The Department of Environmental Health at the UC College of Medicine is preparing to mark its rich history with two days of festivities Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9-10, including a gala dinner and awards event and a scientific program.
The department is celebrating the 50th anniversary of assuming its present name in 1965, along with 85 years of research excellence at the Kettering Laboratory Complex on UC’s medical campus. The first building of the Kettering Lab Complex, home to the department’s students, faculty and staff, was completed in December 1930. (It was recently demolished after being deemed infeasible to renovate.)
The weekend’s events will begin with welcoming remarks and a program highlighting the history and achievements of the department from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, in Kehoe Auditorium of the Kettering Lab Complex. A cocktail reception and gala dinner/awards program will follow beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center.
Shuk-Mei Ho, PhD, Jacob G. Schmidlapp professor and Chair of Environmental Health at UC, will give the welcoming remarks. Ho has led the department since 2005 and was honored earlier this year with the George Rieveschl Jr. Award for Distinguished Scientific Research at UC’s annual All-University Faculty Awards celebration. She also serves as director of the Cincinnati Cancer Center, a collaborative initiative of the University of Cincinnati, UC Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
"This weekend gives us an opportunity to celebrate and explore our past, present and future, along with distinguished guests from the public and private sectors and other institutions of higher learning,” Ho says, adding that UC President Santa Ono, PhD, and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Beverly Davenport, PhD, have given their strongest support to be present for the celebration.
Ono and William Ball, MD, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, will give the opening remarks at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, and Davenport and Ball will attend the gala that night and help recognize the awardees.
Renowned speakers during the weekend will include Gwen Collman, PhD, director of the Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; John Howard, MD, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; and Pete Myers, PhD, CEO and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2002 to increase public understanding of the scientific links between environmental factors and human health.
Ten emeriti faculty members will be honored for excellence at the dinner, and the Outstanding Alumnus Award will be presented to Richard Fulwiler, ScD, president of Technology Leadership Associates and a course director and instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Fulwiler received his doctor of science in environmental health from UC in 1967 and spent 28 years at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co., retiring as director of health and safety worldwide.
The scientific program, "Looking Forward,” will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, in Kehoe Auditorium.
The Kettering Lab Complex was originally named the Kettering Laboratory of Applied Physiology to honor the head of the General Motors Laboratory, Charles Kettering. It was an independent unit within UC until 1949, when a second building (now known as the Middle Wing) was completed and the Kettering Laboratory was combined with the Department of Preventive Medicine to form the Department of Preventive Medicine and Industrial Health in the College of Medicine under the chairmanship of Robert Kehoe, MD.
Kehoe, a pioneer in occupational and environmental medicine who was the first to assemble a multidisciplinary team of physicians, analytical chemists, toxicologists, industrial hygienists and engineers to study occupational and environmental health problems, retired in 1965. Kehoe Hall, completed in 1963, is named in his honor.
The most recent addition to the Kettering Lab Complex, known as the IEH (Institute of Environmental Health) Addition, was completed in 1992. The complex has recently been renovated with $2.8 million state of Ohio funding for a state-of-the-art animal facility in 2008, a $2.3 million state-funded renovation of 7,500 square feet of laboratory space on the 2nd Floor of the complex and an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act $5 million project supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for enhancements of an additional 7,500 square feet of laboratory space on the 3rd Floor and 6,500 square feet of dry lab space in the atrium (completed in 2014) that includes new office space for recently hired faculty and staff.
This new space has attracted world-class talents as faculty and allowed for new programs to be established such as the recently accredited (2012) Master’s in Public Health program, the Data Coordination & Integration Big Data to Knowledge Data Center for LINCS-BD2K funded by the NIH Director’s Office (2015) and the nationally renowned risk assessment unit known as TERA (Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment) (2015).
The Department of Environmental Health currently has 40 faculty, 17 emeritus faculty, 50 secondary, affiliated and volunteer faculty, 67 research and administrative staff, 69 doctoral students, 155 master’s students, 60 Certificate students, more than 1,200 continuing education professional trainees, 4 visiting scholars and more than 1,800 alumni in the past 85 years.
The department holds more than 70 grants and research contracts totaling more than $14,140,780 in direct funding annually. It is ranked seventh among National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences-funded programs among Tier 1 Research Universities. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, it ranked 12th in 2014 in terms of NIH funding in the discipline of Public Health/Preventive Medicine.
Key Department of Environmental Health accomplishments include:
- The department houses the nation’s oldest Occupational Medicine Residency program, dating back to 1947. Recent directors include James Lockey, MD, Sue Ross, MD, and the current director, Andrew Freeman, MD.
- The department houses one of the nation’s oldest Workers’ Safety and Health training programs, the Education and Research Center (T42 federal grant, since 1977), which trains industrial hygienists and worker’s safety and health professionals, occupation nurses and occupational engineers (in its 38th year of continuous funding).
- One of the nation’s oldest federally funded environmental centers known as the Center for Environmental Genetics (P30 grant), founded in 1992 by Daniel Nebert, MD, is housed in the department, with Ho as the current principal investigator. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences supports the center's research into how genes interact with the environment to impact health and disease outcome (23rd year of continuous funding).
- Carol Rice, PhD, just renewed the Worker Health and Safety Training Cooperative Agreement Center (U45 grant), which she has served as principal investigator since 1992 (24th year).
- The department has continued to train next-generation pediatric epidemiologists through the NIEHS-funded Molecular Epidemiology in Children’s Environmental Health Training Program (T32 grant) since 2001 (15th year).
- The department houses two university-wide core facilities: the Genomics, Epigenomics & Sequencing Core and the Center for Biostatistics.
- The department houses the Master’s in Clinical Translational Research Training program and its attended certificate program.
- Department of Environmental Health researchers have been fundamental in providing data about the health effects of lead in paint. UC was the first university-based environmental research facility to become nationally known for its studies of the health effects of lead in children, and the Department of Environmental Health was one of the first to test a chelation drug that effectively removed high lead levels from the bloodstream.
- Eula Bingham, PhD, conducted pioneering research on chemical carcinogens and received countless awards and honors during her career. She served as director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from 1977 to 1981.
Lockey (Award for Excellence in Occupational and Environmental Medicine); Nebert (Award for Excellence in Environmental and Genetic Toxicology); Rice (Award for Excellence in Industrial and Occupational Hygiene); and Bingham (Award for Excellence in National and International Leadership in Environmental Health) will be among the emeriti faculty honorees at the gala dinner and awards program. Additional honorees are Ernest Foulkes, PhD (Career Award for Departmental Leadership); Ellen O’Flaherty, PhD (Award for Excellence in Environmental and Genetic Toxicology); Ralph Buncher, ScD, and Robert Bornschein, PhD (Award for Excellence in Environmental Epidemiology and Biostatistics); Scott Clark, PhD (Award for Excellence in Industrial and Occupational Hygiene); and Grace LeMasters, PhD (Award for Excellence in Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology).
"Through our emphasis on mentoring and ‘team science,’ we are transforming the climate for our faculty and staff as we prepare to enter our next half-century in our quest to improve environmental, occupational and public health in the region and around the globe,” Ho says. "It’s our responsibility to ensure that we continue our research breakthroughs to benefit mankind for generations to come.”