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Professor Feature: Dr. Maureen Lichtveld

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Maureen Lichtveld, M.D., M.P.H. is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Environmental Health Sciences, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and has worked extensively within the field of environmental public health.

Prior to Tulane University, Dr. Lichtveld spent 18 years working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) alongside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct health studies in communities living near hazardous waste sites nation-wide. Throughout her CDC career she received multiple awards— the Special Service Award for her participation in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Public Health Service Special Recognition Award, and CDC Environmental Health Scientist of the Year.

Dr. Lichtveld is a member and former Chair of the Science Board of the American Public Health Association, current Chair of the Environmental and Occupational Health Council of the Association of Schools of Public Health, and Chair of the National Public Health Leadership Society. In 2008, Dr. Lichtveld received the Herbert Nickens Award from the National Intercultural Cancer Council for leadership in cancer health disparities and educating minority health professionals in cancer care. In 2007, New Orleans named her Woman of the Year.

Dr. Lichtveld’s research interests include asthma, cancer, health disparities, environmental health policy, disaster preparedness, and public health systems. She holds an endowed chair in environmental policy and serves as Associate Director, Population Sciences of the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium. One of Dr. Lichtveld’s inspirations is the opportunity to benefit and learn from her community, and because of this, she places emphasis on including the community within her research. By talking and interacting with the community being researched, Dr. Lichtveld creates more positive change and helps more lives. According to her, “If you’re stagnant in science, in the happenings of society, you cannot contribute to society.” She places emphasis on environmental health threats affecting communities living in disaster prone areas especially regarding maternal and child health.

Dr. Lichtveld is the Principal Investigator of three research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health: the Head Off Environmental Asthma in Louisiana (HEAL) study, examining the relationship between exposure to Post-Katrina mold and exacerbation of childhood asthma. She is the Co-PI of the Gulf Coast Trans disciplinary Research Center for Community Health, a multi-institutional collaborative center engaged in health disparities, disaster, and environmental health research. She is also the PI of the Transdisciplinary Research Consortium for Gulf Resilience On Women’s Health (GROWH), whose goal is to strengthen the health security of maternal health for those affected by the Deep Water Horizon oil spill within the Gulf Coast.

In addition to her research projects, Dr. Lichtveld serves as an expert consultant to the Institute of Medicine, and was recently elected to the editorial board of the American Journal of Public Health.

On an average day, Dr. Lichvteld goes above and beyond to fulfill her calling to help those in need and affects the lives of countless potential students, future and current doctors. In addition to teaching graduate courses at Tulane, Dr. Lichtveld takes time to give lectures to potential Tulane students and leads a study abroad trip to Suriname every summer. Dr. Lichtveld’s study abroad is a fully immersive experience where students interact with a local medicine man. It was important to her to respect local practices whenever attempting to practice her own medicine; instead of trying to force Western medicine onto the community, she integrated it.

Her advice to students is to always work hard and take the more challenging course when given the option. “Life only has meaning if you put meaning into it.”