NCCEH Environmental Health Seminar: Lessons Learned from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: The Role o

Online Webinar: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM (PDT)

Lessons Learned From the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: The Role of Disaster

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Presenter: Dr. Richard Kwok, Chief of Staff (acting), Office of the Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences


Environmental disasters such as oil spills, hazardous waste releases and other natural and anthropogenic calamities routinely impact public health, yet researchers and studies often arrive too late to be able to collect valuable data that will help us to better understand the human and environment health impacts and the efficacy of our policies and responses to such events. To address this important research gap, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has developed the Disaster Research Response Program (DR2). The DR2 Program aims to develop a system of needed products, processes, and relationships to encourage rapid ‘bench to trench’ transdisciplinary research to better understand the human health effects of oil spills and other environmental disasters for informing scientists and policymakers. This discussion will utilize the lessons learned from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to highlight the issues and challenges of gathering information quickly to inform the design of a large-scale prospective cohort study of over 32,000 individuals involved in the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill response and clean-up efforts. Such challenges include: administrative and ethical approvals, uncertainty due to lack of coordination between response and research organizations, utilizing data collected for non-research purposes, enrolling large numbers of participants from impacted communities, and conducting complex clinical measurements in atypical environments, while at the same time striving to ensure high quality data, transparency, and communications. This presentation will discuss how the rapidly evolving DR2 Program is designed to facilitate our collective research capacity, as well as the ongoing integration and promotion of community participation as a cornerstone of improved resilience.

Presenter Bio:

Richard Kwok, Ph.D. is a staff scientist in the Epidemiology Branch at NIEHS and is the Lead Associate Investigator for the GuLF STUDY. This study focuses on the potential health effects of clean-up workers, volunteers, and community members from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Dr. Kwok specializes in the environmental causes of a range of diseases, and the pervasive nature of the environment in disease etiology has allowed him to work on a number of different projects with domestic and international collaborators from federal, academic, and industry sectors. His work has included research into air and water pollution, including arsenic, and non-ionizing UV radiation exposures with outcomes including cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive and cancer health outcomes. Kwok received his B.S.P.H. in environmental science, and his M.S.P.H. and Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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