A.R. "Joe" Patel retired in January with 28 years of service at
the National Cancer Institute. He spent most of his career working
in the extramural epidemiology research program, where he is known
especially for his early stewardship of research on diet, nutrition
and cancer and on minorities and cancer.
In 1977, with a doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry, Patel joined
NCI to manage contracts for testing chemical agents for carcinogenicity
and a carcinogen standards repository. Soon thereafter he became
responsible for developing the extramural diet, nutrition and cancer
research program, including animal and human studies. He wrote
the institute's first Request for Proposals for contracts to study
natural inhibitors of carcinogenesis, predating the establishment
of NCI's large-scale cancer chemoprevention research program.
In the early 1980s, he jumpstarted investigation of diet and
cancer by writing a Request for Applications to encourage research
grants in dietary assessment methods. "At this time, diet and nutrition
were only starting to be appreciated as possible determinants of
cancer. The RFA was central to the advancements that have been
made in the field of nutritional epidemiology," said Dr. Walter
Willett of Harvard University, who is internationally renowned
for his research on diet and nutrition and was one of Patel's grantees
for more than 20 years.
"The development of validated dietary assessment methods through
the NCI funding had a major benefit not only for cancer research
but many other fields as well," said Willett. "For example, as
a result of leads provided by dietary assessments, vitamin A supplementation
is now part of standard care for patients with visual impairment
due to retinitis. Trans fatty acids have been identified as an
important contributor to coronary heart disease and are rapidly
being removed from the food supply. B-vitamin supplements are part
of standard care for pregnant women in Africa who are infected
with HIV. None of this would have happened without the methodological
developments encouraged by Dr. Patel."
Patel followed the initial RFA by writing two others to stimulate
development of biochemical markers of human exposure to carcinogens
and of cancer susceptibility for use in epidemiologic studies.
In the early 1990s, his focus turned to encouraging extramural
investigators to launch epidemiologic studies on U.S. ethnic and
minority populations and cancer, an achievement Patel views as
his most important. With expansion of this research portfolio,
he began promoting the establishment of cohort studies so that
long-term prospective studies, particularly on diet and cancer
causation in diverse populations, would be possible.
He leaves a range of cohort studies for which he was program director
that includes populations of U.S. African Americans, Latinos, Native
Americans, Native Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese and Caucasians.
Some cohort studies have wide name recognition, such as the Nurses' Health
Study, Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, Black Women's Health
Study and California Teachers Study.
Patel also is pleased to have written an RFA in the early 1980s
on study of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke and cancer risk.
The findings from these studies indicated an association, caught
the attention of regulatory agencies and paved the way for measures
to curb smoking in public places and educate the public about the
dangers of second-hand smoke, he said.
He retired from the Epidemiology and Genetics Research Program
of NCI's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. With
his newfound time, Patel will work part-time as a tax consultant
and financial advisor.
MedlinePlus, NLM's consumer health web site, is one of two U.S.
winners of the 2005 World Summit Award. The award is part of the
program of the World Summit on the Information Society, a United
Nations effort organized by the International Telecommunication
Union, the UN Industrial Development Organization, the UN information
and communication technologies task force and UNESCO.
Forty products representing best practice examples received the
award at a presentation in Tunis, Tunisia, last November. The products
were selected in a five-stage process from over 20,000 candidates
from 168 countries. The selection of the best products in the world
included national evaluations, a grand jury review of over 750
nominations and a 6-day judging process.
MedlinePlus received its award in the e-health category. The only
other U.S. winner was the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian
Institution, in the e-culture category. Dr. Joan R. Challinor,
a member of the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information
Science from 1994-2005 and commission chair from 2003-2004, accepted
the award on behalf of NLM. She said, "What we try to do is to
put out understandable information so that patients and their families
can learn about whatever disease or health initiative they want
to.Two million people from 200 countries a day log onto MedlinePlus."
"Receiving this award was a significant honor," says Eve-Marie
Lacroix, chief of the Public Services Division, the area that produces
MedlinePlus. "It is a tribute to the excellence that we strive
to maintain in producing a web site that consumers can use to find
answers to their health questions. But we couldn't do it without
the outstanding information that all NIH institutes and centers
produce for the public."