Crowley native given prestigious Ochsner Award

NEW ORLEANS – Crowley native Elizabeth “Terry” T. H. Fontham, MPH, DrPH, Dean of the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Public Health, is one of two recipients of the prestigious 2008 Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Health. The other recipient is Dr. Jonathan Samet of Johns Hopkins University.

These two epidemiologists have worked to establish broad public health policies in recent years prohibiting smoking in public places throughout the United States. The Award is named for the late Doctor Alton Ochsner, the first person to recognize that cigarette smoking is the major factor underlying lung cancer.

Dr. Fontham is the first Dean of LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Public Health and is Professor of Epidemiology as well as Professor of Pathology in LSUHSC’s School of Medicine. Dr. Fontham has been on the faculty in the LSU Health Sciences Center since 1980 and was Chairman of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine prior to the establishment of the School of Public Health.  She is Associate Director of the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center and is Senior Consultant Epidemiologist to the Louisiana Office of Public Health.

Dr. Fontham’s major area of research is cancer epidemiology with a focus on the etiology of tobacco- and diet-related cancers.  She has made significant contributions in establishing the risk of lung cancer associated with involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke.   She was an author of the first U.S. case-control study of lung cancer reporting an increased risk of lung cancer in nonsmokers passively exposed to tobacco. Recognizing the need for a more definitive study to establish the carcinogenicity of second-hand smoke and to quantify the associated risk, she led the largest study of lung cancer in nonsmoking women, a U.S. multi-center study that provided critical information on the association between passive smoking and lung cancer risk. This resulted in the JAMA report which provided the definitive evidence that passive smoking causes lung cancer. These studies figured prominently in the evidence considered in the 1986 and subsequent Reports of the Surgeon General and Environmental Protection Agency which concluded that involuntary smoking was a cause of lung cancer in “never smokers.” Dr. Fontham has also published extensively on pre-malignant lesions leading to gastric cancer, modifiable factors associated with progression, and chemoprevention of this cancer.                

Dr. Fontham, who is President-elect of the American Cancer Society, has served as a member of the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Counselors.  She was Treasurer and member of the Board of Directors of the American College of Epidemiology of which she is a Fellow. She was a member of the inaugural Editorial Board of Cancer Epdemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, Chairman of the Scientific Editorial Board of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries and has been a co-author of both the Surgeon General’s Report and International Agency for Cancer Research Carcinogenesis Monograph series. She is recipient of the C.L. Brown Award for Leadership Excellence in Tobacco Prevention, the Leadership and Distinguished Service Award of the American College of Epidemiology, and the Pfizer Award for Excellence in Research, Education and Patient Care.

The Alton Ochsner Award is supported by the Ochsner Clinic Foundation and recognizes outstanding scientific achievements that have provided pivotal insights into the biological and clinical mechanisms that relate tobacco consumption to human disease This year’s Award winners share in a cash award, a special medallion, and a scroll, which were presented to the honorees at the Annual Convocation of the American College of Chest Physicians during it scientific sessions held in Philadelphia, PA, on October 26, 2008.

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