Elaine Ron, Ph.D., former Chief and senior investigator, Radiation Epidemiology Branch (REB), was honored posthumously at a symposium titled "Research Strategies in Radiation and Cancer" on March 9. An international leader in the field of radiation epidemiology, Dr. Ron died of cancer on November 20, 2010.
Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., DCEG Director, provided the opening remarks, noting that "Elaine was an enormously gifted epidemiologist whose groundbreaking research has contributed so much to a better understanding of the risks of cancer associated with a wide variety of exposures to ionizing radiation." Martha S. Linet, M.D., M.P.H., Chief of REB, also offered remarks on the life and legacy of Dr. Ron, highlighting the progression of her research over the years.
A group of Dr. Ron's collaborators and peers reflected on her major contributions to radiation epidemiology studies in a session titled "Successful research strategies in radiation." Moderated by Kiyohiko Mabuchi, M.D., Dr.P.H., Deputy Chief of REB, the panel discussed four studies in particular: (1) the Life Span Study, which followed survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings; (2) the tracking of the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which involved extensive collaborations with Ukrainian and Belarusian scientists; (3) a landmark pooled analysis examining radiation exposure and the risk of thyroid cancer; and (4) an ongoing investigation evaluating cancer risk following childhood exposure to computed tomography scans. Members of the panel included Dr. David Brenner, Director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York City; Dr. Silvia Franceschi from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France; Dr. Shirley Fry, an epidemiology consultant; Dr. Charles Land, formerly of REB; Dr. Dale Preston, a consultant with Hirosoft International Corporation, Inc.; and Dr. Arthur Schneider, Professor Emeritus of Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
At a second panel, titled "Mentoring and training for successful strategies in radiation research," members spoke about Dr. Ron as a role model and the dedicated mentoring she provided throughout her career. Shelia Hoar Zahm, Sc.D., Deputy Director of DCEG, moderated the panel of former and current DCEG fellows, including Dr. Gabriel Chodick from the Tel Aviv University's School of Public Health in Israel; Evgenia Ostroumova, M.D., Ph.D. (REB); Dr. Cecile Ronckers of the Dutch Childhood Oncology Group located in The Hague, The Netherlands; Sara Schonfeld, Ph.D. (REB); and Dr. Lene H.S. Veiga from the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission in Rio de Janeiro. All of the panel members spoke about Dr. Ron's extraordinary capacity to reach out and influence a new generation of radiation epidemiologists on a global scale.
A panel of REB investigators then presented a session titled "Evolving research strategies in radiation" that highlighted new directions that are likely to accelerate progress in the field of radiation epidemiology. Speakers were Amy Berrington de González, D.Phil.; Alina V. Brenner, M.D., Ph.D.; Choonsik Lee, Ph.D.; Lindsay M. Morton, Ph.D.; and Preetha Rajaraman, Ph.D.
Finally, Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC—where Dr. Ron served on the Scientific Council—discussed "Two-way translational research: From basic science to both the clinic and the population," with an emphasis on the study of radiation-exposed populations around the world. Margaret A. Tucker, M.D., Director of the DCEG Human Genetics Program, closed the symposium by offering tributes to Dr. Ron's life and career.