Programs: Science and Policy
Events: The Robert C. Barnard Environmental Lecture
You Can't Change Your Genes, but You Can Change the Environment: How the Environment Affects Your Health
Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program
The incidence of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, and neurodevelopmental problems has increased substantially in the past 20 years. Yet our genes have not changed, so environmental causes may be the culprit. As Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program, Dr. Linda Birnbaum manages a research program that investigates how the environment influences human health and disease. This presentation will review the role of the environment in health and how research in environmental health sciences can improve public health.
About Linda Birnbaum
Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., is director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). As NIEHS and NTP director, Birnbaum oversees a budget of $780 million that funds biomedical research to discover how the environment influences human health and disease. The Institute also supports training, education, technology transfer, and community outreach. NIEHS currently funds more than 1,000 research grants.
A board certified toxicologist, Birnbaum has served as a federal scientist for nearly 32 years. Prior to her appointment as NIEHS and NTP Director in 2009, she spent 19 years at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where she directed the largest division focusing on environmental health research. Birnbaum started her federal career with 10 years at NIEHS, first as a senior staff fellow at the National Toxicology Program, then as a principal investigator and research microbiologist, and finally as a group leader for the Institute's Chemical Disposition Group.
Birnbaum has received many awards and recognitions. In October 2010, she was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health. She was elected to the Collegium Ramazzini, received an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Rochester, and a Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Illinois. Her awards include the Women in Toxicology Elsevier Mentoring Award, the Society of Toxicology Public Communications Award, EPA's Health Science Achievement Award and Diversity Leadership Award, and 12 Science and Technology Achievement Awards, which reflect the recommendations of EPA's external Science Advisory Board, for specific publications.
Birnbaum is also an active member of the scientific community. She was vice president of the International Union of Toxicology, the umbrella organization for toxicology societies in more than 50 countries; former president of the Society of Toxicology, the largest professional organization of toxicologists in the world; former chair of the Division of Toxicology at the American Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics; and former vice president of the American Aging Association.
She is the author of more than 700 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, abstracts, and reports. Birnbaum's own research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals; mechanisms of actions of toxicants, including endocrine disruption; and linking of real-world exposures to health effects. She is also an adjunct professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Curriculum in Toxicology, and the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as in the Integrated Toxicology Program at Duke University.
A native of New Jersey, Dr. Birnbaum received her MS and PhD in microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.