A gift for the future

September 24, 2018 | Amanda Pain
DEOHS Professor Terry Kavanagh talks with a student. Photo: Sarah Fish

UW alum creates an endowed DEOHS professorship to advance toxicology research

DEOHS Professor Terry Kavanagh talks with a student. Photo: Sarah Fish

We live in an environment that Bruce Fowler calls “chemical-rich.”

Our exposure to chemicals found in air pollution, pesticides, lead and other sources begins before we are born and continues throughout our lives. Nearly 1 in 4 global deaths are the result of living or working in an unhealthy environment, according to World Health Organization estimates.

Yet the specific health effects of our exposure to all those chemicals remain largely unknown.

Fowler, a UW alumnus and expert on the toxicology of metals, saw an opportunity to contribute toward a better understanding of these emerging environmental hazards through a generous gift to the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) in the School of Public Health.

Fowler recently pledged $500,000 to establish an endowed professorship in toxicology to help address a pressing need for well-trained toxicologists to investigate those exposures and their health effects.

“I am proud of the academic status the UW has achieved, and I have been particularly impressed with the development of the DEOHS toxicology program,” Fowler said. “I hope that by providing endowment support, DEOHS will continue to attract expert faculty.”

A visionary gift

UW alumnus Bruce Fowler
UW alumnus Bruce Fowler

DEOHS Chair and Professor Michael Yost said Fowler’s gift supports the department’s mission to improve population health, with a special focus on those most at risk for adverse health outcomes.

"This endowed professorship supports the very heart of our department's vision to create sustainable communities where every person has a safe place to work and a healthy neighborhood to call home," Yost said.

"We are grateful for this gift, which will expand our research and teaching capacity in emerging environmental hazards."

Understanding health risks

Fowler graduated from the UW in 1968 with a degree in marine fisheries biology, earned his PhD in pathology and went on to a career that included jobs in academia, government service and private consulting.

He hopes the new faculty position will complement and expand on his own long-standing research in the application of molecular biomarkers for understanding chemical-induced cell injury and human risk assessment.

“There is work to be done in understanding public health risks from exposures to technology materials, such as microelectronic semiconductors and nano-materials,” Fowler said. “This is a particular problem with regard to the practice of electronic waste recycling in developing countries that often lack the public health infrastructure to protect communities.”

Committed to the UW mission

Fowler said his gift, made as part of his estate planning, reflects his deep commitment to the School of Public Health and a strong belief in the UW mission.

“Ultimately, it is my hope that the research stemming from this professorship will lead to improved societal decision-making regarding protection of populations at risk from chemical toxicity,” Fowler said.

Fowler previously established an endowed fund of $25,000 to support DEOHS undergraduate students. This new gift creating the Bruce A. Fowler Endowed Professorship in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences is part of the UW’s Be Boundless campaign to raise $5 million by 2020.