.  We are reviewing these indicators in regular meetings of the financial and administrative deans.  On a department level, I have been meeting the Program Directors to monitor our own financial situation.  Ken Wenger met with John Lichten this week and Amy Gerson is developing internal indicators to aid the Executive Committee discussions.  We will share these indicators with the faculty at our upcoming meeting.  We are not standing still but working proactively to understand our position and share this information.

Despite our concern, it’s important to note the remarkable resiliency and creative power that has allowed Harvard to weather good times and bad as noted by President Faust in her recent letter to the Harvard community.  We feel that as an institution, we are well positioned to weather this storm, but we must be diligent as we face the uncertainty and challenges ahead.

We also recognize that each member of our Department may be anxious about their individual financial position. Harvard Human Resources is mobilizing a wide array of resources for employees, coordinating with the providers such as the Employees Assistance Program, the Harvard Credit Union, and others to provide financial, debt, and retirement counseling and education.  A comprehensive list of services and programs has been posted and a chat series will launch next week.

I will use this space to continue to keep you informed as information becomes available.


Notes – 10/3/08

Our Department was well represented at the Gene Environment Initiative Mini-Symposium and Poster Session today.  I counted 18 of 43 posters(42%) by our students, post-docs, and faculty. And two members of our department were chosen as Outstanding Poster Awards – Adrienne Ettinger ( Using Evolutionary Theories of “Gestational Conflict” to Understand Maternal-Fetal Interactions at the Molecular Level) and Elissa Wilker (Gene-environment interactions for respiratory disease candidate genes and PM2.5 predicting serum markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in community exposed elderly men: the VA Normative Aging Study).  Congratulations. Thanks to Joel Schwartz and David Christiani for helping to organize this event.

Tough week for the economy with continuing news of Wall Street troubles and fiscal foibles by “smart money people.”  Makes me thankful for the talented and dedicated staff of grant managers and fiscal watchdogs that keep our financial house in order.  Thanks to each of you for all you do!

MIPS- Carla Silva, Cheryl Magoveny

EER- Renee Costa, Sheila Stewart, Susan Cohn-Child, Tracy Mark, Linda Fox

EOME- John Yong, Anthonia Grant, Jean Economos

Dept Office- Amy Gerson

Enjoy the foliage this weekend and go Sox!


Notes – 9/29/08

First, congratulations to Jack Dennerlein on his marriage this past Saturday.   We wish him and his partner Jeffrey Gonyeau all the best!  See dennerlein&st=cse&oref=slogin

On Thursday good friend and alumni Gerald Chan hosted an evening honoring Professor Jack Little.  As many of you know, our faculty honored Jack in June with the HSPH Faculty Emeritus Award in recognition of his continuing commitment to his field and to HSPH.  It was a wonderful evening and a great opportunity not only to honor Jack but also to see the leaders in the field of radiation biology.  Many friends, alumni and current faculty enjoyed the chance to get together and reconnect.  Thanks to Monique Bertic for organizing this event, and especially to Gerald Chan for hosting a fabulous evening for a gentleman scientist.

Eiji Yano from Teikyo University, Tokyo and the Teikyo-Harvard Program visited last week.  While the scientific discussions were great the fishing was even better.  See the photo of Eiji and the 46 inch stripper he landed in Boston Harbor (note Deer Island digesters in background)!

In a sad follow-up, we learned this morning that Dr. Okinaga, the President of Teikyo University, died on Thursday, September 25th. Dr. Okinaga was visionary leader, and a long-term friend and supporter of the department.

On Thursday, Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar will be presenting a guest lecture entitled “Cardiovascular Toxicity of Environmental Aldehydes”, at 2:30 pm, Building 1, Room 1302. Dr. Bhatnagar’s research focuses on mechanisms by which oxidative stress affects cardiovascular function. Lipid-derived unsaturated aldehydes are believed to be a major source of oxidative stress, and these toxicants appear to be critical mediators of tissue injury due to lipid peroxidation. He is evaluating whether environmental aldehydes derived from air pollution have adverse effects similar to endogenous aldehydes on myocardial dysfunction and heart disease.

Have a great week!


Notes – 9/11/08

I hope everyone had an opportunity to meet and hear our new Dean, Julio Frenk, at his reception last week.  President Faust made it clear how highly she regards Julio and how well his background and expertise will serve the mission of HSPH.  I had an opportunity to meet privately with Julio and I am excited with the expertise and talent he brings to the School, the future is bright!

Alex Lu, the Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology officially joined us last week.  Alex has set up his lab in Building 1, B10 and will have an office in EER at the Landmark Center.  It’s great to have him on board and we look forward to a bright future for him here at HSPH.  Be sure to say hello and welcome Alex.  See the department web site
for pictures of the specialized moving equipment used to transport his laboratory equipment from Atlanta.

We also welcomed Joanne Lamond to the Department office as my new Executive Assistant this week.  Joanne joins us with a long resume as an executive assistant and returns to her roots in Massachusetts after several years in the corporate world in California and Las Vegas.  Please stop by and say hello and welcome her to the department.

While we’re excited with the new additions to the school and department I must share some sad news as well.  Avis Stiller, a long time employee and administrator in the EER program lost her battle with cancer on Wednesday night.  Avis was a true asset to the department and an inspiration to us all.  I have the privilege of working closely with her for many years and have lost a dear friend.  Our condolences to her family and to all of her many friends at the school and particularly her colleagues in EER.  Arrangement details (tomorrow) can be found at

There continues to be a significant amount of department construction activity, now focused in the EOME program.  Thanks to all for their cooperation and patience as we near the final stages of our “makeover”!  This time next year (or sooner) it will all be behind us.


Notes -8/28/08

The new students have arrived for orientation this week.  We are pleased to welcome the Department’s incoming class of 45 students from 15 different countries.  With representatives from Canada, China, Cyprus, France, Ghana, Indian, Israel, Kuwait, Nigeria Peru, Singapore (one student from each country), Brazil (2 students) Taiwan (2 students), South Korea (5 students) and the United States (25 students) we are delighted to continue to attract and expand the diversity of our student body.  They join our returning cohort of 58 students who, in addition to the countries noted in our incoming class, hail from Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico and Thailand. Welcoming these bright, talented, and enthusiastic new students always brings a sense of renewal to us. Please say hello and make our new students feel welcome.

This week we are host to a delegation from Cyprus here to work on a revised agreement for our continuing work in Cyprus. Representatives from the Government of Cyprus and the Cyprus Institute of Technology will be meeting with Petros Koutrakis, Phil Demokritou and John Lichten.  They will be meeting in the Landmark offices, say hello if given the opportunity.

On Friday, September 5 we will host a former student, Winston Dang, who is the former head of the Taiwan EPA. Winston was recently recruited to Taipei Medical University to help revamp its MPH and global health program.  Given the recent publicity on Beijing’s attempt to control air pollution, Winston has agreed to present a talk entitled “Innovation in sustainability policy development and implementation in Asia.”  Time and location to be announced.

I’m back from my travels to Brazil and Switzerland.  In Brazil I had the opportunity to meet with John Briscoe who heads up the World Bank program in that country.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, John will be joining Harvard in January as a Professor of the Practice in Environmental Health.  We’ll share John with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and his primary responsibility will be to provide leadership in building partnerships, developing programs, and generating support for a renewed inter-faculty Harvard water program.

I was in Switzerland teaching environmental epidemiology with Joel Schwartz, the sixteenth year we have done so in Basel.  We counted up a total of 435 students who have taken this course.  This is part of the Masters of Public Health degree program in Switzerland.

Have a great weekend,


Notes – 8/8/08

On Tuesday, August 5th, the Cyprus International Institute graduated its second class of 12 students.  Another important milestone in our joint effort with the Cyprus Government to promote public health training and research in the region.  Thanks to all our faculty who teach in the program and provide an important contribution to the success of CII.  Congratulations and thanks to Phil Demokritou for his tireless efforts to make CII a reality.

Ted Courtney passed along some good news from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety (LMRIS) in Hopkinton.  A study team headed by Bill Shaw, and including Santosh Verma, won the 2008 NORA Innovative Research Award from NIOSH ( award was presented on July 29 for a collaboration that developed and tested a successful strategy for strengthening the key role of supervisors in reducing workers’ risk for painful and costly work-related musculoskeletal injuries.  Congratulations to Bill and Santosh!

The department received a commendation from Human Resources for exceeding a 90% completion rate for performance reviews. This at times challenging function is a critical aspect of good management and an important tool in developing and rewarding our staff. Thanks to all our administrative managers and staff who made this happen.

I’ll be in Brazil next week attending the 2008 Harvard-Brazil Symposium on fostering research and teaching collaboration in the environment and sciences.  I’ll be part of a focus group of 25 individuals including Harvard faculty from across disciplines and schools and Brazilian scholars and policy leaders. Looking forward to seeing our friends Paulo Saldiva and John Briscoe. The following week I’ll be in Basel, Switzerland teaching an MPH Course in Environmental Epidemiology.

Best of luck on 8/8/08. Have a great weekend and week!


Notes – 8/1/08

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and taking some well-deserved time off to enjoy the warm weather.  As I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve also taken time off from writing these notes but want to assure you that the department remains quite busy despite my occasional long weekends on the Cape pursuing my piscatology research.

On Monday I learned that our Harvard-NIEHS Environmental Health Center application which we submitted in February, received a score of 150.  This sounds good, but we won’t know about funding until the fall. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that our Center will be funded for it’s 46th year.

Congratulations to Amy Gerson and Salvatore Mucci who received recognition awards this week.   The awards include a certificate, a check, and a balloon presented by Dean Ricardi.   Well deserved Amy and Salvatore.

We have been delighted to have Dr. Arjumand Warsy, Professor of Biochemistry at King Saud University visiting us this past week.  On Thursday Dr. Warsey presented on “Diversity of sickle cell disease and thallasemias in Saudi populations – genes and the environment”.  She had a dense schedule of meetings which we expect will lead to many new collaborations.  Thanks to Joe Brain for organizing this visit.

For the past 3 weeks we have hosted two high school students from the Netherlands, Malou Elisabeth Slichter and Joren Brunekreef (son of our colleague Bert Brunekreef).  Thanks to all who contributed time to make this an educational and culturally rewarding experience for these impressive young students.

On August 12, Dr. Annette Peters from the GSF in Munich will join us as a Visiting Associate Professor.  Annette was here as a post-doc and is now joining us for the fall semester to teach a new Environmental Cardiology course, and to continue collaborations with our faculty, post-docs, and research scientists.

On August 21 Barbara Hoffmann will join us as a Visiting Associate Professor for the academic year.  Dr. Hoffmann joins us from the medical faculty at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.  While here she will be working on epidemiologic studies of cardiovascular effects of air pollution.  Both Barbara and Annette will be based at Landmark.

Finally, we are delighted to hear that Dr. Julio Frenk has been appointed as our new Dean (although this is the rumor that has been going around for many weeks now). Dr. Frenk called me on Tuesday. He is excited to be taking on this position and looking forward to working with our department.  Over the next four months he will be commuting between jobs in Seattle, Mexico City, and now Boston. I have invited him to meet with our faculty early in the fall if we can find a time on his very busy calendar.


Notes – 6/20/08

The Commencement ceremony two weeks ago was once again a great celebration of the accomplishments of our students.  It was a great honor for me to represent the Department at the awarding of the degrees.  I was very happy to congratulate our graduates and to meet many of their families.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the size of the event particularly the post-commencement reception.  The number of people made it difficult to find our graduates and offer my personal congratulations.  Indeed my experience made me wonder if we as a Department should sponsor an event that would allow our graduates and their families to share the celebration with our faculty and their colleagues.  I am therefore looking for suggestions for next year.  Possibilities might include a post-commencement reception, a luncheon between the morning exercises in Cambridge and afternoon commencement at the School, or a reception the day before commencement.  I would particularly welcome suggestions from our recent graduates. I am sure you had a great day, but what could we have done to make the experience better for you and your families?

For our graduates who are still looking for jobs, we have received the vacancy announcement for the Director of the National Institute of Environmental health Sciences.  This announcement will be posted shortly on our web site at
While you might not feel qualified for this specific job, there are many other positions posted there which might be of interest.

While we are saying goodbye to many of our graduates, some are returning as post-doctoral fellows or as doctoral candidates.  Indeed, in the academic cycle we are preparing to welcome our new students in just a couple of months.  Student orientation starts August 25th, and many are coming for the summer session which starts July 2nd.  We have 36 new students entering in the fall — 17 ScD, 15 MS, 2 MPH in Occupational Medicine, and 2 MS in Occupational Health Nursing.  We had a very substantial increase in our “yield” this year, that is, the number of admitted students who have committed to come.  This reflects active follow-up by our faculty and the program staff with our top applicants. It also reflects the increased financial support we have been able to offer.  This year we are providing over $1 million in support for the incoming students from training grants, school and university grants, and department and program funds.  This is in addition to the support for our continuing students.  The University and the School have defined student support as a priority, and we are starting to see the benefits of these efforts.

For those of you who were wondering, I had a great day fishing off Nantucket with my family on Monday.  You can see a picture of some of our catches on the online version of these notes (

Congratulations on their 17th Championship to the Celtics.  Now we can get a full nights sleep.


Notes – 6/13/08

At this time of year, we celebrate the accomplishments of our students. We also have the chance to recognize and congratulate our outstanding teachers.

Robert Pojasek received a Petra T. Shattuck Excellence in Teaching Award from the Harvard Extension School during Commencement exercises in Cambridge on June 5, 2008.  Bob is adjunct lecturer in our department and instructor for the “Strategies for Environmental Management” course at the Extension School. He was described by his students as “my savior” and “a font of valuable information,” and is lauded for his generosity of time, praised for his sage guidance, and commended for his depth of knowledge.  This is a great honor given by the 14,000 extension school students to Bob as one of approximately 600 instructors at the Extension School.

Adrienne Ettinger received a 2008 Mentoring Citation from the HSPH student body at the Commencement Eve Social on June 4th.  Adrienne was selected by a student committee that noted her desire and willingness to give up time to help others, maintaining a positive outlook, yet is able to be realistic, and having a strong interest in growth and self-development of the students. Note this is anew award by the students this year recognizing the importance of mentoring in addition to classroom instruction.

Jack Dennerlein was honored by the Residents in the Occupational & Environmental Medicine Program as the Academic Professor of the 2007-2008 year at a dinner on May 9th.  Jack was recognized for his “exceptional contributions to the training and residency program.”  Congratulations Jack!

We also want to congratulate Patrice Ayers on her promotion to Faculty Assistant III.  Patrice has been an employee at HSPH for over 30 years and in the Respiratory Biology/Physiology/MIPS Program for almost 25 years.  In announcing this promotion, Cheryl Magoverny noted “Patrice’s original job description was clearly outdated compared to what she is doing now.  It is amazing to me that this promotion didn’t take place at least 10 years earlier.  She is an integral part of our Administrative team and is clearly the Historian of our Program.  I depend heavily upon Patrice’s knowledge of past, present, and future post-doc’s, as well as in understanding the Psyche of the average Faculty Member. While her new working title is Faculty Assistant III, because of her devotion to MIPS faculty, I will fondly consider her Faculty Diplomat X.”

Christina Hemphill, a doctoral student in EER, has been awarded a Switzer Foundation Fellowship for2008-9.  These are highly competitive awards, and HSPH has not had a Switzer Fellow for many years.  There is a terrific story about and picture of Christina at the Switzer web site ( Congratulations Christina!

Good luck to two of our Associate Professors in the MIPS program who will be leaving us this month. Best wishes in their future endeavors to Bea Gonzalez-Flecha and Jay Mizgerd.  We hope to have the opportunity to continue to work together. Since Jay is taking a position will be close by, as Professor at BU Medical, there is no excuse!

Finally, congratulations to Wally Hayes on the publication of the fifth edition of PRINCIPLES AND METHODS OF TOXICOLOGY. A great deal of work well done.

Have a great weekend and remember the Fathers.  My kids are taking me on a chartered boat fishing for stripers and blues.  Having just seen mercury data from Jim Shine and PCB data from Larissa Altshul from local striped bass, we will only be keeping the smaller ones (>28inches) to eat.

Go Celtics!


Notes – 6/5/08

Today has to be the best day of the academic year. I am so proud to recognize the accomplishments of our students. It is a unique honor to be able to represent the Environmental Health faculty as we present degrees to our graduates.

Doctor of Science degrees in Environmental Health to:
Che-Hsu Chang
Maria Patricia Fabian
Shona C. Fang
Meredith Franklin
Jaime Elizabeth Hart
Ilana Lina Lander
David Lin Lee
Jeffrey David Yanosky
Huanyu Zhou

Doctor of Science in Environmental Health and Health Policy and Management to:
Gretchen A. Stevens

Master of Science in Environmental Health to:
Jonathan James Buonocore
Chiung-Yu Chang
Erica Ann Gonyo
Christina Kelly Hemphill
Hyung Joo Lee
Seok Won Lee
Thomas Jay Lee
Neha Mukhi
Margaret Parks
David Naoki Powers
Christopher James Ronk
Jose Vicente Santin
Shalu Mahesh Shelat
Adriana Maritza Triana Florez
Claire Elizabeth Willscher

Doctor of Philosophy in the Biological Sciences
Brock C. Christensen
Anita S. Patel

Congratulations to each of our graduates, and to our faculty who have trained and mentored these outstanding scholars. I look forward to greeting each of you individually this afternoon.

Ken Wenger and I were visiting the Cyprus International Institute last week. I was teaching the first week of the Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology course. In addition, we were trying to see how we at HSPH can better support the effort in Cyprus.

It was a great pleasure to connect with the local faculty there including our old friends Costas Christophi and Panayiotis Yiallouros, and the recently arrived Konstantinos Makris. Phil Demokritou was back here in Boston, but we have caught up here this week.

I was able to introduce Ken to our administrative colleagues there including Lenia Josephides, Demetra Valtas, and Yiannis Vakis. Always good to put faces with names (and e-mail addresses). We had some terrific lunches with the research staff. It was a particular treat to see out former students/fellows Ezgi Alhum and Nicos Mittletton. Thanks for your wonderful hospitality.

Unfortunately, I missed Richard Monson’s party last week marking his transition to Emeritus Professor. Richard has been a leader of our occupational health program, the developer of our environmental and occupational epidemiology training, and more recently director of the MPH program. He is known for his directness and his economy of words. He is a valued mentor and advisor to many of our faculty, fellows, and students. He is also a beloved curmudgeon. Enough said.


Notes – 5/4/08

Congratulations to Dr. Anita Patel (“Immunity and Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: Environmental and Generic Risk Factors”) and Dr. Brock Christensen (“Epigenetic Profiles, Asbestos Burden, and Survival in Pleural Mesothelioma”) for their successful defense this week!  It was also nice to see Heather Nelson and Karl Kelsey back in support of their students.

Ihope you had a chance to see the poster session on Thursday. Congratulations to post-doctoral fellow Sunny Nguyen who  won a prize for his poster on Epigenetic Changes in T Cells in Asthma Susceptible Neonates (along with co-authors Alexey Fedulov and Lester Kobzik).

Jon Levy will be speaking at the Environmental Health Club Lecture on Monday, May 5, 12:30 – 1:30 in Kresge 213.  His talk is entitled “Tools for Environmental Decision Making.”  I’ll have more about the Environmental Health Club in future notes.

On Thursday, Dr .Leona Samson will be speaking at our monthly Environmental Health Colloquium on “Complex Responses to Environmental Agents”.  Leona is Director of the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and Professor of Toxicology and Biological Engineering at the MIT Center for Cancer Research.  Leona and I have been discussing opportunities for collaborations between our two NIEHS sponsored Environmental Health Centers.  I hope you will come to learn about what Leona is doing at MIT and opportunities for collaborations with our colleagues across the Charles River.

I have received an announcement for an interesting job opportunity as Environmental Program Officer for the Heinz Endowments.  I hope to soon have a spot on our web site for these types of job opportunities but until them we’ll post them on the bulletin board outside the department office.  If you receive any job announcements please send them to the Department office and we’ll post them.


Notes – 4/25/08

This week we marked Administrative Professionals Week.  I thought this was a holiday created by Hallmark to sell cards.  However, searching the web I found it was organized in 1952 as National Secretaries Week by the National Secretaries Association.  In 2000 the renamed International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) changed the name to Administrative Professionals Week.

No matter what the name, this event is a reminder of the importance of the support and work that gets done behind the scenes.  We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of administrators that play a large but frequently unrecognized role in the success of our Department.  With limited resources and increasing demands they find a way to get things done and shield our faculty and researchers from all but the essential administrative tasks.   A heartfelt thanks to all of our Department administrative staff and the HSPH administrative staff who support us.   And a very special thanks to Jean Economos, Cheryl Magoveny and Linda Fox our Program Administrators and Ken Wenger our Department Administrator for leading our administrative efforts.

Thanks to all of you we are a very productive and successful department making a very real and meaningful contribution to promoting Environmental Health.

By the way, Linda Fox celebrates her 39th anniversary at Harvard on May 19, 2008 – congratulations Linda!!

Have a great weekend!



Update on this year’s prize winners for Poster and Exhibit Day. Congratulations again to Sonny Nguyen who received one of the two prizes for best poster by a Post-Doc.  Also congratulations to Marleen Welsh and Yen-Tsung Huang who each received awards for the two best posters by a Student.  Congratulations also to their faculty advisors –Heather Nelson, David Christiani, and Les Kobzik.

Student winners:
Marleen M Welsh, Karagas MR, Applebaum KM, Nelson HH  CTLA4 haplotypes, UV-induced tolerance, and risk of non-melanoma skin cancer

Yen-Tsung Huang, Rebecca S. Heist, Lucian R. Chirieac, Xihong Lin, Vidar Skaug, Aage Haugen, Michael C. Wu, Zhaoxi Wang, Li Su, Kofi Asomaning, and David C. Christiani Genome-wide analysis of survival in early-stage non-small cell lung cancer

Postdoc winners:
Phuong-Son Nguyen; Alexey Fedulov; and Lester Kobzik; Maternal asthma causes epigenetic changes of IL4 and IFN-g promoters in asthma-susceptible T cells

Please join us on Thursday at 3:00 before the EHColloquium to congratulate Russ Hauser on his promotion to Professor. We will have cake and punch in the “Tea Room” outside the Department Office on the 13th floor.


Notes – 4/18/08

Congratulations to Jaime Hart and Lina Lander who successfully defended their doctoral dissertations in the past week.  Great work.

As I mentioned last week, we were fortunate to have photojournalist Earl Dotter join us this week.  Be sure to see his photos of migrant workers in Maine located in the FXB lobby.

The Harvard-NIEHS Center will collaborate with the MIT Center for Environmental Health Science to produce the day-long event on April 26 for the Cambridge Science Festival at the MIT Museum. We are looking for volunteers to spend 3.5hours assisting us with this event.  The hours would be 10-1:30 and1:30-5.  This is a great event for families.

Cambridge Science Festival
Environmental Health Science: A Closer Look at Environmental Exposures

Curious about how the environment affects you? Come learn how exposures can affect your lung and airway health. Try out a simple peak flow meter to assess your own airway health.  Watch an image of your face as the computer morphs it with age.  It will show you how you would look with exposure to tobacco smoke and UV radiation.  Did you know that exposure to UV radiation can cause DNA damage too?  Come experiment with LEGODNA models and learn how you can protect your skin from DNA damage.

Please check out the website

Next Tuesday is Earth Day.  Watch the Events Calendar for a host of activities including a free screening of the film “The 11th Hour”, Tuesday, April 22nd at 5:00 pm, Armenise Building, Amphitheater (near the Courtyard Cafe at the Med School)

Have a great weekend! Peace and happiness on Passover.


Notes – 4/14/08

Thanks to Bob Wright for his leadership and tremendous personal effort in preparing the Superfund Basic Research Program proposal which was submitted this week.  Bob would be quick to point out the terrific work of Jean Economos and her crackerjack admin team in pulling all this together, and to the multiple faculty and scientists who prepared pieces of the proposal.  This grant has provided core support for many activities in the Department, and we all benefit from the hard work by the team that put this proposal together.

Frank Speizer is being awarded the William Silen Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award from the Medical School.  The award will be presented on Tuesday, May 20, 2008 from 4:00pm in the Carl Walter Amphitheater(HMS, Tosteson Medical Education Center).  Many of us in the department, myself included, have benefitted from Frank’s mentoring over the years. Congratulations to Frank on this well deserved recognition and thank-you! See our web site Spotlight for more information:

On Monday we welcome back Earl Dotter with his photography exhibit on farmworkers in Maine, “The Labor and Health of Migrants in Maine”.  The exhibit will be in the FXB atrium.  There will be an opening celebration at 4:00.  See the department web site for more details. Thanks to Ann Backus for coordinating this event.  A little over a year ago Earl visited us and shared his work on coal miners in West Virginia.  His work is both informative and moving and well worth a visit to the exhibit.

It was a pleasure and indeed a rare opportunity to host Dr. Theo Colburn yesterday.  She is best known for her 1996 book “Our Stolen Future” which brought attention to the exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals and their ability to interfere with the natural signals controlling development of the fetus. Her presentation was sponsored by the Organics Research Core of the Harvard-NIEHS Center, and was organized by Russ Hauser, Nick Ashford, and Ann Backus.

Have a great weekend!


Notes – 4/8/08

Thanks to all who helped make our admitted student Open House a success last week.  All of our top recruits attended, and the feedback from the attendees was very positive.

Congratulations to Chensheng (Alex) Lu on his selection as the Harvard University nominee for the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation new faculty award.  The new faculty Award program provides a research grant before the new faculty member formally begin their first tenure-track appointment.  Alex was selected as Harvard’s sole representative to compete for this prestigious award.  Alex will be joining the Department and EER program in September.

In addition to baseball season it’s also Thesis Defense season. Good luck to IIana Lina Lander and Jamie Hart as they step to the plate.

Improving Near-Miss and Case-Crossover Designs to Reduce Risk Factors for Traumatic Injuries

Ilana Lina Lander

Date: April 11, 2008 Time: 11:00AM
Location: Building 1, Room 1306A

Mortality Risk from Ambient and Work Exposures in Two Working Populations
Jaime Hart
Date: April 16, 2008 Time: 3:00PM
Location: Building 1, Room 1302

This week marks National Public Health Week ( ) and we have a number of interesting talks this week and this month.  I encourage you to check the listings on the Department web site   I did want to single out a couple of talks of particular note:

The Male Predicament: The Role of the Environment
April 10, 2008 12:00-1:30PM
HSPH, Kresge 502
Theo Colborn, PhD (author of Our Stolen Future)
Note – seating is limited but watch for a notice about a simulcast location.

Environmental Health Colloquium: The Blue Death: The Past, Present and Future of the Water We Drink
April 17,  2008 12:30-1:30PM
HSPH, Building 1, Room 1302
Robert Morris, MD, PhD

It may not feel like spring yet but when those F-16’s flew over this afternoon to mark the Red Sox home opener I consider it officially spring and at least for a short time all is well with Red Sox Nation.

Have a good week,


Notes – 3/21/08

Congratulations to Dr. Bob Wright who has been promoted to Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School.  Bob has had important leadership roles in our Department as Director of our Metals Epidemiology Research Group, Director of the Metals Research Core of our Harvard-NIEHS Center, Associate Director of our Center for Children’s Environmental Health, and Principal Investigator of our Superfund Basic Research Program.  This promotion is well deserved and recognition of the significant contributions Bob is making at HSPH and HMS.

On April 3, Dr. Subra Suresh, Dean of Engineering at MIT, will visit as the HSPH Distinguished Lecturer, sponsored by the Division of Biological Sciences. He will be speaking on “Cell Nanomechanics and Pathological States”.  I had the chance to hear Dr. Suresh speak on this topic in November, and recommended him for this Lecture.  I think you would find the topic very interesting and Dr. Suresh to be a terrific speaker.

Our new students Open House will be held on April 4, 2008.  It’s an all -day event but the Department information sessions are 10:00 – 12:30.  Rooms and more specific information will be available shortly from Barbara Zuckerman.  Faculty and current students are encouraged to attend and share their insight and suggestions with the new students.

On Thursday, April 10th,from 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm in Kresge 502, Dr. Theo Colborn, author of the seminal book Our Stolen Future about endocrine disruption and chemical contamination, will speak on “The Male Predicament: The Role of the Environment.”  The event is co-sponsored by the Organics Research Core of the Harvard-NIEHS Center and the New England Chapter of the Society for Risk Analysis.

Construction is moving right along on the14th floor, with phase 1 scheduled to be completed mid-May.  Phase 1A,the completion of the MIPS space on the 13th floor, will begin in mid-May and is scheduled for completion early in July. See Ken Wenger with any questions.

Enjoy the weekend!


Notes – 3/10/08

I’m happy to share the news that several members of the HSPH Occupational & Environmental Medicine Residency Program were recently recognized for their outstanding work:

Philip D. Parks, Chief Resident, received the 2007-2008 FMCSA/American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Medical Research Fellowship to study Obstructive Sleep Apnea Screening in a cohort study over 350commercial motor vehicle drivers.  One scholar is selected each year to conduct important research related to commercial driver health and safety by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Peter C. Lee, a first year resident, received one of the 2008 National Quality Scholars Program Award of the American College of Medical Quality, recognizing excellent medical students, residents and fellows for leadership in improving our health care system. Dr. Lee was recognized for his project: “Enhancing Quality and Patient Safety by Increasing Employee Influenza Vaccination Rate: The No Flue Zone Campaign”.  More details on these awards are at:

Finally, both Drs. Parks and Lee, as well as Dr. Aaron Thomson will be giving oral presentations at the current research session of next months’ national ACOEM conference.
( program will deliver 3 of 5 resident talks and including a talk by Stefanos Kales, 4 of 15 of the entire session’s papers.   More evidence of an outstanding program led by Steve Kales.  Congratulations!!

I also want to introduce Annie Charbonnier who has joined the Department Office as an Executive Assistant.  Annie joins us from Lexington Insurance Company where she was Executive Assistant to the Senior Vice President and the Vice President/Director of Marketing.  She has had similar roles in the past at the Genetics Institute, Ernst and Young and at MGH where she was the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cardiac Anesthesia and the Chief of Radiology.  Annie can be reached at432-1270 and  Please stop by and welcome Annie to the Department and HSPH.

We will be beginning the renovations of the 14th floor this month in a multi-phased project that will take roughly one year.  We will also begin the final phase on the13th floor.  As part of the renovations we will need to remove the large copier on the 14th floor as well as the refrigerator/microwave.  Both the MIPS and EOME programs have alternative copiers available during construction so the large copier will not be replaced during construction.  Usage figures indicate that alternative copiers can handle the demand.  See your program administrators for alternatives. Unusually large jobs will have to be sent out to a private contractor. The refrigerator will not be available during renovations but there are underutilized refrigerators available on the 13th floor.  Jean Economos will oversee the staff moves and Ken Wenger will oversee the construction.  Thanks to all in advance for your patience and understanding while we improve our working environment.


Notes – 2/15/08

Congratulations to Jay Mizgerd for his just published invited review entitled “Acute Lower Respiratory Tract Infection” in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Our congratulations also to the faculty who received high course evaluation ratings for teaching during the Fall 2007 semester.  Your efforts are very much appreciated!  Jack Dennerlein (EH 243), John Evans (EH 510), Bob Herrick (EH 262), Francine Laden (EH 507), Ed Maher (EH 279), Stephanie Shore (EH 205), Greg Wagner (EH 236).

On January 14th we co-hosted, with the HSPH China Initiative, a delegation of environmental officials from the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences and the State Environmental Protection Administration of China.  As you well know, China will host the Olympic games soon, and in doing so has brought world attention to the environmental issues they face.   The downside of a booming economy is environmental degradation on a grand scale that many of our faculty have witnessed firsthand.  We hope we were able to provide insight that helps the Chinese address the enormous challenge ahead.

We welcomed John Briscoe as our speaker for our Environmental Health Colloquium on Wednesday.  John is currently responsible for the World Bank’s program of lending and analytic and advisory services to Brazil, one of the World Bank’s biggest borrowers, with a loan portfolio of $ 12 billion.   He is a true citizen of the world having worked and lived in many countries as he pursued his life’s work of improving water quality and supplies in developing countries.  I look forward to future collaboration with John given his wealth of knowledge and experience in worldwide water issues.  My thanks to John for his presentation literally minutes after arriving from India.   You can view the presentation at:

I hope everyone who joined us for our mid-winter Mardi Gras celebration enjoyed themselves.  It was fun to see everyone and always nice to spend some time with the families of our colleagues. I welcome suggested captions for the Tom Smith “shooting” Marc Weisskopf  photo.    There will be a prize commensurate with Tom’s party performance.

Given our ongoing renovations I don’t normally note all the associated office moves but here’s one I did want to mention.  Anita Patel, Brock Christensen and Marleen Welsh are students in our department but have been housed in GCD space for most of their stay with us.  We have just moved them to Environmental Health space in FXB 102A where they will soon be joined by other students in FXB 102.  Welcome!

Enjoy the long weekend!


Notes – 2/1/08

Our Winter Celebration is on for Tuesday February 5 from 5 p.m. until 8p.m. at the Conference Center at Harvard Medical on Avenue Louis Pasteur!  Based on the final list of RSVP’s we’ll have over 200 joining us to celebrate Fat Tuesday, Super Tuesday elections and the Patriots celebration (any doubt?)  The menu pays homage to New Orleans cuisine while having a little Patriot football tailgate flavor (New Orleans ribs anyone?). For entertainment, we will have the Hot Tamale New Orleans Brass Band (, Jenny the Juggler, and our own Environmental Health Jester.

Please also mark on your calendars the next Environmental Health Colloquium on February 13th (12:30 to 1:30).  Dr. John Briscoe, Senior Water Advisor and Country Director for Brazil for the World Bank, will speak on Water and Health: What Are the Connections and What Might be Done?

Congratulations to Guillaume Lenormand who was promoted to Research Scientist in the MIPS program, and who also has been awarded a prestigious Parker B. Francis Foundation Fellowship to study the biophysical basis of bronchodilation. Of all known mechanisms of bronchodilation, the single most efficacious is a simple deep inspiration.  During the spontaneous asthmatic attack, however, this potent agency fails.  Congratulations Guillaume, I can hear the champagne corks popping in the lab!

Congratulations also to Marshall Katler who was recognized for his extraordinary service to the Department and MIPS program.  Marshal wears many hats and is always willing and able to help when needed.  One of the hats he wears is overseeing lab safety so Guillaume’s champagne in the lab better be quick!  Thanks Marshall!

We celebrated with the stars this week and honored our milestone service employees.  Congratulation and thank-you to:

Julie Bradley, Ramace Dadd, Lynn NeJaime, Bob Boley, Denise Lamoureux, John McCracken, and David Senn for 5 years of service;

Cristina Kehoe, Eileen McNeely, Li Su, Caroline Boles, Joseph Mizgerd and Henry Terwedow for 10 years of service;

Larisa Altshul, Jim Shine, Jean Lai and Nancy Long Sieber for 15 years of service;

Joan Arnold for 20 years of service;

and last but certainly not least, our own Joe Brain received special recognition as one of two faculty members with the longest service at Harvard. Congratulations Joe and good luck on the next 41 years at Harvard!

I’m up to my neck in preparing the competitive NIEHS Center renewal application, which is due February21st.  I wanted to thank those contributing to this effort.  This is only one of the many grants we are constantly working on, and I want to thank all who contribute to these exhaustive efforts, yet another phenomenon!  Without your tireless efforts we couldn’t ….well work! By the way, Les Kobzik passed along this tidbit of wisdom for those working on a grant during the game – spilling an adult beverage on the computer during a burst of excitement will quickly deflate that excitement.  Back up your work!  (Sounds like he’s conducted research on this phenomenon).

The school is increasing efforts to control and properly dispose of confidential information.  You may have noticed, or tripped over, the new locked gray bins in the hallways. The school is providing these for disposal of confidential information.  Material placed in these bins is secure and will be shredded by a contractor.  Please be mindful of confidential information and be sure to dispose of it in these bins.

Have a Super Bowl weekend, remember to vote before the party on Tuesday and go Patriots!


Notes – 1/11/08

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone enjoyed the break and the chance to be with friends and family.  It already seems like it was months ago but it was certainly nice to take a break from the routine and focus on things we like to do and don’t necessarily have to do.

The importance of family and friends as well as our work to prevent disease hits home when I have to pass along sad news.  One of our former doctoral students, Ho-Yuan Fred Chang, died last month from liver cancer.  Fred worked with Tom Smith and was just 47.   He leaves a wife and two teenage daughters.  A memorial service was held at National Cheng-Kung University in Taiwan on January 7.  Our condolences to Fred’s family and to Tom Smith.

Earlier this week, I was in Abu Dhabi with John Evans, Petros Koutrakis, and Jim Hammitt, presenting a proposal to develop a strategic environmental plan for the country.  Next Monday we host a delegation of environmental officials from China.  We have fourteen of our students studying hard in Cyprus, and hopefully enjoying the local culture.  We also have another cadre of students on a field trip to Taiwan.  There certainly are no borders when addressing Environmental Health.

Please keep Tuesday evening February 5th (“Fat Tuesday”) for Department Holiday (“Mardi Gras”) Party.  We looking forward to a chance to unwind and fortify ourselves before starting the spring semester.  More details to follow soon!

Have a great weekend!  Don’t forget the Pats games tomorrow night.