Epi professor wins national award for lifelong excellence in teaching epidemiology

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Noel Weiss, professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, was honored by the American Public Health Association Nov. 6 for his lifelong excellence in teaching epidemiology.

Noel Weiss photo
Noel Weiss

Weiss has taught for more than 40 years on the core methods of epidemiology, which is the study of the frequency, distribution and determinants of disease in human populations. Weiss has mentored hundreds of graduate students and in 1999 was the first winner of the UW Landolt Award for Outstanding Graduate Mentor.

“It is hard to imagine a more deserving awardee than Noel,” said Joel Kaufman, interim dean of the UW School of Public Health. “He has served as an inspiration and mentor to a generation of epidemiologists trained at the UW, and developed and taught the core instructional content that underpins the outstanding training program here.”

The American Public Health Association honored Weiss with the Abraham Lilienfeld Award at its annual meeting in Atlanta. Lilienfeld was a renowned epidemiologist who played a key role in expanding the discipline of epidemiology as a profession.

Weiss earned a medical degree from Stanford University and a doctor of public health from Harvard. Following two years in the U.S. Public Health Service, he joined the UW’s Department of Epidemiology faculty in 1974.

His early work documented the rapidly rising incidence of endometrial cancer in the U.S. among American postmenopausal women that followed an increase in the use of non-contraceptive estrogens. His observation, combined with the results of other related studies, stimulated the development of means of administering estrogens that did not give rise to this adverse effect.

From 1984 to 1993, Weiss served as chair in the department. During his tenure, the department expanded from 18 faculty to 47. Among his key hires are 2007 Lilienfeld recipient Michelle Williams, now the dean at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and former department chair Victoria Holt. Weiss was also responsible for the development of the epidemiologic methods course sequence and the journal club.

“Noel’s award is just the latest in a long string of recognitions of his renowned skills as a classroom teacher and individual mentor,” said Stephen Schwartz, interim chair in the Department of Epidemiology. “It is another reminder of the strengths of our programs in epidemiologic methods. We are thrilled for him to be honored in this way.”