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January 27, 2017
NIEHS Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary

Recently, dignitaries, invited guests, retirees, former directors, staff and others gathered to celebrate the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ golden anniversary. The event highlighted the positive impact NIEHS has had on the world over the past 50 years.

NIEHS and National Toxicology Program director Dr. Linda Birnbaum kicked off the ceremony. “I see this as an opportunity to highlight the public health improvements that are the direct result of environmental health science and our research,” she said. “We want our work to make a difference in people’s lives.”

“I’ve been with NIH for about 10 years,” said Dr. Molly Puente of the Division of Extramural Research and Training. “This gives me much more perspective on where this institute has been and where we’re going.”

“Only about 5 percent of Americans get their science in school,” said guest speaker Ira Flatow. “They’re getting it informally in science museums, on the Internet, on vacation.” NIEHS/NTP director Dr. Linda Birnbaum saluted the champion awardees for their remarkable history of accomplishment.
ABOVE: “Only about 5 percent of Americans get their science in school,” said guest speaker Ira Flatow. “They’re getting it informally in science museums, on the Internet, on vacation.” RIGHT: NIEHS/NTP director Dr. Linda Birnbaum saluted the champion awardees for their remarkable history of accomplishment.

PHOTOS: STEVE McCAW

Former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt recounted the role played by his predecessor Terry Sanford in bringing NIEHS to North Carolina. Hunt offered praise for the institute’s work. “It is vital to the future of mankind,” he said. “You’ve had a great 50 years and we’ve got to work on making the next 50 even better.”

Ira Flatow, executive producer and host of Science Friday, a public radio program that brings discussion on science, technology, health, space and the environment to people worldwide, gave a presentation on how science reaches the public.

He encouraged scientists to be eager to tell their stories. “You have to get past the myth that people don’t love science,” Flatow said. “They will inhale as much science as you can give them—if you know how.”

The centerpiece of the celebration was the presentation of 12 Champion of Environmental Science Research awards by Dr. Carol Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Your groundbreaking work has quite literally made the world a safer place,” she said. “No one has met this challenge more than the 12 people we are honoring today.” To learn more about the award recipients, visit www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2016/12/.

Following the awards presentation, Joe Graedon and Dr. Terry Graedon, the husband and wife team behind The People’s Pharmacy, drove home the importance of mainstreaming science. “What you do here really affects people’s lives,” said Joe. “People care about the environment and how it affects their health,” Terry added.

Emphasizing the theme of public outreach, Rep. David Price, who represents North Carolina’s fourth district, which includes NIEHS, said that scientific research forms the bedrock of U.S. leadership in world affairs. “Our greatest strength for many decades has been our public/private research enterprise,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder to represent this institution and the people who work here.”

Following a video salute from actress Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan, founders of The Honest Co. and supporters of the event, Birnbaum expressed her appreciation to everyone who had helped make the day—and the past 50 years—so special. “Everyone here in this room, all my NIEHS family, have made such a difference for the world,” she said. “And I want to thank you all.”

First Environmental Health Science FEST a Success

More than 1,200 people from across the nation joined in the first-ever Environmental Health Science FEST held recently in Durham, N.C. The NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training planned the event in recognition of the NIEHS 50th anniversary.

history buff John Schelp, from the NIEHS Office of Science Education and Diversity, leads walking tours of downtown Durham, starting off at the historic Carolina Theater, next door to the convention center. at the sensors and technologies fair, Dr. Eben Cross (l), senior scientist at Aerodyne Research, Inc., describes the ARISense system, which measures gas phase pollutants, particulate matter and weather data.
At left, history buff John Schelp, from the NIEHS Office of Science Education and Diversity, leads walking tours of downtown Durham, starting off at the historic Carolina Theater, next door to the convention center. Right, at the sensors and technologies fair, Dr. Eben Cross (l), senior scientist at Aerodyne Research, Inc., describes the ARISense system, which measures gas phase pollutants, particulate matter and weather data.

PHOTO AT RIGHT: STEVE McCAW

The event included more than 250 posters, a sensors and technologies fair, a film festival, walking tours of downtown Durham and an evening 3-minute science talk competition.

Participants included representatives from federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry.

Discussions of how NIEHS-funded research fits within the larger biomedical research enterprise shaped one session, featuring representatives from NIH and six scientific societies.

Dr. Matt Gillman, director of the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, participated via video. He spoke of the developmental origins of health and disease, saying that ECHO will work to understand the risks and to whom they apply, take action through clinical trials and practices and help fill unmet scientific needs.

Representatives of scientific societies also weighed in, including the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology, International Society of Exposure Science (ISES), American Public Health Association, Society of Toxicology, American Thoracic Society and Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS).

Both ISES and EMGS will hold their 2017 annual meetings in nearby Raleigh, offering a chance for members to strengthen connections made at EHS FEST.—Kelly Lenox

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