Department Notes Archive – 2009

Department Notes – 2009

For EH Department Notes by year, click here:
2019,  201820172016201520142013201220112010200820072006

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.

Notes – 12/23/09

I had the pleasure this week of joining the retirement festivities for one of our beloved department treasures.  I speak of course of Linda Fox.   Linda retires this week after a remarkable 40 years at HSPH.  She knows more about the school and the department than anyone and I suspect a good deal of the department skeletons!

Also retiring this month are two more of our cherished department employees, Larisa Atshul and Rebecca Stearns. Both Larisa and Rebecca will be sorely missed as they contributed mightily to our research and laboratory operations.

Clearly the strength of the department is our people.  It’s hard when such valued long term employees move on.  We not only lose a valued colleague but also a valued friend.  I offer Linda, Larisa and Rebecca our thanks, appreciation for a job well done and best wishes for a very happy retirement!

Yesterday we celebrate Mel First’s 95th birthday. To add a little perspective when Linda started at HSPH Mel had already been here for 22 years!  In 1988 HSPH celebrated the Melvin First Fellowship that helps support young students studying public health. At that time it was said and I quote “Rarely are we so blessed to have an octogenarian as a vital contributing member of our faculty”. Here we are 11 years later and as a nonagenarian Mel continues to be a vital and valued contributing member of our faculty.

We are indeed fortunate to have Prof. First on our faculty. While Linda is a department treasure, Prof. First is our “national treasure” for living the mission of “public health for life”.

Happy Birthday Mel!!

It’s been another year of exemplary work and meaningful contributions to the improvement of the public health by this department.  Thanks to all of you for your dedicated service and continuing commitment to our mission.  Next week is our chance to slow down, relax and recharge.

We’ve earned it!

Enjoy the holidays and have a great week off!



Notes – 12/11/09

Winter really arrived this week.  The change in the weather reminds us that the fall term is coming to an end.  Thanks all the faculty and teaching assistants for a job well done.  I  enjoyed my classes, Respiratory Epidemiology and Environmental Cardiology, thanks to some great co-instructors (Diane Gold and Annette Peters), interesting guest lecturers, and very engaged students.  Good luck to the students in preparing their final papers, projects, and preparing for their final exams.

Enjoyed John Godleski’s EH Colloquium talk yesterday, “Asbestos and Mesothelioma – New Findings and Understanding”.  I hope everyone tries to take advantage of the Colloquium presentations – we have had a very strong series this year with presentations by both internal and external researchers.  Thanks to Les Kobzik for a great job in pulling it all together.

If you are on the 13th floor, take a look at the white board outside the Department Office.  It has become the International Board of Greetings.  Thanks to all that contributed so far – feel free to add a new greeting (translations are helpful!).

Ken, Amy, and I enjoyed the EOME holiday get together last Friday.  It was good to see all the EOME folks, especially those based at Landmark who I don’t see often enough.   Great job by our hosts, David Christiani and Jean Economos!  Thanks for the invitation.

I’m looking forward to next week’s MIPS holiday gathering – Marshall Katler always has some special entertainment planned.  We are looking forward to what Amy Gerson will add to the program. The pot luck is always top notch and loaded with international treats.

Happy Hanukkah! Have a great weekend!



Notes – 12/4/09

Back from the Thanksgiving break and off to the races again….

I visited our colleagues at Yale Monday and Tuesday to help in a review of their Division of Environmental Health Program.  Although their program is much smaller than ours, we share many of the same problems.  It was instructive to be an outsider looking in with a critical eye.

Congratulations to Santosh Verma who successfully defended his dissertation “Risk Factors for Slips and Falls in US Limited-service Restaurant Workers.” Santosh conducted a prospective cohort study with a nested case-crossover study to examine both stable and transient risk factors.  Santosh is a research scientist working in the Center of Injury Epidemiology at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. Well done, Dr. Verma!

Congratulations also to Shona Fang who was notified that she is being awarded a Scientist Development Grant by the American Heart Association to study chronic and short-term effects of occupational PM exposure on systemic inflammation and oxidative stress in the boilermakers.

For this week’s EH colloquium Phil Demokritou hosted Sotiris Pratsinis from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.  His talk on “Flame Synthesis and Applications of Nanoparticles: Health Effects?” introduced the exciting new collaboration he is undertaking with Phil, Joe Brain, and others in the department.  One of Dr. Pratsini’s students is staying on for a week to work  in Phil’s new nanoparticles research lab.

Yesterday I was able to (briefly) join the party to wish Rebecca Stearns a happy retirement after 28 years at Harvard. John Godleski nicely summarized Rebecca’s many accomplishments, including her outstanding hitting for the Lung Rangers softball team.  Les Kobzik noted that Rebecca was making an easy transition from Harvard into mental health counseling.  As is traditional in MIPS, there was an extraordinary potluck buffet.  In a new tradition, Amy Colby Imrich returned to entertain with live fiddle music!  Best wishes Rebecca!

To finish up the week I look forward to joining the EOME program for their annual holiday party tonight.

Off to the EOME holiday party!

Have a great weekend!


Post Script:  On November 20th Jonathan Levy was invited by Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to present at a White House briefing on the public health benefits of a clean energy economy.  We are very proud of the work Jon is doing on health benefits of clean energy and his influence on environmental policy.


Notes – 11/25/09

The Whittenberger Symposium and Lecture was a great success with excellent talks by Alex Lu and Emily Oken.  Great job sharing their research.  Also thanks to Phil Landrigan who gave the Whittenberger Lecture.  Phil continues to do great work as director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mt Sinai and as an advocate for children’s environmental health.  I hope everyone had the opportunity to hear the talks and meet with Dr. Landrigan.  Phil’s daughter, Mary, who is an anesthesiologist at Children’s Hospital here in Boston, joined us and it was great to meet her.  Always nice to see members of the Whittenberger family. Jim’s daughter-in-law Francine and granddaughter Hannah joined us once again.  Thanks to Kelly, Barbara, and Ken for organizing this event, and to John Godleski, Russ Hauser, and Bob Wright for putting together such an interesting program.

It’s tough fitting a week of work into three days but the reward is quality time with friends and family that we all look so forward to.  I’ll be heading to the Cape for Thanksgiving with family (22 for dinner) and am looking forward to a little down time.  I’ll be catching up on work but somehow it’s a little different when I get to do it on Cape Cod.

Before I leave I wanted to say that I am very thankful to my “work family” for all you do and your tireless dedication to our mission to protect and improve the public health.  I am astounded and inspired on a daily basis by the productivity of everyone in the department.  Your efforts allow us to make meaningful contributions to the improvement of public health. You have my respect, appreciation, and admiration.

Have a wonderful holiday, you deserve it and have earned it!  (Now go beat the traffic).



Notes – 11/21/09

Earlier this week I traveled with Walt Willett to Kuwait for the Dasman Conference on the Approaches to Preventing Chronic Diseases.  I was on my best behavior at meals sitting next to Walt.  A long trip but a worthwhile conference and great opportunity to see and hear about the work being done at the Dasman Center.  Enjoyed the opportunity to speak with friend and colleague, Kazem Behbehani who is Director of the Center.  Also met up with John Evans on efforts in Kuwait and Cyprus.

Enjoyed the EER get together at the Boston Beer Works Thursday night.  Lots of fun to see everyone after hours.  Almost arrived too late for food and beer, which I was looking forward to after my trip to Kuwait.  Only blueberry beer left. I don’t like things floating in my beer.  However the students and fellows made sure I had beer and snacks. Thanks!

Shane Snyder and his wife Erin are in town for the Whittenberger lecture and house hunting.  As I mentioned last week Shane is our new Associate Professor of Aquatic Science.  Hope you had a chance to meet Shane’s and hear his talk today “Formation, Identification, and Mitigation of emerging Disinfection Byproducts”.

Congratulations to Christina Hemphill who attended the ISES conference in Minneapolis last week and was awarded 3rd place in the student poster competition. This is particularly noteworthy as it was Christina’s first poster submission!  The title was Identification of pesticide residue sources in low-income African-American households using positive matrix factorization.

Condolences to Jeff Fredberg whose mother passed away last week.  Our thoughts are with you Jeff.

Simone Vinati and Andrea Zelioli visited from Italy this week to assist Phil Demokritou set up new lab equipment.  This was a critical step and great progress to completing Phil’s new lab and beginning his nanoparticle research.

Please note that Barbara Zuckerman has relocated to room 1304A and can now be reached at 432-2109.

Hope to see everyone at the Whittenberger Symposium and lecture Monday starting at 1:30 at the Martin Conference Center on Avenue Louis Pasteur!  Until then have a great weekend.



Notes – 11/6/09

I’m happy to announce that Shane Snyder, PhD will join us as our newest Associate Professor starting July 1, 2010.  Shane is a key hire in our renewed water program.  Shane is a perfect complement to John Briscoe, Jim Shine and Jim McDevitt among others who bring extraordinary skills to our water related research. I’ll have more on Shane as his arrival nears.  Until then mark your calendars, Shane will be giving a talk “Formation, Identification, and Mitigation of Emerging Disinfection Byproducts” on Friday November 20 at 3 pm in RM 1302.  Shane and his wife, Erin, will join us for the Whittenberger Lecture on November 23, 2009.  Be sure to say hello and welcome our new faculty member.

Speaking of the Whittenberger Lecture please RSVP to ASAP.  All are welcome, but space is limited so you need to register.

Don’t forget the symposium in celebration of Jere Mead on Tuesday, November 10, 2009.  Jeffrey Drazen will give the Keynote Lecture on “The Cholesterol Story.”  Starts at 4:00 PM in Hall D of Science Center in Cambridge.

We were sad to learn of the death of our colleague Mary Ellen Wohl, professor of Pediatrics, Emerita and former chief of the Division of Respiratory Diseases at Children’s Hospital. She was a pioneer in understanding the unique properties of newborns’ and infants’ lungs, focusing on diseases such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, bronchiolitis and asthma. A memorial service will be held Nov. 13 at 2:30 pm at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard, Cambridge, followed by a reception at Loeb House. Please let Patrice Ayers know if you plan to attend.

Our connections with Japan continued this week.  Jim Shine and Joe Brain entertained the Chairman, the Chief Scientific Advisor, and another scientist from the Akatsuka Company, which is located near Nagoya, Japan.  For five years, they have been supporting studies in Jim and Joe’s labs focusing on water quality.  They are interested in both the addition of essential micronutrients to drinking water, as well as the removal of toxic metals.  This week’s visit follows a meeting in August in Tokyo sponsored by Akatsuka where Jim and Joe both spoke to an audience of 5,000 in the largest indoor theater in Tokyo.  This connection with Akatsuka is also important to the department since it is yet another bridge with colleagues in the SEAS who share our vision of water and health.

Congratulations to Purnima and Santosh Verma, the proud parents of a new baby girl, Shivani, who arrived on 10/28/09, at 4:40pm; 5lb 10oz, 20.5 inches long.  Santosh is a part-time doctoral student in the EOME program being advised by Jack Dennerlein and Melissa Perry.  His research is on slips and falls in fast food restaurants and he is working with data from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.

Busy week for grants, thanks to all for continued efforts.  Bob Wright reports encouraging news on the Superfund application. Petros Koutrakis and colleagues are working hard on the EPA PM Center Competitive renewal.  The department output is astounding!

Have a great weekend!



Notes – 11/2/09

Invitations are out for the 12th James L. Whittenberger Lecture and Symposium on Monday, November 23, 2009. Please RSVP by Friday.  If you are interested in attending and didn’t receive an invitation please let Kelly Studebaker know.

We were pleased to host Dr. Eiji Yano from Teikyo University in Tokyo, Japan last week.  We have had a long standing relationship with Teikyo University and it’s always good to see Eiji when he visits.  I had the opportunity to spend time with him and his wife.  We had a little tour of Cape Cod, including a little fishing from shore.  Alas the fish must have all gone south.

Congratulations to Rose Goldman, who received the 2009 Academic Clinical Faculty Teaching Award for work with the Harvard Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency.

Also congratulations to Laurel Schaider who just received a R21, her first research grant.  Laurel is a Research Associate in the Department EER program. Well done Laurel, may it be the first of many more!

Have a great week!




Notes – 10/21/09

I am happy to announce that the 12th James L. Whittenberger Symposium and Lecture will be on November 23, 2009. The theme this year is Exposing Children to Toxins – Lifelong Consequences. The Whittenberger Lecture will be given by Philip J. Landrigan, Professor of Pediatrics and Chairman of the Department of Community & Preventive Medicine and Director, Children’s Environmental Health Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. Alex Lu and Emily Oken also will describe their work. More information and invitations to follow shortly. Until then save the date and send Kelly an email at if any questions.

Congratulations to Russ Hauser, the Frederick Lee Hisaw Professor of Reproductive Physiology and David Christiani, the Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics! Both recently received named chairs and last week we hosted a reception recognizing the success and accomplishments that culminated in these endowed chairs. We also hosted a lunch and HSPH tour for the family members of both the Hisaw and Blout families. Gail Blout is well known to many of us and it was wonderful to reconnect with her. We were also fortunate to have ten members representing three generations of the Hisaw family join us from the west coast. I really enjoyed the opportunity to share the festivities with them and learn more about their memories of Fredrick Lee Hisaw. Thanks to Kelly Studebaker for arranging a fun event!

Congratulations to our colleagues in Cyprus who learned that accreditation of the Cyprus International Institute MS Program was formally approved. Thanks to all in Cyprus who contributed, particularly Costas Christophi who led the effort. Well done!

Last Friday the Liberty Mutual Post-Doctoral Program held their 2nd Work In Progress Symposium of the year here at HSPH. The current round of post-docs from both UMass Lowell and HSPH presented their work of the past year. The group has been highly productive in their first year with both the acceptance of peer review manuscripts and several conference proceedings. The program continues to be a success demonstrating the collaborative resources of the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and HSPH. In addition to their scholarly activities, two of the post-docs were married in the last year (Xu Xu and Joe Chang). It was great to seen our colleagues and faculty from Hopkinton and Lowell. Thanks to Nick Tonaritis for organizing this event.

With great sadness I also pass news of the recent passing of two valued colleagues. We were all shocked to hear of the death of Steve Lagakos, our colleague in the Biostatistics Department, who was killed with his wife Regina and mother Helen in a tragic car accident in New Hampshire on October 12, 2009.

Our good friend and colleague, Mary Ellen Wohl, professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus, and former chief of the Division of Respiratory Diseases at Children’s Hospital Boston, died on October 8, 2009 after a long illness.


Enjoy the return of Fall weather it won’t be long until……



Notes – 10/9/09

Last week Ann Backus, Kelly Studebaker and I traveled to Milwaukee to attend the annual NIEHS Center Directors conference hosted by the Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Children’s Research Institute.  This annual event is a great opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with fellow Center Directors.  Ann and Kelly had a similar opportunity with the Outreach and Center administrators.  We look forward to hosting the Center Directors in 2012 for the 50thanniversary of our Harvard-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health..

I traveled from Milwaukee to Austria to attend the second FINE! Dust-Free Congress.  The conference discussed a new EU Air Quality Directive and the latest studies on the health effects and costs of fine-dust pollution.  It was interesting to see the very aggressive actions being taken by European communities to reduce exposure to fine particles.  There diesel vehicles, including diesel autos, are considered the major source of particles. Traffic bans and other vehicle restrictions are being implemented in many communities.

Unfortunately my talk in Austria didn’t allow me time to participate in the signing of a new agreement with the Cyprus University of Technology(CUT).  The agreement aims to streamline the existing collaboration between HSPH and the government of Cyprus by incorporating the existing Cyprus International Institute (CII) on the Environment and Public Health within CUT, as part of its Faculty of Health Sciences.  The signing is the culmination of a great deal of effort by John Evans, John Lichten, Petros Koutrakis and a team too numerous to mention here.  Congratulations to all involved on this important milestone!  For more on the Cyprus initiative see:  and

To celebrate the signing the department hosted a dinner earlier this week for H.E. Andreas Kakouris, the Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States.  The Ambassador joined us after he spoke at the Kennedy School and is very excited about the new agreement.  It was a great opportunity to discuss future opportunities and the potential to advance the public health in Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean countries.

Congratulations to Alex Lu who received his first NIH research grant, R21- Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award “CBH Partnership on Environmental Public Health Exploration and Mitigation.”  Great news considering how competitive these awards are. Also, best wishes to Jing Li who is returning to China.  Jing worked with Alex as a post doc fellow.

Congratulations and best wishes to Greg Wellenius on his appointment as an Assistant Professor of Community Health at Brown University!

While the accomplishments are impressive they pale in comparison to the congratulations that go out to Dan Tschumperlin on the birth of Elizabeth Joy on September 18th!

Block time on your calendars for three notable events over the next two months.   The 12th Annual John B. Little Symposium will be held on October 23rd and 24th.  On November 10th, Jeff Drazen will give the Jere Mead Lecture.  Phil Landrigan will deliver the 12th James L. Whittenberger Symposium and Lecture on November 23, 2009.  Details and invitations to follow soon.

Have a great LONG weekend!!



Notes – 9/18/09

The department is very prominent in the just released Fall edition of the Harvard Public Health Review.  Excellent features on Bob and Roz Wright and John Briscoe.  Also featured are students Kathie Dionisio and Emmanuel Baja.  Kathy works with Majid Ezzati and Emmanuel with Helen SuhJohn Peters, former director of the Occupational Health Center is recognized as an alumni award winner.  Jere Mead, a 37 year HSPH veteran who passed away last July is acknowledged as well.  I encourage all, particularly our new students, to read these interesting and informative stories about your colleagues and their contributions to public health.

These articles bring to the forefront some of the great work being done in the department.  It’s important we share with our students what is going on in the Department outside the classroom.  In doing so we help them take full advantage of the educational experience here at HSPH.  To help facilitate that I plan to host periodic informal gatherings of faculty and students, fortified by pizza, to talk about our work and our students interests.  An invitation has gone out to students and faculty and I hope you will participate.  If not for the stimulating conversation then at least for the pizza!

We were very glad to see Greg Wagner back to teach today.  Greg is acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Mine Safety and Health Administration. He was appointed to the position on July 29, 2009, and is senior official at the agency pending confirmation of an Assistant Secretary.

Last week Dean Frenk hosted a one day retreat for all HSPH faculty.  It was a very productive and informative day.  Our department was well represented and very involved.  Collectively Dean Frenk and the faculty look forward to building on our past success to accomplish even more in the years ahead.  I would characterize Dean Frenk’s agenda as anything but a retreat!  More to follow in the days and weeks ahead.

The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) has declared Thursday, September 24 “Postdoc Appreciation Day.”  I want to add my thanks for the significant contributions the post docs make to our efforts and success in the department.  To celebrate Harvard’s postdoctoral fellow community, the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs has announced a number of events next week.  For more information see or 

Congratulations to John Evans and his outstanding team in Cyprus!  This week we received word that the government of Cyprus has approved a new agreement that will continue and strengthen our efforts in Cyprus through 2014.  I look forward to even greater accomplishments brought on by this important agreement.

Thanks to all preparing for next week’s CEPH accreditation site visit.

Best wishes to those celebrating Rosh Hashanah and to your family and friends.  “Ketiva ve-chatima tovah.”

Have a good weekend!



Notes – 9/7/09

On Friday we had the pleasure of notifying Russ Hauser of his being named the Frederick Lee Hisaw Professor of Reproductive Physiology. Russ became a Professor of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology at HSPH and Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical earlier this year. This honor is further testament to the high regard in which Russ is held by experts in his field and his colleagues here at HSPH and HMS. Congratulations to Russ and to all of you who support him and contribute to his scholarly activities. In the near future we’ll have a celebration of the assignment of professorships to both Russ and David Christiani (see 7/4/09 notes).

It was a beautiful week in Boston and I hope the weather helped compensate for the traffic caused by the annual migration of the students! Classes started last week and the increased energy level the students bring can be felt not only here at HSPH but throughout the city. My best wishes to all of our students as they begin this chapter of their academic careers. Hopefully that energy carries over to Fenway Park as Red Sox Nation starts the final push to the playoffs!

Classes have also started for the new class of 13 students at the Cyprus International Institute. This is the first class enrolling through the new association with the CUT, the Technical University of Cyprus, at the new campus in Limassol. We are looking forward to hearing more about the changes there.

Today is Labor Day when we recognize and celebrate the worker. It’s only appropriate that I add my thanks and appreciation to all of you who contribute so mightily to our continued success. Without you we simply couldn’t get it done, THANK YOU!



Notes – 8/31/09

It’s the start of the new academic year. I am happy to welcome back all of the EH community. I particularly want toe welcome our new graduate students. I was able to greet them by video conference from Ireland last week. We have 30 new students entering this fall, bringing the total EH student body up to 115. We have a truly global student body with 47% from outside the US representing 22 nations. I look forward to having the opportunity to meet each of you in person in the coming months. Please stop by our office on the 13th floor of Building 1, or stop me anytime in the hall, cafeteria, or wherever.

As I mentioned, last week I was in Dublin for the 21st Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. Our department has always had high visibility at this meeting. This year in particular, it seemed that everywhere I turned (both at the meeting and in the pubs) there was a current student, fellow, faculty, or scientist, or else successful alumni. It is very gratifying to see the influence and leadership that this department has in the field of environmental epidemiology, and the quality of the posters and presentations of our students and fellows. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the Irish hospitality.

Welcome back or as they say in Gaelic Céad Míle Fáilte!



Notes – 8/21/09

It’s been an incredibly hot week but the first sign of a waning summer is upon us. We’ll welcome our new students to orientation next Tuesday! Thanks to all who help put together the orientation and to those who will make presentations. I’ll have more details on a very strong entering class in future notes.

I’ll be welcoming the new students but via video conference from Dublin, Ireland. I’ll be in Dublin for the 21st International Society for Environmental Epidemiology meeting next week. We will be well represented at the conference as many of our faculty, students and fellows will be attending. More on the conference when I return.

Congratulations to Jack Dennerlein, Tom Smith, and Bob Herrick for a very successful conference they hosted this week – X2009 6th International Conference on Innovations in Exposure Assessment. Over 150 investigators from around world participated in the conference. It was a huge undertaking and great success, well done!

Also thanks to Steve Rudnick, Mel First, and Ed Nardell for once again teaching the very popular two week course “Building Design and Engineering Approaches to Airborne Infection Control”. The staff on the 14th floor enjoyed watching the discharge of fire extinguishers in the conference room as part of a teaching exercise!

Enjoy the weekend and the summer weather. Remember hurricane Bill will be stirring up the ocean at the beaches. I hope to be well above the hurricane as I fly to Dublin!



Notes – 8/2/09

Congratulations to the 2009 graduates of the Cyprus International Institute (CII)!!

Souzanna Achilleos (Cyprus), Despina Pampaka (Cyprus), Photini Photiou (Cyprus), Evangelia Andreou (Cyprus), Despo Ierodiakonou, (Cyprus), Eirini Kostantinou (Cyprus), Maja Saitovic (Serbia), Marlen Parari (Cyprus), Demetra Panayiotou (Cyprus), Christiana Symeou (Cyprus), Andri Yiangou (Cyprus), Funda Zaim (Cyprus), Emanual Dimont (Israel), Aleksandar Mitov (FYROM), Raphael Arku (Ghana), Charalambos Stefanou (Cyprus), Ioannis Hasikos (Cyprus)

Congratulations and thanks also to the faculty and staff at CII who have supported this program this year, including:

Ilias Vrezas, Konstantinos Makris, Panayiotis Yiallouros, Costas Christophi, Ourania Kolokotroni, Michalis Picolos, Spyros Pipis, Andreas Poullikkas

Yiannis Vakis, Lenia Josephides, Demetra Valtas, and Andri Kyriacou

You can see a picture of the graduates at the department web site spotlight and an album of photos at Cyprus 2009 Graduation Photos.

John Evans also asked that we thank Dr. Kazem BEHBEHANI (Director of the Dasman Institute for Research, Training and Prevention and Former Assistant Director of the World Health Organization) who gave the CII Commencement Speech (and received an honorary MS in Environmental Health from CII), and Minister PASCHALIDES (Commerce, Industry and Tourism – our current sponsor) and Minister DEMETRIOU (Education – our future sponsor) who both gave wonderful speeches. In addition the chairman of the CII Board, Ambassador Sotos ZACKHEOS gave the award to our valedictorian, Dr. Aleksandar MITOV. Other dignitaries in attendance included – Mr. George Georgiades (former director of the CII Board); Mr. Photius Photiou (member of the CII Executive Board), Dr. Elpida KERAVANOU (Rector, Technical University of Cyprus, CUT), Dr. Andreas Mallouppas (Vice President, CUT), along with the families and friends of the graduates.

Finally, thanks to the faculty here who have taught these students this year, and to our local administrative staff who have made this possible.

Hope you are enjoying the weekend!



Notes – 7/24/09

Judging from how quiet it was this week I suspect many in our department are enjoying a well deserved vacation! Fewer phone calls and email interruptions provided a great opportunity to get caught up and tackle those issues that I never seem to have time for.

Thanks to all involved in the fiscal year close. We continue to do well in a very challenging environment. Our financial staff do a great job of keeping us on the up and up!

Earlier this month White House economists predicted a 48 percent growth between 2000 and 2016 in health care support jobs. The officials also predicted a 52 percent growth during the same period for environment-based jobs. Jobs in growth sectors will require greater analytical thinking than jobs in industries that are in decline, the report concluded. Health, environment and more training – sounds like we’re in the right fields for the future.

I was pleased to chat with Mel First who stopped by the department office today. It is always great to talk with Mel, who started here before I was born, and continues to have an active research and teaching program. Mel, Steve Rudnick, and Ed Nardell are continuing to develop methods to control airborne infections, specifically tuberculosis. Mel indicates that we can look forward to some exciting new results from this research in the near future.

Joe Brain shared some sad news that I wanted to pass along. Ramon Molina‘s mother died last week in the Philippine village where she spent most of her life. Ramon’s mother celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year – an incredible achievement. Although her physical health was declining and she was largely confined to her bed for the last year or two, her mind remained sharp, and she conversed with family and caretakers during her final days. She died in her own bed in her own home. Our condolences to Ramon and his family.

With the Red Sox recent fall from first place it is incumbent upon me to attend the game tonight and get them back to their winning ways. Count on a win for the old town team tonight!

Have a great weekend, the sun is starting to shine already!


Notes – 7/4/09

It was a great treat to have Linda Birnbaum, the new Director of NIEHS, visit the Department the week before last.  While the demands on her time have clearly increased, she has agreed to stay on Olivier Humblet’s research committee.  Our faculty and research scientists were able to meet with her informally, and question her on her vision for NIEHS. Thanks to Olivier and Russ Hauser for arranging her visit.

Congratulations to David Christiani who has been named Elkan Blout Professor.  This named Chair honors Dr. Blout who was the first Chairman of the combined Department of Environmental Science and Physiology (1986 to 1988) and Dean for Academic Affairs (1978 to 1989).  We are looking forward to congratulating David in person net week.

Finally, we are saddened to hear that Jere Meade, our colleague, intellectual leader, and mentor, took his final breath this morning.  We have lost one of the giants in respiratory physiology and one of the great teachers in our department.



Notes – 6/19/09

I returned this week from teaching in Cyprus. As usual, it was sunny every day in Cyprus, compared to clouds and rain every day here in Boston.

Always an enjoyable trip, not just because of the weather, but mainly because of the students, faculty and staff at the CII.  Thanks to Lenia Josephides, Yiannis Vakis, Demetra Valtas  and Costas  Christophi for the arrangements and warm welcome. I also was able to attend two veryinteresting workshops on Environmental Lung Disease and Asthma organized by Les Kobzik, Panayiotis Yiallouros, and Ourania Koloktroni.

We’re excited and anxious to sign a new agreement with Cyprus shortly that will result in a new location for CII among other administrative changes.  This will allow for a new administrative platform and an exciting future for CII.  A dedicated CII faculty and staff is handling a challenging transition remarkably well. Thanks to all in Cyprus for your efforts.

Please join me in congratulating Dan Tschumperlin and Francine Laden on their promotions to Associate Professor.  A well-deserved acknowledgment of their contributions and importance to our department and school.  Well done!

Next Tuesday Linda Birnbaum, the new Director of NIEHS will be visiting. Kelly has sent out email invitations to two informal opportunities to meet with Linda.  Senior faculty are invited to join Linda for lunch, junior faculty and research scientists for an mid afternoon tea. Contact Kelly ( for details.


Congratulations to Enhua Zhou and his colleagues on their paper appearing in PNAS this week (  I had asked Enhua to describe the results to me and he sent the following: “Imagine a opaque bag in front of you and you wish to figure out what’s inside, what would you do?  You can’t open it.  So you press and you feel the content, then you might be able to tell whether it is a bag of glass beads or soft balls.  The mammalian cell is like such an opaque, fully-packed, and yet miniature bag, the physical nature of its content elusive.  That is what our PNAS paper is trying to figure out.  Indeed we ‘pressed’ and ‘felt’ the cytoplasm.”  Sounds very interesting!!!

Tracy Mark tells me that EER has acquired a bicycle thru MASCO.  If it ever stops raining it might be a nice way to “commute” from Landmark to Building1! See Tracy for details.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads among us!  Let’s compare ties on Monday!



Notes – 6/5/09

Congratulations to all our students on their accomplishments at HSPH culminating in the commencement this week!  Our class of 25 students represented the US (17), Nigeria, Peru, India (2), Cyprus,  Hong Kong, Japan and China.

Commencement is easily the most enjoyable and rewarding day for me as the Department Chair.  I look forward to seeing the bright faces of our graduates and congratulating them on stage, and to meet their proud parents, families, and friends.  We are all proud of our new colleagues in Environmental Health and wish them success in future endeavors.

I want to thank our faculty for teaching, advising, and mentoring these new graduates.  Your dedication to teaching excellence, and your generosity with your time are essential to our training program. Thanks also to the staff who have guided these students through the academic maze of forms and websites, and the researchers who have been so generous in helping and guiding the students in their projects. There are countless ways you all contribute to our success as a department and to the success of our students.  As another academic year comes to a close I thank all of you for a job well done!


2009 Department of Environmental Health Graduates

Master of Public Health (MPH)  
Adedeji Adeleke (Nigeria)
Eric Amster (U.S.)
Gerardo Durand (Peru)
Bret Heerema (U.S.)
Todd Huhn (U.S.)
Tejaswini Kulkarni (India)
Jannah Tauheed (U.S.)
Chunbai Zhang (U.S.)

Master of Science (S.M.)
Eric Apeagyei (U.S.)
Kevin Francis Banahan (U.S.)
Ceren Barlas (Cyprus)
Ian Leigh Callander (U.S.)
Melissa Jeanne Ekstrand (U.S.)
Meiling Gao (U.S.)
Janet Heung (Hong Kong)
Don Kriens (U.S.)
Yusuke Kusakawa (Japan)

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Marleen Marie Welsh (U.S.)

Doctor of Science (SD)
Amar Jayant Mehta (U.S.)
Monique Murphy Perron (U.S.)
Glenn Edward Rice (U.S.)
Ananya Roy (India)
Monica Ter-Minassian (U.S.)
Elissa Hope Wilker (U.S.)
Ying Zhu (China)

Notes – 5/8/09

Last week I attended a reception in honor of Jim Ware to recognize his 19 years as Academic Dean at HSPH.  Jim has been provided biostatistical help to this department since he joined the School in 1979. As Dean for Academic Affairs, he has guided the academic life with a steady hand.  We know him a gentleman who is always positive and encouraging in his interactions with the faculty.  He has done a fantastic job handling numerous challenges with great skill and diplomacy over the years.  Joining us at the reception were the four HSPH Deans that Jim served under, Howard Hyatt,  Harvey Fineberg,  Barry Bloom and Julio Frenk.  A testament to the high regard the Deans have for Jim.  We will miss him in the Deans Office, but look forward to him returning as a colleague, teacher, and collaborator.

Congratulations to all the EH students and Post Doc prize winners at the annual Faculty Council Poster and Exhibit day last week.  Winners include:

Student winner: Emmanuel Baja (Traffic-related pollutants are associated with heart rate-corrected QT interval)

Postdoc winner: Alison Williams (Impact of adiponectin and T-cadherin deficiency on allergic airways responses in mice)

Student authors receiving honorable mention: Zhao Dong (Jellyfish: an in-situ equilibrium-based sampler for determining multiple metal ions in aquatic systems), Yen-Tsung Huang (Characterizing genome-wide copy number profiles in non-small cell lung cancer) and Monica Ter-Minassian (A large-scale study of candidate SNPs reveals an association of a TSC2 variant with sporadic neuroendocrine tumors)

Paul Riccardi tells me that HSPH has reached an agreement on lease terms for our Landmark space through 2015.  Good news for the Department, specifically for our EER program.

Thanks to all who helped with the equipment inventory, especially to those who applied the “Do Not Tag” tags to the equipment in their labs.

Don’t miss the student talent show “Rhythm Therapy – Return from the Deep” at 6:30 tonight in the Cafeteria.

Have a great weekend! Don’t forget your mothers.



Notes – 5/1/09

We survived the crazy weather week, breaking the all-time high on Tuesday followed by a fifty degree drop on Wednesday and ending with seasonable temperatures today.  Our colleagues in Cyprus might find that temperature variation amusing.  Of course our students here from Cyprus probably find it less than amusing!

Dean Frenk returned this week from Mexico where, while visiting family, he assisted the Mexican government with a response to the swine flu outbreak.  See the Boston Globe article for an interview with Dean Frenk on the outbreak.

Speaking of Mexico, keep in mind our friends and colleagues in Mexico as they celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Tuesday under less than ideal conditions.

This week Dean Frenk announced John Lichten’s move to the Provost’s Office.  A loss for us but good to know he’s close by and still working on HSPH International affairs.  John was and is instrumental in our work around the globe most notably in Cyprus, Japan, Greece and the Gulf States.  His steady hand has led to wonderful opportunities to improve the public health.  I’m sure you all join me in thanking John and wishing him all the best in his new role!

I had a most enjoyable lunch today with the Departments key administrators to celebrate Linda Fox’s 40 anniversary with Harvard.  She has spent 30 of them in the EH Department or its predecessors!  This will be Linda’s last Harvard anniversary as she will be retiring at the end of the year.   More as the time approaches.  If you’re looking for the skeletons in the Department closet Linda’s the one to talk to.  Hope she doesn’t write a book (she even has pictures)! Thanks to Linda, Jean Economos, Amy Gerson, Kelly Studebaker, Barbara Zuckerman and Ken Wenger for an enjoyable walk down memory lane.

Out my window I can see the TV trucks converging on the Dental School to report on the H1N1 flu.  For more information on the virus see:

Last week I hoped for Red Sox victories over the Yankees – my wish for three wins was granted.  Last Friday I enjoyed a wonderful evening of baseball and fine weather topped off by the Sox extra innings win. My next three wishes have to do with pending grants…..

Happy May Day!



Notes – 4/24/09

We are at the end of school vacation week, that is vacation for the kids, but a challenge to the parents who have to juggle their work and home. Not an easy task and not always a “vacation”!

Good time to remind all that HSPH has a work/life liaison, Ronnie Mae Weiss, in the HR Department.  Ronnie is the HSPH “google” resource for work and life resources and benefits (including elder care).

The paper Majid Ezzati, Arden Pope and I published earlier this year on improved life expectancy associated with improved air pollution continues to get press.  There is a brief article in the current Harvard Magazine (  Also the  BBC recently aired an interview I did several months ago (

I hope you had the opportunity to attend Alexey Fedulov’s presentation Wednesday entitled “Maternal Asthma and Environmental Exposures Lead to Epigenetic Alterations and Allergy Risk.”  Alexey’s work on these trans-generational predictors of asthma risk is very intriguing, and led to some lively discussion.  Today, we were happy to welcome Ning Wang back to describe his innovative work on mechanotransduction in the cytoplasm in cells.  It was terrific to see Ning who continues to succeed even though he left Harvard for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Next week Barbara Campbell will be visiting from the University of Delaware to present on Monday “Molecular Microbial Ecology – Detection of Human Pathogens in the Environment.”  Bldg 1, Room 1302, 12:45 pm to 1:45 pm.

I have been invited to talk to the doctoral students about preparing for and taking their Oral Examination on Thursday, April 30 at noon, Building 1, Room 1302.  Thanks to Angeliki Lambrou for coordinating this event.

I trust you all enjoyed Earth Week and the talks and information that was available throughout the school.  Hopefully we all learned something that we can put into practice to make our footprint a little smaller.

Tom Leamon is looking for help in developing a website to highlight, assess, and reduce the global burden of occupational injury.  Contact him at

Next week is the school’s twenty-third annual Poster and Exhibit Day(Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 3:30-5:30 p.m. in the Kresge cafeteria). This event is an opportunity for the HSPH community to learn more about the exciting research and service activities being carried out by the school.  Two $500 prizes will be awarded – one for the best poster or exhibit prepared by students (or a team with a student as the first author) and one for the best poster or exhibit prepared by postdocs (or a team with a postdoc as the first author).  Our department has always been well represented among the presenters and the award winners. For more information and to register, go to:

Looks like spring has bowed to summer at least for the weekend.  Hopefully the Yankees bow to the Red Sox as well!

Have a great weekend!



Notes – 4/3/09

It’s great to have travel behind me for awhile and have the opportunity to be back in the thick of all that is happening in the Department.

Spring 2 classes began this week. We had very positive meetings with the HSPH visiting committee mid-week.  We ended with meetings for our accepted students.  I always enjoy meeting the accepted students and having the opportunity to discuss their backgrounds and interests.  It serves as a reminder of the wide ranging aspects of Environmental Health and the broad spectrum of talented people we work with and teach.   While I’ve been teaching for more years that I care to admit there is a great deal I can learn for these students given their impressive backgrounds and experiences.  Thanks to all who helped these prospective students feel welcome.

Congratulations to John Briscoe,  awarded the International Water Association’s Presidential Award at the World Water Forum in Istanbul on March 18. It’s wonderful to see the energy that John is bringing to our water program.

Next week the Environmental Health Colloquium features Ian Gilmour, Ph.D., “Chemistry and Toxicology of Airborne Particulates: Integration of Laboratory and Field Studies”.   April 9, 2009, 3:30-4:30 rm. 1-1302

Monday is opening day for Red Sox Nation – ($1 scoops at JP Licks!) all is right with the Universe.  (This also means the fish will be biting soon!)

Have a great weekend!



Notes – 3/30/09

I’m glad to be back after nearly two weeks on the road. I am impressed by all the work that has taken place in response to the stimulus plan.  Thanks to all the investigators and staff who have risen to the challenge.  New information continues to come out on nearly a daily basis.

The week before last I was in Abu Dhabi where Eileen McNeely and I gave talks at an International Conference on Environmental Health sponsored by the Environment Agency and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Centre for Environmental Health.  On the return I stopped in Geneva to see our colleagues, Kazem and Jaafar Behbehani.  I was happy to find Jaafar doing well.

This past week I visited the University of South Carolina where I gave the Winona Vernberg Lecture honoring the former Dean of their School of Public Health.  I was hosted by Robin Puett, one of our former post-docs, who is now on the faculty there. On Francine Laden’s recommendation, I tried the local delicacy – boiled peanuts.  They are allegedly very good with beer, but unfortunately none was at hand.

From there I went to Vancouver to give the David Bates Memorial Lecture sponsored by the University of British Columbia Respiratory Division and participate, along with Murray Mittleman, in the annual Air Quality and Health Workshop sponsored by the British Columbia Lung Association.  I received a beautiful hand-carved “Talking Stick” from the hosts in Vancouver.  Traditionally everyone is supposed to listen respectfully to whoever is holding this stick. I am anxious to try this at the next faculty meeting.

While traveling I did see on an article on the health and fitness of EMT’s and firefighters, work being done by Stefanos Kales, Congratulations!

Congratulations to Jeff Fredberg on the acceptance of a paper by “Nature Physics”.  Jeff’s work is on the subject of collective cell migration, which is a phenomenon that comes into play in many fundamental biological processes.

Note your federal income taxes withholding may have changes due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  Watch for a few extra dollars in your paychecks!

Have a great week!



Notes – 3/13/09

We were stunned to hear of the tragic and unexpected death of our colleague Michael Shannon on Tuesday.  Mike was Chief of Emergency Medicine and Co-Director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Center at Children’s Hospital.  He has been an important mentor and collaborator to many of us, particularly in studies and management of metal exposures in children.  Most recently he led our local team in our successful application as part of the National Children’s Study.   There are links to his obituary and memorial site below.

A great deal going on with grant development and submittals tied to the stimulus program.  It’s critical that the lines of communications are open to support collaborations as we position ourselves to take advantage of this unique opportunity.  The first deadline is March 23, 2009.  Good luck to all involved and thanks to the administrative team gearing up to meet the aggressive deadlines.

Thanks to Karin Michels for her presentation at Thursday’s EH Colloquium, ”Use of Polycarbonate Bottles and Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations”.  A popular topic with lots of interest!

Next Wednesday the department is sponsoring the  DBS-BPH Distinguished lecture by Patrick G. Holt on “The Aetiology and Pathogenesis of Asthma: Insights into Persistent Disease from Studies in Children”, and separately, Dr. Andrea Baccarelli will be speaking on “DNA Methylation and Health Effects of Air Pollution”.

Please send all lectures/seminars announcements to Kelly Studebaker so she can post them on the department web site.

Next week the Longwood campus officially goes smoke free. Let’s support and be thoughtful of our colleagues that are working to kick the habit.

I’m off tomorrow to Abu Dhabi to give a talk at the International Conference on Environmental Health 2009 hosted by WHO and the Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency.  I hope you have a great weekend!


Notes – 3/6/09

Nice to have Bruce Boley and John Evans stop by this week.  Both have been busy traveling, spending time in Kuwait and Cyprus.  John reports good progress on the transition of the Cyprus International Institution(CII) to a base within the Cyprus University of Technology.  Thanks to the efforts of Phil Demokritou, Petros Koutrakis, and now John Evans our Harvard-Cyprus program has a solid foundation for the future.  John also brings positive news on continuation of the research studies in Kuwait.  Well done John and congratulations on your 30 years of service award!

Nice article on John Briscoe in the Harvard magazine’s most recent issue. John is off to a great start and we look for great things in our waterprogram.  We’ll have John in our web spotlight next week.

Kelly asked me to remind users of the conference rooms to please leave them neat and tidy for the next meeting and remember to turn off the lights, computer and projector.   Thanks!

Have a great weekend.


Notes – 2/28/09

Congratulations to all our “Stars” who were honored this week for their milestone years of service.  We had 28 Department staff recognized for a combined for a total of over 325 years of service!  That’s a great deal of expertise that we are lucky to have.  Another reminder that in challenging times we are up to the task.  I would highlight our longest service colleagues – Jeff Fredberg (20 years), Lynn McClelland (25years), John Evans and John Godleski (30 years), and Jack Spengler (35 years).   The spotlight section of our web site has a complete list of our “Stars”.

Great to see our colleagues at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety  at this weeks ERC seminar “Near miss and minor occupational injury: Does it share a common causal pathway with major injury?”  Ted Courtney, Helen Corns, Melanye Brennan and Santosh Verma (EH doctoral student) Center for Injury Epidemiology made the trip in from Hopkinton for the seminar

The program and department offices were all working hard this week to finish review of admission applications, and to get notices out to the accepted new students.  We had a large number of high quality applications this year, no doubt related to the economic conditions. Thanks to the faculty and staff who worked diligently to review and process these applications.

Enjoy the weekend.  Saturday I thought there were signs of spring?  However, Sunday and Monday look like winter again.


Notes – 2/20/09

A short week but busy one with lots going on.

The stimulus plan was front and center with good news on the NIH front.  The plan included $9.5 billion for biomedical research.  Faculty are hard at work to determine how best to position our research to take advantage of this rare opportunity to further our science.  Should be a win win with the economy and the public health both benefitting.

In my own attempt to stimulate the economy, I did invest in a hybrid, low emissions car this week.  I have been struggling with the tradeoff of purchasing a higher fuel efficiency, lower emissions vehicle, versus hanging on to a perfectly acceptable but pedestrian auto. Last weekend I found a low mileage (used) Toyota Camry Hybrid to replace my 10-year old Camry.  The cars look remarkably the same from the outside. However, with all the high-tech engineering, gadgets and displays, I feel totally “pimped” out when I am behind the wheel. My kids are embarrassed, but relieved that Dad is having an environmentally friendly mid-life car crises.  Take comfort in knowing that your Chair is talking the talk and riding the ride!

Don’t forget the town meeting with President Faust on Tuesday.  Submit questions in advance or at the meeting.

I’m sad to announce that Cheryl Magoveny is leaving this week, but happy to announce she is moving on to a great opportunity at Yale as Team Leader in the Office of Grant and Contract Administration.  Cheryl was our Associate Director of Finance and Administration in the MIPS Program.  In addition to the great opportunity at Yale, Cheryl is returning to her home town of New Haven.  We wish her all the best and thank her for her excellence through the years.

On the construction front I wanted to thank Li Su and Xing Chen for their help in getting FXB 102 ready for construction.  This week was the final push and thanks to them (and others) we’ll turn the room over for construction next week.  We hope to have all projects completed by June 30, 2009.

Enjoy the weekend


Notes – 2/13/09

We’re nearing the end of the review of student applications for the Class of 2009.  It looks to be a very strong group of students.  Thanks to all the faculty and staff for their dedicated review and processing of the applications.  Special thanks to Jean Economos, Linda Fox, Rose West, Cheryl Magoveny and Barbara Zuckerman for providing the administrative oversight of the process and implementing the online review of applications.  Well done!

I haven’t commented on construction activities lately but it’s still very prevalent in the department.  The folks in EOME on the 14th floor have been weathering the dust, noise and displacement for quite awhile now.  In a couple weeks the west side of the floor will be complete and work will begin on the east side.  With a little luck it will all be complete by June 30, 2009!  Thanks to Jean Economos and her staff for their patience and understanding.  Meanwhile Russ Hauser’s new lab in FXB 102 will begin construction in two weeks.  His staff office space in FXB 101 is complete and turned out great.  On deck is renovation of the Inhalation Lab on the first floor of Building 1.  That will begin in early spring.  In spite of all the construction research is getting done, papers written, grants are going out the door, budgets developed and on and on.  Amazing!!  The commitment of the school to provide a first class working environment in this economy speaks volumes about the value and importance of the work we do.  Thanks to all for their patience and can do attitude!

Your administrators are busy at work preparing our FY10 budgets.  The turnaround is short with a due date of March 3, 2009.  If they have questions for you please provide timely responses.

Speaking of budget planning, you might want to add to your calendars the “Town Meeting” with President Faust and Ed Forst on February 24, 2009.   Good opportunity to hear first hand from the decision makers in these challenging times.

Have a great and well deserved long weekend!


Notes – 2/6/09

Arrived safely back from my trip to Africa late Sunday night.  The goal of this trip was to lay the groundwork to establish an African prospective cohort study of chronic disease.  The trip was organized by the Epidemiology Department, and I went to assess opportunities to incorporate environmental and occupational health issues into the proposed study. We met with researchers in Nigeria, Tanzania, and South Africa, including colleagues of our faculty, former students and fellows. We were welcomed everywhere, but also kept to a very tight schedule.  Michelle Holmes and Shona Dalal did the groundwork for this trip, and along with David Havelick and Michelle Coleman, made sure we made optimal use of our time.  The sightseeing was largely as we traveled between potential study sights. At our last stop in Cape Town, we made a quick trip up Table Mountain, and had a special private tour of Robben Island where we visited the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison.

We were challenged by the economic and health disparities we observed.  However, we were encouraged by the competence and commitment of the public health researchers and practitioners we met.  As one of our hosts said, Africa can become the “continent of hope,” and the Harvard School of Public Health can be an important contributor to that change.

Arriving back in Boston, we were hit with the New England winter.  However, on Wednesday it felt like Mexico.  It was great to see so many of you at our annual department winter party. After so much snow and such cold temperatures it was great to relax with Mexican food by Tom Quinn, Laurie Torf and the Sebastian’s staff, music by Mariachi Connecticut, balloons by Rami Salami, and of course our department jester, Tom Smith. I particularly enjoy seeing the children.  It’s nice for our parents to show their work space with the family and allow the children to see where their parents spend so much of their time.  I hope it helps in some small way as you wrestle to balance work and family.  Thanks to all who pulled the party together, particularly Barbara, Ken and my new executive assistant Kelly Studebaker, who has been with us only a month!  Take a look at the Department web site photo gallery for some special party pictures on Monday.

Next week we begin development of our FY 10 budgets.  With all the discouraging news about the economy, I want to note that we are doing everything possible to capitalize on our strengths in these difficult times.  Our strengths are of course you, our faculty and staff and I can’t think of anyone stronger, or better positioned, to face the challenges ahead than this Department.  Thank you for your continued efforts and commitment to our mission and goals.  (Special thanks to all who worked getting grants out this week – a busy week!)

Finally, our deepest condolences to Francine Laden on the passing of her father last week.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family in this difficult time.

Enjoy the warm up this weekend!


Notes – 1/23/09

Greetings from Africa!  I write from Abuja, Nigeria where I’m part a delegation led by Hans-Olov Adami to plan a prospective African cohort study. Have been meeting with some very talented local investigators. Great potential for collaboration.

Also met a banker here at the hotel who is very interested in supporting environmental health.  He represents an entrepreneur here in Nigeria who would like to sponsor a new faculty chair in environmental health in Africa.  We only need to cover the costs of transferring funds.  I’m asking Amy Gerson to organize the transfer.

Tomorrow we fly to Lagos, to Nairobi, and then to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.  Flight connections are difficult.  Internet connections are poor and power is unreliable.  More when possible.

Back at HSPH:
Welcome to John Briscoe, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Environmental Health, who officially joined us this week.  I’ve spoken of John in prior notes but wanted to mention his arrival.  John’s office is in Bldg 1, Rm. 1304B but he will likely join the EER faculty at Landmark in the future.

Next week we “Celebrate with the Stars,” the annual milestone appreciation event.  Join Dean Frenk in recognizing your colleagues for their dedicated long term service.  The event is on Wednesday, January28th at 2:30 in the Kresge cafeteria.

I’ll be back in time for our Winter Celebration on Wednesday, February 4, 2009.  Please remember to RSVP to Kelly Studebaker ( or 2-1270.  Sombreros welcome!

Have a good weekend, stay warm (strange but fun saying that while in Africa!)


Notes – 1/16/09

Jon Levy’s air pollution risk assessment work was instrumental in a recent legal decision.  North Carolina scored a legal victory forcing a major utility (TVA) to control emissions from coal-fired power plants outside the state’s borders. Jon did the analysis of the health benefits of air pollution controls on coal fired plants operated by the TVA.  Good work Jon!

This week we said goodbye to Louise Ryan, Chair of the Biostatistics Department, who is returning to her native Australia.  Louise remains a valued colleague who will be missed but we look forward to continued collaborations in the future.

I’m off to Africa next Wednesday through February 1, 2009.  I’ll join Hans Olav-Adami, Walt Willett, David Hunter, Wafaie Fawzi  and several other colleagues from the school to visit Abuja, Nigeria; Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Cape Town, South Africa.

The goal is to explore the possibility of a prospective population-based cohort in one or more locations – to study (primarily) chronic disease.  Ideally, interventions will be built in.  A main component of the project is training and capacity building – to create a sustainable infrastructure that can out-live Harvard’s involvement.  I’ll report back when I return.

REMINDER – our winter celebration will be held here at the school on February 4, 2009.  Planning is in fill swing and invitations will be out shortly.  Please mark your calendars and plan to join us in celebrating the New Year, New Dean and New President!

Have a great long weekend!


Notes – 1/9/09

Welcome back!  I hope you all enjoyed the break and were able to recharge for the next term.  It’s been a busy week judging from all the buzz of activity in the offices, conference rooms and labs, not to mention the paperwork crossing my desk!  It’s also been an exciting week as we welcomed our new Dean, Julio Frenk, to HSPH and to the Department.  One of Dean Frenk’s first acts was to join us at our faculty meeting on Thursday, his first official day at HSPH.  I think I can speak for those present that it was an informative and encouraging discussion with the Dean and while very early in his tenure it was clear that he is someone with the expertise and experience to work with us to achieve our mission.  Some of what he said was repeated later in his remarks at the HSPH reception where I hope you had the opportunity to listen to and meet Dean Frank.  Of note were two themes he mentioned, excellence and relevance and genes to global.  As he elaborated it was clear that these go hand in hand with what we do and what we are positioned to do in the future.  There are challenging times ahead but I look forward to working with Dean Frenk to meet these challenges.

We prepared a white paper on the department for the meeting that was distributed to the faculty and your program administrators.  It will also be posted on the web soon.  Thanks to all the faculty and staff that contributed to that effort.

I’d also like to welcome Kelly Studebaker who started this week as my new Executive Assistant.  Kelly joins us from her most recent position with CEI Boston, LLC a construction firm in Boston.  She is also a US Army veteran having served in Afghanistan.  Yesterday Dean Bloom presented a gavel to new Dean Frenk as a tool he can use if he ever needed to deal with “difficult faculty”.  One of the many skills Kelly brings is the ability to call in blackhawk attack helicopters, something I may find useful!  Stop by and say hello or give Kelly a call at 2-1270.

Finally,  Congratulations to Joe Brain on the birth of his third grandson, Nicholas (Nico) Jan Brain today!   The healthy Nico weighted in at just over 8 pounds.  He arrived promptly nine minutes after his mother arrived at the Mt Auburn Hospital!

Have a great weekend!