James Merchant, MD, DrPH, awarded the Inaugural John Peters Lectureship

Dr. Tom Smith, left, and Dr. Jim Merchant spoke at the inaugural Jon Peters Lectureship.
Dr. Tom Smith, left, and Dr. Jim Merchant spoke at the inaugural Jon Peters Lectureship.

On April 8, James Merchant, MD, DrPH, was awarded the first annual John Peters Lectureship for outstanding contributions to environmental health sciences. Dr. Merchant is a professor of occupational and environmental health and served as the founding Dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health from 1999 to 2008. He is a renowned expert on occupational and environmental health, rural health, and public health policy.

The John Peters Lectureship program was developed to continue the scientific legacy of groundbreaking epidemiologist and founding director of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, Dr. John Peters.

The inaugural lecture was presented at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to 140 prominent members of the environmental health sciences community. In a skillfully crafted lecture, Dr. Merchant successfully merged a comprehensive overview of a generation of research on urban and rural asthma with anecdotal stories and heartfelt remarks about his longtime colleague and friend, Dr. Peters.

Dr. Merchant described research that began in Keokuk County, Iowa where he and his colleagues explored the respiratory impacts of agricultural and environmental exposures among  rural residents with a focus on childhood asthma.  He went on to describe asthma research in the urban environment of Southern California, including the USC Children’s Health Study and the work of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center which continues to investigate the health effects of air pollution on Los Angeles youth.

In a presentation, equal parts heartfelt and scientifically invigorating, Dr. Merchant’s lecture concluded with an emphasis on the importance of translating scientific findings into policy changes.  He received a standing ovation from the audience.

Thomas Smith, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Industrial Hygiene in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health provided introductory remarks at the lecture. Dr. Smith shared kind words about his personal and professional experiencewith his close friend and collaborator, Dr. Peters.

The John Peters Fund was founded in 2009 to support research and educational activities in environmental health within the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine.
By Kristin Dessie