Message from the Chair

The Department of Preventive Medicine was established in 1967 and reflects Mount Sinai’s deep commitment to disease prevention. Preventive medicine is unique among medical specialties as we focus on preventing diseases before they occur, rather than finding new cures. We encompass allied fields of medicine (Occupational Health) and research which also emphasizes prevention and helps us understand disease causation, particularly Environmental Health. In the last 30 years, significant advances have been made in understanding the influence of environmental factors on health, resulting in policies that have reduced environmental exposures (e.g., removal of lead from gasoline). Nonetheless, there are more than 80,000 non-naturally occurring chemicals registered for industrial use by the EPA, and for most of them, little to no research on their impact on health has been performed. Just as genomic principles revolutionized the scope and pace of genetics, the Department of Preventive Medicine is committed to quickening the pace of environmental health research through new methodologies, sometimes called the “Exposome” that will rapidly advance our understanding of the impact of the environment, in all its complexity, on development, physiology and health. Finally, we strive to define environment broadly and our work aims to encompass nutrition and social environment as well as chemicals.

As one of the leading medical school departments in preventive medicine, we are at the forefront of confronting the challenges that face health care today. Since our founding, the Department of Preventive Medicine has:

  • Established and maintained one of the first Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units. These clinical centers are funded by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and provide clinical and preventive care and counseling to families across New York.
  • Provided laboratory and analytical support to measure environmental and occupational exposure for researchers across the country. We have built one of the nation’s first Exposome research programs. The Senator Frank Lautenberg Laboratory for Environmental Health Sciences is dedicated to developing new methods for measuring the Environment and continues to expand with collaborations nationally and internationally.
  • Built a state of the art Clinical Center of Excellence serving the responders to the World Trade Center (WTC) attack. We are the largest of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) funded clinical centers. The World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence provides services to nearly 20,000 of the men and women who served in New York City in the days, weeks, and months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. We are honored and deeply humbled to provide diagnostic and treatment services to these heroic responders.
  • Developed a broad range of educational and training programs that include medical school courses, courses in the Mount Sinai MPH program, residency and fellowship training programs, and post-doctoral research fellowships in environmental and occupational health research. In partnership with the Department of Population Health Science and Policy and the Arnhold Institute for Global Health, we are collaborating to build new PhD programs in epidemiology and biostatistics.
  • Provided biostatistical and bioinformatics support to federally-funded research projects across Mount Sinai, including the Tisch Cancer Institute and the WTC Data Center.

As rates of complex diseases such as obesity, learning disabilities, and cancer continue to rise, it is abundantly clear that environmental factors play a major role in their etiology. Now, more than ever, we must focus research efforts on the environmental causes of chronic diseases. On behalf of the Department of Preventive Medicine, I invite you to explore our website and learn more about our innovative programs and groundbreaking research we are conducting.

Robert O. Wright, M.D., M.P.H.
Ethel Wise Professor and Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine
Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Children’s Environmental Center