Honoring Science and Service at NIOSH

Posted on by John Howard, MD; John Piacentino, MD; Kelley A. Durst, MPA; and Christina Spring, MA

Exemplary science is the foundation for all National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research and prevention activities. Each year, NIOSH recognizes outstanding science and service from our employees. This year’s Science and Service Awards took place on April 27, 2023. The awards booklet contains the finalists, awardees, and honorable mentions as well as information on the occupational safety and health pioneers whom many of the awards are named after. The winners in each category and a brief description of their work are included below.

James P. Keogh Award for Outstanding Service in Occupational Safety and Health

This award recognizes a current or former NIOSH employee for exceptional service in the field of occupational safety and health.

Mr. Jonathan Szalajda, Deputy Director of the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, is the recipient of the 2023 James P. Keogh Award for his remarkable leadership and passion in supporting U.S. workers and the public. He is recognized as a world expert on personal protective equipment (PPE) standards development and conformity assessment. He has worked in the field of respiratory protection and PPE for over 35 years. Throughout his federal service, Mr. Szalajda has led PPE standards development efforts throughout the world, serving as a global and national PPE leader on numerous consensus standards committees that have impacted millions of workers and the public who rely on PPE and technologies, crossing all industry sectors where PPE is used. Mr. Szalajda has played a leadership role in every respiratory protection national standard developed for the past 25 years. Mr. Szalajda’ s greatest contribution is his leadership in the development of NIOSH standards for respiratory protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents. He led the standards development effort for respirators to provide, for the first time, protection against a full range of expected CBRN terrorist threats. Read more about Mr. Szalajda’s accomplishments in the 2023 Awards booklet.

Alice Hamilton Award for Occupational Safety and Health

This award recognizes the scientific excellence of NIOSH technical and instructional materials. Categories include Behavioral and Social Science, Communication and Guidance, Engineering and Control, Epidemiology and Surveillance, Exposure and Risk Assessment, Methods and Laboratory Science, and Research Service. The annual award honors Dr. Alice Hamilton (1869– 1970), a pioneering researcher and occupational physician. Read more about the award winners, finalists, and Alice Hamilton in the 2023 Awards Booklet.

Behavioral and Social Science Awardee

Abay Asfaw, Brian Quay, Tim Bushnell, and Regina Pana-Cryan

Injuries that happen at work lead to more opioid prescriptions and higher opioid costs is the first study to show the importance of work-related injury conditions in contributing to opioid prescription incidence, supply days, and opioid cost compared to other injury-caused conditions.

Communication and Guidance Awardee

Sydney Webb, Suzanne Marsh, Murrey Loflin, and Thomas Hales

The training video Challenges and tactics for fighting row house fires provides instruction on proven tactics for preventing firefighter injury and death. The video compliments a related poster and fact sheet, draws attention to specific ways in which fires behave in a row house and describes six tactics for fighting these fires.

Engineering and Control Awardee

Warren Myers, Segun Ajewole, Susan Xu, Patrick Yorio, Adam Hornbeck, and Ziqing Zhuang

Laboratory assessment of bacterial contamination of a sterile environment when using respirators not traditionally used in a sterile field environment investigated airborne bacteria in a simulated operating room produced from the exhaled air of simulated healthcare workers while wearing Powered air-purifying respirators (or, PAPRs) and other types of air-purifying half-mask respirators. Researchers were able to clarify issues on the use of PAPRs and their applicability in sterile fields, especially when other PPE are in short supply.

Epidemiology and Surveillance Awardee

Kyla Hagan-Haynes, Alejandra Ramirez-Cardenas, Kaitlin C Wingate, Stephanie Pratt, Sophie Ridl, Emily Schmick, John Snawder, Elizabeth Dalsey, and Christa Hale 

On the road again: a cross-sectional survey examining work schedules, commuting time, and driving-related outcomes among U.S. oil and gas extraction workers summarizes a survey of these workers, the first to examine their schedules and hours, commuting times, self-reported sleep, employer safety policies, and driving-related outcomes.

Exposure and Risk Assessment Awardees

Seth McCormick, John E Snawder, I-Chen Chen, Jonathan Slone, Antonia M Calafat, Yuesong Wang, Lei Meng, Marissa Alexander-Scott, Michael Breitenstein, Belinda Johnson, Juliana Meadows, and Cheryl Fairfield Estill

Exposure assessment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in refined coal tar sealant applications is the first study to directly assess worker exposure to carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from refined coal tar sealant. The study found all refined coal tar sealant workers are occupationally exposed to these hydrocarbons. Considering these results, many sealcoat companies have switched to products that do not contain refined coal tar sealant.

Kenneth W Fent, Alexander C Mayer, Christine Toennis, Deborah Sammons, Shirley Robertson, I-Chen Chen, Deepak Bhandari, Benjamin C Blount, Steve Kerber, Denise L Smith, and Gavin P Horn

Firefighters’ urinary concentrations of VOC metabolites after controlled-residential and training fire responses provides the most complete picture to date of firefighters’ exposures to volatile organic compounds (or, VOCs) and suggests that absorption is occurring in other ways even when a self-contained breathing apparatus is consistently worn.

Methods and Laboratory Science Awardee

Shijun Wei, Belinda Johnson, Michael Breitenstein, Lina Zheng, John Snawder, and Pramod Kulkarni

Aerosol analysis using handheld Raman spectrometer: on-site quantification of trace crystalline silica in workplace atmospheres describes the development of a new sensitive method for rapid, on-site measurement of respirable crystalline silica aerosols in the workplace. The method provides measurements in either a few minutes or after a full 8-hour shift using a handheld Raman Spectrometer.

Research Service Awardee

Matt Bowyer, Tammy Schaeffer, Robert Saunders, and Judith Eisenberg

Career probationary firefighter dies during SCBA confidence training at fire academy – New York identified contributing factors to the death of a firefighter during a training exercise and offered recommendations to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

Bullard-Sherwood Research to Practice

This award recognizes outstanding efforts by NIOSH scientists and their partners in applying occupational safety and health research to prevent work-related injury, illness, and death. It highlights efforts that demonstrate noteworthy impact through partnerships. The award is named in honor of two distinguished inventors who made significant improvements in workplace injury and illness prevention. Edward W. Bullard designed the first “hard hat” as protective headgear for miners. R. Jeremy (Jerry) Sherwood merged research and industrial hygiene by inventing the first practical personal sampling pump in the late 1950s. Read more about this year’s winners and the inventors who inspired the award in the awards booklet.

Intervention Awardee

Protecting the NIOSH Brand: Registering, Monitoring, and Enforcing Certification Marks to Combat Counterfeit and Respirators Misrepresenting Being NIOSH Approved

Angela Andrews, John Powers, Lee Greenawald, Wesley Attwood, Angela Dai, Anita Hogan, Alex Butterman, Daniel Davis, Brenda Boutin, Maryann D’Alessandro, Jeff Peterson, Adam Smith, Robert Stein, Heather Reed, Michael Rafky, Brandy Vaughn, Justine Walters, Dale Berkley, Alaina van Horn, Gordan Gillerman, Jennifer Marshall, Kristen Trawinski, and Ganesh Rao

To address counterfeit respirators, 12 respirator-related certification marks were registered in the U.S. and in several other countries. The certification mark registration, monitoring, and enforcement activities ensure that the expected level of protection will be provided by NIOSH-approved respirators.

Knowledge Awardee

Updating ASTM Standards F2407 and F3352 to Ensure Healthcare Personnel Are Adequately Protected

Selcen Kilinc-Balci, Susan Moore, Lee Greenawald, Patrick Yorio, Dana Rottach, and Ron Shaffer

As part of an ASTM international workgroup NIOSH researchers worked to revise the surgical and isolation gown standards.  The new standard will help protect healthcare workers and is being used for the Strategic National Stockpile and World Health Organization and CDC PPE guidelines.

Technology Awardee

Development of NMAM 3900 Canister Method and Capillary Flow Controllers

Ryan LeBouf

To help accurately estimate occupational exposures to chemicals in workplace air, NIOSH, in collaboration with partners, developed an improved method for detection, quantification and identification of volatile organic compounds.

Plain Language Awardees

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires that federal agencies provide clear communication that the public can understand and use. NIOSH encourages plain language in all communication products. Awards are given in two categories: Before and After and Original products.

Before and After Awardee

Aircrew Safety & Health – Communicable Diseases

Raquel Velazquez-Kronen and Greg Hartle

The Aircrew Safety & Health – Communicable Diseases webpage was updated to better reflect the variety of resources available to aircrew on general travel health and preventing infectious disease transmission during flights.

Original Awardee

Stand Together: Join the National Firefighter Registry

Kenny Fent, William Wepsala, Miriam Siegel, Alex Mayer, Andrea Wilkinson, and Greg Hartle

This factsheet (see page 1 at right) was designed to provide clarity and answer questions about the National Firefighter Registry (NFR) program, which is committed to understanding and reducing cancer among firefighters.

Service Excellence Awardees

These awards focus on both the management and operations side of the Institute and recognize NIOSH staff who provide excellent administrative and managerial support to the Institute’s mission and projects.

Excellence in Leadership

James Bennett, NIOSH Division of Field Studies & Engineering

Excellence in Leadership

Menekse Barim, NIOSH Division of Field Studies & Engineering

Excellence in Workforce Development

Lauralynn Taylor McKernan, NIOSH Division of Field Studies & Engineering

Director’s Intramural Award for Extraordinary Science Awardees

The Director’s Intramural Awards for Extraordinary Science recognize outstanding contributions to scientific excellence at NIOSH by scientists and support staff.

M. Abbas Virji received the Lew Wade Distinguished Career Scientist Award. Dr. Virji has over 25 years of experience in field research on occupational exposure assessment and epidemiology. He has made major advances that have influenced the science of exposure assessment including a series of landmark articles on beryllium exposure reconstruction, validation, and exposure-response relationships for beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease.

Taylor M. Shockey received the Early Career Scientist Award. Dr. Shockey has made extraordinary contributions in the fields of epidemiology and exposure assessment. She holds multiple leadership roles in and outside of NIOSH. Her current efforts have led to significant progress in the evaluation of the collection and use of exposure data.

John Lechliter received the Scientific Support Award.  For more than 13 years Mr. Lechliter has supported NIOSH scientists with the development, refinement, and clear communication of their scientific information. He also programmed and developed a customized plain language software analysis system which helps increase the effectiveness and impact of NIOSH information.

NIOSH is extremely proud of its robust research and prevention efforts. The winners described here are only the tip of the iceberg. The awards booklet contains the honorable mentions and finalists in each category which further demonstrates the breadth of the Institute’s research. For more examples of NIOSH research see our website, e-News, blog, and social media accounts.

Congratulations to the NIOSH researchers and staff on their important work to protect America’s workforce.

John Howard, MDNIOSH Director

John Piacentino, MDDeputy Director for Program and Acting Associate Director for Science

Kelley A. Durst, MPA, Deputy Director for Management

Christina Spring, MAAssociate Director, Communication and Research to Practice



Posted on by John Howard, MD; John Piacentino, MD; Kelley A. Durst, MPA; and Christina Spring, MA

2 comments on “Honoring Science and Service at NIOSH”

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    Overall, the Science and Service Awards showcase the incredible work being done by NIOSH researchers and staff to protect workers and promote a safer, healthier workplace.

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Page last reviewed: April 27, 2023
Page last updated: April 27, 2023