Pediatric environmental health center at UTHCT receives 2005 Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler is the only Texas-based organization to receive a new national award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Southwest Center for Pediatric Environmental Health (SWCPEH), which is dedicated to understanding how environmental factors affect children’s health, is one of just 15 organizations in the United States and the only one in Texas to receive the first 2005 Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award. The award acknowledges SWCPEH’s outstanding commitment to protecting children from environmental health risks.

“Children are our most precious natural resource and the most vulnerable to pollution. I am proud of the SWCPEH’s accomplishments in reducing environmental health threats to children, improving access to expertise in pediatric environmental medicine, and strengthening public health capacity,” Dallas-based EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said.

The awards are given by the EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and are designed to increase awareness, spur action, and salute efforts that protect children from environmental risks. The awards will be presented at a special ceremony Thursday, April 21, in Washington, D.C.

“This award recognizes the exceptional work being done to help protect children’s health by our UTHSCT team. My congratulations to the Southwest Center for Pediatric Environmental Health,” UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun said.

Co-directors of the SWCPEH are Jeffrey Levin, MD, chairman of UTHSCT’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine Department, and Larry Lowry, Ph.D., associate professor of Occupational Health Sciences at UTHSCT. Dr. Lowry will accept the award at Thursday’s ceremony.

"This award acknowledges our collaborative partners and the efforts of the government agencies and independent associations that fund our work. Our goal is to make children’s environmental health a priority and to create an awareness of environmental concerns within the health care community," Dr. Levin said.

Dr. Lowry said, “This national award recognizes the excellence of our Southwest Center for Pediatric Environmental Health, our enthusiastic faculty in pediatrics and occupational and environmental medicine at UTHSCT, and our partners in El Paso and Albuquerque.

“We are proud to serve as a resource for environmental health information that affects all children in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico,” he said.

EPA officials praised the SWCPEH for its innovative programs that focus on specific groups who are most at risk, including pregnant women and unborn children. In addition, the SWCPEH established the first bilingual call center on the Mexican border to field questions from concerned parents and health care providers.

The mission of the SWCPEH is to educate health professionals and community groups about environmental health issues and their impact on children’s health. It provides clinical consultations for patients through their personal physicians or public health clinics. The center, one of 13 in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, also provides telephone consultation services through a toll-free hotline.

Health professionals, public health officials, and individuals in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico may call this hotline for information about environmental issues that affect children. Questions raised by callers range from the health effects of traces of arsenic and lead in the soil to black mold to how smoke from burning sugar cane fields affect children who inhale the smoke.

Other members of the SWCPEH team at UTHSCT are: Debra Cherry, MD, medical consultant and assistant professor, occupational health sciences; Charles “Tim” Brady, DO, assistant professor, occupational health sciences; Barbara Huggins, MD, chair and professor, pediatrics; Vickie Butler, MD, assistant professor, pediatrics; Paul Sharkey, MD, associate professor, pediatrics; and David Lakey, MD, associate professor and chief, infectious diseases. Other partners include Karen Mulloy, DO, of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and Leo Artelejo, Pharm.D., and John Haynes, MD, of the West Texas Regional Poison Center in El Paso. The SWCPEH was founded at UTHSCT in August 2000.

The EPA established the Office of Children’s Health Protection in May 1997. Its purpose is to ensure that protecting children’s health is a fundamental goal of U.S. public health and environmental policy.

For more information about SWCPEH, go to www.swcpeh.org or call (888) 901-5665 toll free.

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.