October 17, 1996
17 Oct 1996: NIEHS' Allen Wilcox Elected President of Largest Epidemiologic Society
Allen J. Wilcox, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., has been elected president of the 3,000-member Society for Epidemiologic Research. The society is the primary organization of epidemiologists in the U.S. and the largest such organization in the world.
Dr. Wilcox will become president in June 1997, after a year as president-elect. He will serve four years on the Society's executive committee, one as president-elect, one as president, and two as past president.
Epidemiology is a branch of medical research that is increasingly in the public eye. The first epidemiologists studied epidemics caused by infection. Later, epidemiology expanded to include cancer and other chronic diseases. For example, epidemiologists were the first to show that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, long before biologists understood the mechanisms of cancer causation.
In recent years, epidemiologists have adopted some of the advanced tools of biotechnology. In his own pioneering research, Dr. Wilcox has used ultra-sensitive laboratory measurements of hormones to address basic questions of fertility and pregnancy.
He has established that one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage before women are even aware that they are pregnant. In this study of 221 healthy women, the participants collected daily urine samples for up to six months while they were trying to conceive, producing over 25,000 bottles of urine. Later analysis of these specimens has shown that the most fertile period for couples trying to achieve pregnancy is the day of ovulation and the five days leading up to it, a finding which upset the old concept that ovulation fell in the middle of this most-fertile time.
Dr. Wilcox earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his Master of Public Health and Ph.D. degrees at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is an adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology. The department recognized him with its Alumni Award in 1986. Other distinctions include the U.S. Public Health Service Commendation Medal and Outstanding Service Medal, received as a Commissioned Office in the Public Health Service; election as a Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology; and election as the President of the Society of Pediatric Epidemiologic Research.
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