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Melnick Receives 2007 APHA Rall Award

By Eddy Ball
December 2007

Award-winning NIEHS Toxicologist Ron Melnick.
Award-winning NIEHS Toxicologist Ron Melnick. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

National Toxicology Program Toxicologist Ron Melnick, Ph.D., found himself in good company at the November 6 Awards Ceremony held by the American Public Health Association (APHA) during its 135th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Melnick was honored at the event for his outstanding contributions to public health with the eighth annual APHA David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health.

Accepting his award, Melnick stated, "I can think of no greater honor than to be recognized for my efforts applying scientific evidence for the protection of public health. This award is also a very special honor because Dr. Rall, someone I consider to be a giant among public health scientists, hired me into the NTP." At the awards ceremony, Melnick also expressed his gratitude to Rall for having "the vision and ability to create the world's premier environmental health sciences research institute."

Melnick, who has worked at NIEHS since 1980, was nominated by Jennifer Sass, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and member of the NIEHS Public Interest Liaison Group. With this award, he joins two former winners also associated with NIEHS, grantee Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., 2003 winner, and NIEHS/NTP Toxicologist James Huff, Ph.D., winner in 2002.

According to the APHA news release, Melnick was honored for his research into the toxicity of such widely used industrial chemicals as butadiene, isoprene, glycol ethers and drinking water disinfection by-products - as well as "for standing up to those who propose weakening chemical exposure standards based on inadequate evidence."

The association noted his testimony about the chemical DEHP, which is used in the manufacture of several medical devices, and the gasoline additive MTBE. The award committee also recognized his service as an agency representative to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and on several scientific review boards and advisory panels, including those of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health is awarded to an individual who has made accomplishments that advanced disease prevention through policy change. The area of consideration for the Rall Award is international in scope, and nominees may include those working in a government agency, academic institution or non-profit organization.

The award was established in memory of Rall, who was NIEHS director for almost 20 years and who created and directed the National Toxicology Program from its inception in 1978 until his retirement from both posts in 1990. The award was created in 2000 to honor the former director, who died following an automobile accident in France the previous September.

The prize is endowed by the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning and made possible by the contributions of scores of individuals and organizations inspired by Rall's life work. Melnick described the experience of receiving the award as "invigorating" and said that it gives him added encouragement to pursue his career goals even into retirement.

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