Scammell Wins NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Health Science Award

Recognized for research into El Salvador’s kidney disease epidemic

Madeleine Scammell, SPH assistant professor of environmental health. Photo courtesy of BU School of Public Health

Madeleine Scammell, a Boston University School of Public Health (SPH) assistant professor of environmental health, is one of five researchers selected for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Outstanding New Environmental Health Science (ONES) awards.

The award will support Scammell’s research on the epidemic of chronic kidney disease among agricultural workers in El Salvador, and will also provide additional mentoring and career development resources.

Her research will build on previous studies with other SPH researchers on occupational risk factors for kidney disease among sugarcane workers in nearby Nicaragua. “Our past research looked at job-task as a proxy for exposure to heat and physical exertion, examining workers and their kidney function over one harvest season,” Scammell says. In contrast, this study will use actual measures of heat and exertion at six-month intervals for almost three years.

“It will be the first longitudinal study of this kind in the region,” Scammell says. “We will also look at other exposures in addition to heat stress, which will be helpful in understanding the pieces of the puzzle contributing to this epidemic.”

Scammell says the career development element of the award will also be very helpful. “I’ll be able to devote more time and energy to this work while also building a research team in El Salvador,” she says. “It is a big deal for me, and for our colleagues in the region who have been working on this problem for years with limited resources.”

Since 2006, the ONES program has identified outstanding scientists at the formative stages of their careers and funded their research initiatives in the environmental health sciences. In 2017, NIEHS committed $2.5 million in grants to the program.

Additional SPH investigators on the grant awarded to Scammell include: Michael McClean, associate dean for research and faculty advancement and professor of environmental health; Daniel Brooks, associate professor of epidemiology; Yorghos Tripodis, research associate professor of biostatistics; and Caryn Sennett, research assistant in environmental health.

A version of this article was originally published in BU School of Public Health.

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