Letter from the Director

As we conclude another remarkable year at the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC), I marvel at how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. Our team has grown tremendously over the last 4 years, as we have added six new faculty members just in the last two years and anticipate 2-3 more hires in 2017. These new faculty members are joining an outstanding team as evidenced by our many awards.

Dr. Mary Wolff, one of our senior faculty, who was originally hired by Dr. Irving Selikoff in the 1970s, received the Jerome J. Wesolowski Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society of Exposure Science (ISES). This award was in recognition of outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of human exposure and assessment. Dr. Wolff was the principal investigator of the Mount Sinai NIH Funded Children’s Environmental Health Center Grant from 1998 to 2009, and has published multiple seminal articles on children’s environmental health, including studies on BPA, phthalates and PCBs. Dr. Wolff was also awarded the faculty mentorship award from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 2016.

Starting January 1st, 2017 Dr. Manish Arora became the Vice Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, but that news was soon eclipsed by another accolade. Earlier this month we received the exciting news that Dr. Manish Arora was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Technology (PECASE), from the White House. This award was one of the final acts of the Obama Administration and illustrates the prestige and expertise that Dr. Arora and our center now has nationally. It also marks the remarkable career trajectory of Dr. Arora. I am proud to say that he was once my trainee and my mentee but is soon going to eclipse my accomplishments (and probably has already!).

The achievements from two of our senior faculty are among a host of others including awards given to our trainees. For example, Dr. Alison Sanders won the “Celebrating Women in Toxicology Award” from the Society of Toxicology (SOT). SOT is the largest Toxicology society in the world and this award comes shortly on the heels of her election to the SOT Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group.

In November, shortly after the election, I was asked to brief Congress on Children’s Environmental Health, along with Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and Sarah Ervin from the Honest Company. The briefing was in honor of the 50th anniversary of NIEHS. NIEHS held a celebration festival in North Carolina in December where I gave the keynote address for the Superfund Grantee meeting.

Later this past year our team was also awarded a Prestigious Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) grant from NIH which is the first phase of a seven year project that once completed will be the largest NIH grant ever given to Mount Sinai. The application was jointly led by Dr. Rosalind Wright and myself as multiple PIs and built upon Dr. Rosalind Wright’s new birth cohort at Mount Sinai Perinatal Environment and Development Study (PEDS), the PACER laboratory she leads which conducts state-of-the-art measurements of infant health, and of course the Senator Frank Lautenberg Laboratory for Environmental Health Sciences.  This grant along with our two Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) grants support Mount Sinai’s groundbreaking work in the emergent field of “exposomics,” the comprehensive study of environmental exposures in humans, from conception throughout the lifespan. The PACER laboratory has become a major hub of growth for our program and is a wonderful complement to the Lautenberg Laboratory, providing innovative measures of health that we can tie to measures of environmental exposures.

In the coming year, we will continue to implement our transdisciplinary research model and plan to expand our work in the Exposome, both in research and advocacy. In preparing for another year of innovation at the CEHC, I would like to thank you for your support. Through strong partnerships, we have built a world-class research program at Mount Sinai. The pages ahead demonstrate the tremendous growth of our Center, as we continue to make new discoveries in children’s environmental health.

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Robert O. Wright, MD, MPH
Ethel H. Wise Professor and Chair
Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health
Director, Children’s Environmental Health Center
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai