Dr. Elaine Ron, a renowned epidemiologist whose seminal research identified the role of radiation and other exposures in the etiology of thyroid cancer and other malignancies, died on November 20, 2010, at her home in Bethesda, Maryland. She was 67.
Over the course of her career Dr. Ron authored more than 200 scientific peer-reviewed papers and mentored researchers from around the world. She was an outstanding mentor, and a champion of women in science. She leaves as a legacy numerous junior investigators inspired by her example.
In 1986, Dr. Ron joined NCI. She served as Chief of the Radiation Epidemiology Branch from 1997 to 2002 and was a senior investigator in the Branch at the time of her death. She was a member of the American Thyroid Association and served on governance committees for international cancer organizations and on national and international committees assessing health effects of radiation.
Dr. Ron conducted ground-breaking research. In her earliest work in Israel she identified the long-term cancer effects of radiation treatment for tinea capitis (a fungal infection of the scalp). Her interests ranged from studies of the atomic bomb survivors in Japan, residents of the former Soviet Union exposed to the radioactive compounds from the Chernobyl accident, to patients exposed to diagnostic and therapeutic radiation. Results from these studies contributed enormously to our understanding of the cancer risks associated with radiation. In addition to addressing the biological mechanisms of disease, Dr. Ron was keenly focused on public health and policy implications of her research.
Her scientific achievements included the largest study of cancer risks among patients treated with radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism and the first international effort to pool epidemiologic data on thyroid cancer. In the years prior to her death she launched a major investigation into the potential adverse effects of CT screening among children and young adults.
Dr. Ron was a passionate advocate for women scientists. As the first Women Scientist Advisor in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, her efforts were instrumental in leading to regular salary comparisons by gender, expansion of NIH daycare facilities, options for tenure-track investigators to work part time, and named lectureships to honor women scientists. Her vocal concerns contributed to notable increases in the proportion of female members of radiation committees in recent years.
In addition, she was a passionate advocate for justice. She generously gave her time to multiple causes including prevention of cruelty to animals and the promotion of human rights around the globe.
Dr. Ron is survived by her son, Ariel Ron, her greatest joy.