Meet the Scientist: Moiz MumtazPosted on by
Ethiopia, Greece, India, Puerto Rico—NCEH and ATSDR employees come from around the world, enriching our work with their distinctive perspectives and bringing a deeper understanding to environmental health issues in the United States and beyond. Dr. Moiz Mumtaz, an award-winning, internationally-recognized scientist, provides toxicological expertise and insight in his work at ATSDR.
Moiz Mumtaz’s story begins in Hyderabad, India, where he was the eldest son in a family of eight. He completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in chemistry at Osmania University and was considering pursuing a PhD at an Indian university some 400 miles away from his home.
Moiz’s father, a powerful influence in his life, was not totally happy to see him move so far away. However, he advised his son, “If you have to leave me, you should go to the United States and get a world-class education.” So, as much as he hated leaving his beloved family and “Jolly Hitters” cricket team behind, Moiz arrived at Oregon State University (OSU) in 1973 as a graduate teaching assistant in chemistry.
Education in the United States
At OSU, Moiz’s academic interests took a new turn when he switched from analytic chemistry to toxicology. He realized he needed additional courses to build the scientific background for this change, so Moiz earned his second MS at OSU. Then he began his PhD studies at the University of Maryland.
In 1977, while Moiz was pursuing his PhD, his father began the traditional daughter-in-law search, resulting in a sight-unseen engagement. When his studies postponed his return to India for the wedding, Moiz and his fiancée began a secret correspondence. Through the letters, the young couple got to know each other. “It was a fun part of my life,” says his wife, Dr. Farzana Mumtaz, who practices Family Medicine in Roswell, Georgia.
Moiz finished his PhD in Maryland and returned to India for his wedding. Shortly after their wedding, Moiz and his wife moved to Galveston, Texas to further their studies. Farzana pursued her residency and Moiz a post-doctoral fellowship in health effects of exposure to occupational chemicals. Then it was on to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Moiz joined the Office of Research and Development at the U.S. EPA. There began his illustrious toxicology career—coordinating research and development of risk assessment methods for toxicity and health impacts for chemical mixtures.
Toxicology at ATSDR
In 1992 Moiz joined ATSDR as a science advisor in what is today the Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences. Since 2000, he has also served as adjunct associate professor at the Emory School of Public Health. In March 2013 Moiz received the coveted Arnold J. Lehman Award from the Society of Toxicology, recognizing his more than 25-year body of work on risk assessment of chemical mixtures. He says, “I always thought I would be a professor of Chemistry. I had no idea that I would do what I have been doing for the last 25 years.”
In the 40 years since Moiz first came to the U.S., his work focus has transitioned from pure chemistry to pesticide toxicology to occupational toxicology to toxicological human health assessment. For him, the transition has been a logical progression. “After all,” he says, “toxic substances create a chemical reaction in the body.”
Contributions to toxicology and students
Moiz’s contributions have made him an international authority on toxicological risk assessment for mixed chemical exposures, and he is widely referenced and quoted in journal articles and studies. In addition to leadership and speaking opportunities around the world, Moiz is a prolific writer of scientific journal articles, book chapters and federal documents. Moiz models the advice he always gives his students, “The only way to extend your life and influence is to write. Even after you are gone, through your publications you can live at least 25 more years.”
Harder to measure but equally important to Moiz are his contributions to the success of his students. He tells them, “The most important thing is not just gaining knowledge, but using it. If I have accomplished what I have, you can do it too. You have more resources and access to knowledge. But it has to matter to you. You must realize what you have in this country.”
From his earliest days when his father insisted he keep up with his older sister’s learning, Dr. Moiz Mumtaz has always pursued excellence and encouraged others to do so as well. Through his teaching and mentoring as well as his community leadership, he has made a profound difference in the lives of many.