Environmental Factor, July 2009, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
NIEHS Sponsors New Jersey Town Hall Meeting
By Eddy Ball
NIEHS scientists traveled to New Brunswick, N.J., in support of a June 17 Environmental and Child Health Town Meeting that included opening comments by NIEHS and National Toxicology Program (NTP) Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/about/od/director/index.cfm) The program was organized by the NIEHS Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease (CEED) (http://ceed.rutgers.edu/), which is housed in the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI) at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). The meeting was held at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick.
The event was an opportunity for Birnbaum, a native of New Jersey, to visit the city where NIEHS held its first town hall meeting in 1998. She told her audience at the evening session of the program that NIEHS is proud of its "long history of seeking involvement from a broad array of constituencies, including scientists, health care professionals and communities, in setting its research agenda and in fostering community-university partnerships to implement parts of that agenda."
"As we go forward, we want to make sure we are supporting the most important types of science, from 'small science' conducted by individual labs, which can be nimble and innovative, to 'big science' research teams, which may be needed to answer some of the most intractable questions," Birnbaum explained. "We will need to use a judicious mix of the best individual investigators, as well as the capabilities of research teams, to uncover all the complex ways in which environmental exposures work on biological systems with genetic and other host susceptibility mechanisms to affect health and disease."
An afternoon program of expert speakers opened with a welcome and introduction by UMDNJ Professor of Environmental and Occupational Medicine Helmut Zarbl, Ph.D. (http://lifesci.rutgers.edu/~molbiosci/faculty/zarbl.html) , who is the principal investigator on the university's NIEHS Center grant. Zarbl was followed by talks by UMDNJ investigators on findings of their NIEHS-funded research. The presenters included Michael Gochfeld, M.D., Ph.D., Jason Richardson, Ph.D., Michael Gallo, Ph.D., and Kathy Black, Ph.D. They spoke on such environmental health topics as heavy metal exposure, neurological disorders linked to pesticides, endocrine disruption and breast cancer and childhood asthma. A poster session and reception followed.
The evening program opened with Birnbaum's comments and a brief panel session of local middle school students involved in the CEED Community Outreach and Engagement Program, leading into the highlight of the evening - a 90-minute panel session with scientists and environmental justice and public health advocates.
NIEHS Epidemiology Branch Staff Scientist Jane Hoppin, Sc.D. (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/atniehs/labs/epi/chronic/staff/hoppin/index.cfm), was one of the five members of the evening panel discussion. Hoppin described her research as part of the Agricultural Health Study and how "what we learn from farmers and their families [can be] relevant to the U.S. population as the chemicals used in agriculture are used for residential and public health purposes as well."
Hoppin was joined by two UMDNJ professors - Daniel Wartenberg, Ph.D., and Robert Laumbach, M.D. - as well as Elyse Pivnick, vice president of Environmental and Community Health (http://isles.org/main/services/environment/#.VfsW3ZffthY) at the non-profit organization Isles in Trenton, N.J., and Ana Baptista, Ph.D., program manager of the Ironbound Community Corporation (http://www.ironboundcc.org/) in Newark, N.J.