Dean Kaufman's Landmark Air Pollution Study Selected Best in 2016

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Joel Kaufman, interim dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, is lead author of the best environmental epidemiology paper published in 2016, according to the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE).

The paper was a collaborative effort by 20 researchers from academic institutions across the United States, including nine from the UW. The goal was to determine the biological process by which long-term exposure to air pollution can be linked to the progression of atherosclerosis, the underlying process in the arteries that leads to heart attacks and stroke. 

Joel Kaufman
photo: Elizar Mercado
Joel Kaufman

“It is a great honor to see our work recognized in this way,” said Kaufman, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, epidemiology and medicine at the UW. “It is not only recognition of the quality and magnitude of the work, and the scientific impact, but also the major collaborative ‘team science’ nature of the project.”

Published in The Lancet last August, the paper shared significant findings from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution, also known as MESA Air. The decade-long study of thousands of Americans found that people living in areas with more outdoor pollution accumulate deposits in the arteries that supply the heart faster than do people living in less polluted areas.

“This project not only merged state-of-the-art cardiovascular epidemiology with state-of-the-art environmental exposure assessment, but developed new statistical approaches and innovative ways of thinking about exposure sciences, and applied very strong epidemiological approaches to a difficult and important scientific question,” said Kaufman, who directs the MESA Air study at the UW School of Public Health, but many other institutions are involved.

After a rigorous review of about 40 shortlisted papers nominated by ISEE members and journal editors, the ISEE’s best environmental epidemiology paper committee unanimously selected Dr. Kaufman’s paper for the award.

“This paper documented a landmark study that was a huge endeavor from the perspective of exposure assessment and the detailed outcome measurements,” said Michael Brauer, chair of the ISEE committee and professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health. “This work represented a major strengthening of the biological plausibility regarding the role of air pollution in the progression of atherosclerosis.” 

ISEE will present the best paper award during the 2017 Annual Conference in Sydney in September. Kaufman shares this honor with collaborators from the University of Washington; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Columbia University; UCLA Medical Center; Wake Forest University; Boise State University; Northwestern University; Johns Hopkins University; University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health; and the University of California Los Angeles.

From the UW were Richard Kronmal, professor of biostatistics and of statistics; Timothy Larson, professor and interim chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Casey Olives, lead statistician for the MESA Air study; Paul Sampson, research professor of statistics; Lianne Sheppard, professor and assistant chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and professor of biostatistics; David Siscovick, professor emeritus of medicine and epidemiology; and Adam Szpiro, associate professor of biostatistics.

Learn more about the paper.

Learn more about SPH Interim Dean Joel Kaufman.