Ruth Etzel, MD, Ph.D.
Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin
Dr. Etzel, an internationally-known pediatrician and preventive medicine specialist, is the founding editor of Pediatric Environmental Health, an influential book that has helped to train thousand of doctors who care for children about how to recognize, diagnose, treat and prevent illness in children from hazards in the environment.
Dr. Etzel is Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Previously, from 2009 to 2023 she was Senior Officer for Environmental Health Research at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Dr. Etzel has served in numerous public-sector leadership positions including: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Founding Chief of the Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch), Department of Agriculture (Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Risk Assessment) and Indian Health Service (Research Director at the Alaska Native Medical Center). She is a courageous leader in bringing environmental risks to children to public attention and working collaboratively towards solutions. In 1989, after a single case of acrodynia was identified in a U.S. child who was exposed to mercury vapor inside a newly-painted house, she coordinated a study to assess the extent of the mercury exposure and then made a compelling case to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the removal of mercury from latex paints. In response, the EPA quickly reached an agreement with the U.S. paint companies to stop the addition of mercury compounds to interior latex paints. In 1998 she received the Clinical Society Award from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Officers Association for discovering the association between infant lung bleeding and exposure to toxigenic molds in homes; she has worked tirelessly to ensure that parents are aware that infants should not live in moldy environments.
In 2007 Dr Etzel received the Children’s Environmental Health Champion Award from the U.S. EPA for outstanding leadership in protecting children from environmental health risks.