A professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health has been honored by the Society for Epidemiologic Research (SER) for her work researching the environmental epidemiology of chronic diseases originating in the prenatal period, as well as neurodegenerative disorders.
Dr. Beate Ritz, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of epidemiology and environmental health sciences, received the SER’s Kenneth Rothman Career Accomplishment Award for her work as a teacher and researcher applying epidemiologic methods to studies of occupational and environmental exposures, chronic diseases tied to adverse birth outcomes and neurodevelopment, as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
“I consider this a great honor; I am deeply grateful to everyone at UCLA who taught and mentored me as a student some decades ago, as well as to the legions of dedicated students, postdoctoral fellows, colleagues and collaborators in- and outside of UCLA, who contributed to our research program and believed in me even when the odds of success were slim and times were challenging,” Ritz said.
The award – which honors honor an outstanding scholar with extraordinary contributions to the field of epidemiology - was presented June 17 at the Society’s 2022 annual conference in Chicago, and recognized the wide range of Ritz’s academic work over some 30 years as a scientist and teacher, said Suzanne Bevan, SER’s executive director.
“The vote of the Awards Committee underscores your notable and scholarly contributions to the field of epidemiology,” Bevan said. “As you know, SER has become active in acknowledging the service and accomplishments of its distinguished members and rising stars. Your selection for this important award sets a high bar for future recipients.”
Ritz’ research has included developing geographic information system (GIS)-based exposure assessment tools for air pollution and pesticide exposures, and the employment of omics tools, including metabolomic and methylomic approaches, to study interactions between environmental and genetic or biologic factors at both ends of the lifespan. This research aims to encourage public health action that improves the health of communities and to provide the knowledge necessary for government agencies’ regulatory efforts.
Ritz, who earned doctoral and medical degrees at the University of Hamburg, is an epidemiology graduate of the Fielding School (PhD, ’95; MPH, ’93), has taught epidemiology methods at UCLA FSPH since 1996, and is widely recognized for research into the impact of poor air quality on health. This has included work on links between ozone exposure and Type 2 diabetes, lead exposure and Parkinson’s disease, childhood brain tumors and pesticide exposure, and jet aircraft exhaust’s connections to preterm births, among many other studies and research topics.
She has served on numerous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Academy of Sciences, and California state scientific advisory boards, including the CA-EPA Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants, and is a past president of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. Ritz is also a faculty affiliate at the UCLA Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, the Bixby Center on Population and Reproductive Health, and the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity.
“Beate richly deserves this accolade in view of her decades of inter- and multi-disciplinary research,” said Dr. Shane Que Hee, professor and interim chair in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and director of the UCLA Industrial Hygiene Program.