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Release: Immediate

Merchant named head of preventive medicine at University of Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Dr. James A. Merchant, University of Iowa professor and nationally known expert on public health policy, has been named head of the department of preventive medicine and environmental health at the UI College of Medicine. The appointment is effective July 1.

"As a physician, scientist, teacher and health policy advocate, Dr. Merchant demonstrates exceptional commitment to his department's diverse missions," says Dr. Robert P. Kelch, dean of the college. "His leadership will be an invaluable asset as our preventive medicine and public health programs continue to grow."

Merchant joined the UI faculty in 1981 with joint academic appointments in preventive and internal medicine. He has developed several new programs and a number of UI centers and has served on many national and international committees and advisory boards.

In his new role Merchant will oversee his department's four divisions: biostatistics, epidemiology, occupational and environmental health (which he currently directs), and hospital and health administration. He will also help guide the future development of the UI School of Public Health, which will strengthen community health programs and offer a new master of public health degree.

A native of Ames, Iowa, Merchant received a bachelor's degree in bacteriology from Iowa State University in 1962 and an M.D. degree from the UI in 1966. He completed an internship and an internal medicine residency at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, followed by a fellowship in pulmonary and environmental medicine at Duke University.

In 1973 he received a doctorate in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Trudeau Fellowship from the American Thoracic Society to support further study at the University of London's Brompton Hospital and Cardiothoracic Institute. Merchant taught and practiced medicine at the University of North Carolina and West Virginia University and directed the Appalachian Laboratory for Occupational Safety and Health for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) before returning to Iowa. He currently directs the UI Institute for Rural and Environmental Health, the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center and the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health.

At the national level Merchant currently chairs the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and serves on the National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health for the federal Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. Among his awards and honors are a commendation medal from the U.S. Public Health Service and a Health Policy Fellowship with the U.S. Senate.

Merchant's research interests include the epidemiology of pulmonary disease, environmental and occupational health, rural health care delivery, agricultural diseases and injuries, international health and public and rural health policy. He has received numerous grants from NIOSH, the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, and private foundations and corporations.