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October 31, 2003


Emory University Public Health Epidemiologist Godfrey P. Oakley, Jr. is Elected to Institute of Medicine

ATLANTA— Godfrey P. Oakley, Jr., MD, visiting professor of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, has been elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences. Election to the IOM is one of the highest honors possible in medicine and health, with only 1,382 members nationwide. This year’s group of 65 new members was chosen through a highly selective process that recognizes those who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health. Dr. Oakley’s election brings Emory’s total membership in the IOM to 13.

Dr. Oakley has been called "the folic acid ambassador" for his work to prevent birth defects resulting from folic acid deficiencies, including paralyzing spina bifida and fatal anencephaly. Former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Dr. Oakley was an advocate to have synthetic folic acid added to all grain products. This position was supported by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996, marking the first change in the federal Food Additive Law since 1943.

Dr. Oakley, received his MD from Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1965 and a MSPM from the University of Washington in 1972. He was named Man of the Week on ABC News in 1996, and won New Zealand's Extra Mile Award in 2001. Also in 2001, the Governor of Oklahoma declared September 13 and 14 Godfrey Oakley Days. In 2003 the EP Maxwell J. Schleifer Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Oakley on Disability Awareness Night at an Atlanta Braves Game in recognition of his lifelong advocacy for the role of folic acid in reducing the incidence of neural tube defects.

"Dr. Oakley is a shining example of a scientist who has translated the knowledge gained through his research into practical applications that have had a tremendous impact on the lives of his fellow human beings," said James Curran, MD, MPH, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health. "We are proud to have Dr. Oakley as a member of our faculty and to share in the legacy he has created as a tireless advocate for the health of children worldwide."

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, and has become recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on issues related to human health. Members of the IOM devote a significant amount of volunteer time as members on IOM committees, which engage in a broad range of studies on health policy issues.

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