1997 Houk Award Recipient




Dr. Needleman was born in Philadelphia, PA and graduated from Overbrook High School. He received his baccalaureate degree from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He then interned at the Philadelphia General Hospital and was a resident in pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He served as Chief Resident in Pediatrics at that institution and Research Fellow in cardiology of the National Institutes of Health. Following that, he entered the private practice of pediatrics. He then trained in psychiatry at the Temple University Health Sciences Center and was Assistant Professor of Psychiatry.

He then moved to Boston as attending physician at the Children's Hospital of Boston and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is currently Professor of Child Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

It was while he was in community psychiatry at Temple University that Dr. Needleman became interested in the roots of school failure and learning disorder in inner city children. He had treated lead poisoning while a house officer at the Children's Hospital and wondered if, since many cases of lead poisoning were missed, some of the school problems could be effects of undiagnosed lead toxicity.

Because lead in blood has a short residence time, he developed a new way of measuring a child's body burden of lead: the analysis of teeth. This method is now in use around the world. In Boston, he mounted the first large-scale study of intelligence and behavior in children who had no symptoms of lead toxicity. He showed that children with high lead in their teeth, but no signs of lead poisoning, had lower IQ scores, poorer attention, and poorer language skills. This study answered many of the scientific questions that existed at the time. It served as a model for similar studies around the world, most of which have shown similar effects. At least 134 other studies have been published which have found IQ changes. His first major paper, published in 1979, was important in the decision to remove lead from gasoline.

Dr. Needleman followed these children into adulthood and showed that lead exposure is associated with increased risk for failure to graduate from high school and for reading disabilities. These studies have proved important in government regulations and programs such as the P.H.S. Strategic Plan to Eliminate Childhood Lead Poisoning and the Centers for Disease Control Guidelines for recognition and treatment of disease.

Dr. Needleman was the first investigator to study the effects of lead during pregnancy on infant development. Similar studies have also subsequently been reported by other investigators in the United States and Australia. In 1996 he published in the Journal of the American Medical Association the first study on the relationship between early lead exposure and delinquency.

Dr. Needleman has testified, many times in the United States Senate and House of Representatives on the health effects of lead and on pending legislation. He has been a consultant to the US EPA, the CDC, the HUD, and to state and local governments. He has been a consultant tot he Commonwealth of Pennsylvania lead program.

He has published over 60 refereed papers, 50 invited papers and book chapters, has edited four books on lead, and has been invited to lecture on lead effects at universities around the world. For his research he has been honored with the first scientific Studies Award of the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, The Sarah Poiley Medal of the New Academy of Sciences, The Charles Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Public Health, the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Science Award, the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor's Award for Public Service, the John Heinz Foundation Environmental Award, the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor's Award for Public Service, the John Heinz Foundation Award, the American Public Health Association Edward K. Barsky Award and has been elected to Who's Who in America (A.N. Marquis), the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and Sigma Xi.







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