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Director Ken Olden Wins APHA's Oldest, Most Prestigious Award

December 2004

NIEHS Director Ken Olden

The American Public Health Association honored NIEHS Director Ken Olden with the Sedgwick Medal, the oldest and most prestigious award bestowed by APHA.

The medal is awarded annually for outstanding public health service. Olden was selected for his extraordinary achievements in linking environmental health sciences with public health and the practice of medicine. He was among the first public officials to focus on the need for research into gene-environment interactions in understanding the development of chronic diseases.

The honor was bestowed Nov. 7 at the APHA's annual meeting in Washington.

Among the highlights of Olden's 13 years at the helm of NIEHS are the establishment of health disparities programs, community-based prevention/intervention research, the Environmental Genome Project, the National Center for Toxicogenomics, and consortium centers on Parkinson's disease, breast cancer, and children's environmental health. The issues addressed in Olden-initiated programs and centers have moved to the forefront of national public health focus. 

"Ken is a bridging leader, exactly the kind that is needed in public health and holds the greatest promise for addressing the problems of the 21st century," said Noreen Clark, APHA member and dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. "He is exceedingly worthy of the Sedgwick Medal because of his contributions, but also because his way of working reflects the very best of leadership in public health."

David Eathon, APHA member, associate research dean at the University of Washington School of Public Health and director of the school's Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health said Olden transformed NIEHS from a typical NIH basic science agency to one with a strong proactive public health emphasis.

"He changed the mission and vision of NIEHS in a profound way, and fully recognized the importance of educating the general public about how environmental health sciences can be used to inform public policy and reduce diseases with an environmental etiology." he said.

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