|NIH environmental health research grant renewed for eighth time, continues legacy begun in 1971|
|October 05, 2012|
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has renewed one of UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health research and training grants, recognizing the School's ongoing innovation and leadership. UNC's program, Biostatistics for Research in Environmental Health, supports 23 doctoral and five postdoctoral scholars in biostatistics, epidemiology and environmental sciences and engineering.
"Every five years, these training programs must be renewed; it is highly competitive," explained Amy H. Herring, ScD, professor and associate chair of biostatistics and one of the program directors. "Ours is one of the largest such training programs ever funded, and it's the longest continuing training grant at the School."
In fact, the NIEHS-funded grant originally was awarded to the esteemed Bernard G. Greenberg, PhD, back in 1971. Greenberg was founding chair of the UNC biostatistics department and dean of the public health school from 1972 to 1982. Since then, other faculty members have led the grant's efforts - including now-emeritus Alumni Distinguished Professor of biostatistics Lawrence L. Kupper, PhD, who directed the program for more than 30 years starting in 1972.
The current grant is led by Herring, Rebecca Fry, PhD, co-principal investigator, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering, and leader of the environmental science research area, and Marilie Gammon, PhD, professor of epidemiology and leader of the environmental epidemiology research area.
The program has created both opportunities and a rich legacy for the School by funding hundreds of graduates who have made significant research contributions and helped shape current public health policy in the U.S. and internationally. Former trainees hold influential leadership and policy positions at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as at the nation's top medical and academic centers and in industry.
"This is one of the most successful training programs ever supported by NIH," Kupper said. "Many graduates of this training program are nationally recognized leaders, and many have significantly affected national environmental policy with regard to protecting human health. They are also creatively addressing ever more complicated research challenges in such areas as gene-environment interactions and reproductive and children's health."
For the most recent renewal, co-principal investigators Herring and Fry, along with other faculty members, submitted an application more than 800 pages long to showcase the training environment and prior success of the program at UNC. It was reviewed by the Environmental Health Sciences NIH Review group and received a perfect score on the NIH scale.
"This score is exceedingly rare and is indicative of the enthusiasm with which the review committee received our application. It also is a direct reflection of the high quality of research conducted by our former trainees," Herring said.
In order to be reviewed, Herring and her colleagues presented the successes of previous UNC student and postdoctoral scholars and showed how the UNC team would build upon that success. She says strong support from the School leadership and the UNC Graduate School were critical to obtaining funding for the training programs.
It's also a source of personal and professional gratification, Herring said.
"I look forward to working on the training grant renewal every five years because it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the amazing contributions UNC's graduates have made to public health and society as a whole," she said. "We have a truly outstanding student body, and as a faculty member, I am honored to have the opportunity to learn and work along with these outstanding students and scholars."
The NIH traineeships in environmental health, as well as in other areas including reproductive epidemiology, nutrition, toxicology, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease and cancer, also help attract and recruit some of the most highly qualified applicants. The program provides a monthly stipend and tuition support for UNC public health students.
|Last updated October 14, 2012|