The 13th Saxon Graham Lecture, Eras in Epidemiology: Embracing Our Past to Chart the Future.
Dr. Vena received his PhD in Epidemiology from the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo) in 1980. He joined the faculty at SUNY-Buffalo in 1981 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, being promoted to Associate Professor in 1987 and Full Professor in 1994. While at SUNY-Buffalo, Dr. Vena served in several leadership roles including Director of the Research Program in Environmental and Occupational Health, Director of the Environment and Society Institute, and Associate Chair of the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine. In 2003, Dr. Vena was recruited from SUNY-Buffalo to the University of South Carolina, Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health as Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He remained in that role until 2008, when he was recruited to the University of Georgia College of Public Health as UGA Foundation Professor in Public Health, Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar, and Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He also served as Program Director for Cancer Epidemiology, Prevention and Control at the Georgia Cancer Center. Dr. Vena was appointed as Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina on January 1, 2014.
A fellow of the American College of Epidemiology and the American Epidemiological Society, Dr. Vena’s areas of research expertise include cancer epidemiology, community-based research, environmental health, epidemiology, occupational health, and reproductive and developmental health. He serves as a member of the American Public Health Association, the Society for Epidemiologic Research and the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. Throughout his career he has been a major force and leader in providing the formal mechanisms for structured interdisciplinary graduate training programs and junior faculty mentoring including serving as PI and Co-PI of T-32 training programs and as lead mentor on several K awards. The vast majority of his publications are co-authored with trainees (~70 publications) and junior faculty colleagues (~80 publications). He has 40 years of experience in environmental epidemiology and graduate training, and from 1999-2003 he was part of a team as co-investigator on NIH grants to pioneer integration of biomarkers in epidemiology analytic studies to look at gene-environment interactions, exposure assessments and the use of Geographic Information Systems in epidemiologic research. He was the PI of the large cohort study of Sportsmen in New York, the New York State Angler Cohort Study (NYSACs) 1991-2003 which is still underway. This study has been investigating the body burdens and effects of persistent environmental toxicants in the Great Lakes Ecosystem and exposure from Sport fish eating on risk of adverse reproductive and developmental effects and biomarkers of intermediate effects, including endocrine disruption and more recently cancer risks. As PI on numerous previous CDC and NIH-funded grants from NIEHS and NCI, he laid the groundwork and served as co-investigator for several environmental epidemiology studies in Western NY and in South Carolina, undertaken by mentees where several NIH funded projects are still underway.
He has published extensively in the field of environmental and occupational epidemiology and his studies have included descriptive and analytic studies of air and water pollution, bladder cancer and drinking water contaminants, occupational exposures, health of municipal workers including firefighters and police officers, diet, electromagnetic fields and persistent environmental toxicants. Current grant activities are on the topics of environmental influences on children’s heath (ECHO: https://www.nih.gov/echo) environmental determinants of cancer, chronic kidney disease and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); physical activity, stroke and cognitive function; stress and cardio-metabolic disease in police; long-term lung health after exposure to chlorine gas; and health effects of persistent organic pollutants.