DEOHS Professor Elaine Faustman wins chemical risk assessment award

| Deirdre Lockwood
Photo of DEOHS Professor Elaine Faustman.

Society of Toxicology recognizes Faustman’s contributions to environmental toxicology with Arnold J. Lehman Award

DEOHS Professor Elaine Faustman. Photo: Veronica Brace.

For her many contributions to assessing the risk of chemical hazards, Elaine Faustman has been awarded the 2023 Arnold J. Lehman Award from the Society of Toxicology (SOT).

Faustman, a professor in the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS), has dedicated nearly 50 years to research, teaching and service in environmental toxicology.

This prestigious award honors members of the society who have made major contributions to assessing the risk and regulation of chemicals including pharmaceuticals, either through regulation or research that has influenced the regulatory process.

“Elaine’s remarkable breadth of knowledge in both molecular toxicology and often very practical risk assessment procedures and processes make her the ‘go-to’ expert for many national and international expert committees appointed to address issues of public health importance relying on state-of-the-art risk assessment approaches,” said David Eaton, DEOHS professor emeritus and past president of the SOT, who nominated her for the award.

A pioneer in chemical risk assessment

The SOT citation highlights Faustman’s many accomplishments to chemical risk assessment, spanning teaching, research and service. Some highlights include:

Faustman joined the DEOHS faculty in 1983, and was hired by Dr. Gilbert Omenn, former DEOHS chair and dean of the UW School of Public Health. Soon afterwards, she developed and cotaught the first graduate-level course in the US on risk assessment of chemical hazards, which has since impacted over 1,000 graduate students at UW.

She has trained scores of scientists in risk assessment, mentoring 25 PhD students, 44 master’s students, 10 postdoctoral scholars and 18 visiting scientists from 14 different countries.

Faustman helped shape the US Environmental Protection Agency’s approach to risk assessment, particularly by incorporating benchmark-dose modeling during her various contracts with the agency.

She has also contributed her toxicology expertise globally on invited committees and workshops with the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute and other groups.

The Lehman Award is one of many honors Faustman has received for her contributions to chemical risk assessment. Others include the 2020 Narsingh Agnish Fellowship from the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, the 2014 Society for Risk Analysis Distinguished Achievement Award and the 2019 IUTOX Merit Award.

Solving real-life environmental and occupational problems

“The Lehman Award means a great deal to me. I have been able to achieve this award by using risk assessment approaches in my teaching, research and service,” Faustman said. “Risk assessment framing has provided a natural path to ensure research from the lab is used for solving real-life environmental and occupational problems, and that translation is essential for what we do in public health.”

“When considering an individual’s overall contributions to the field of regulatory toxicology and toxicological risk assessment, it would be hard to find another SOT member who has had more global impact in these areas,” Eaton said.

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