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Mining Feature: OMSHR Welcomes a New Director to its Spokane Mining Research Division

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Eric A. Lutz

Dr. Eric A. Lutz

On January 10, Dr. Eric A. Lutz became the new Director of the Spokane Mining Research Division (SMRD) of the NIOSH Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR).

Dr. Lutz is “honored and humbled to be a part of the legacy of excellence in health and safety that is OMSHR,” and he plans “to support rigorous cutting-edge research, guiding the translation of our research results into practice in a timely way with useful changes that ultimately improve the lives of miners and the mining community,” which “cannot be achieved in isolation, but only through collaboration and partnership with OMHR’s stakeholders in labor, operations, and academia."

As Director of SMRD, Dr. Lutz’s top priorities are to listen and learn, and to ensure that SMRD researchers have the resources they need to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities, while rapidly expanding the number of researchers in the Division.

Dr. Lutz accepted the directorship of SMRD after a five-year tenure at the University of Arizona in Tucson, from 2010 through 2015, as Assistant Professor in the Division of Community, Environment, and Policy at the Zuckerman College of Public Health and UA Director of Mining Health and Safety Programs.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Lutz attended The Ohio State University in Columbus, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry in 1996. He received a Master of Science in 2009 from the Ohio State University’s College of Public Health, followed by a doctorate in environmental health sciences in 2010 from the same college. Dr. Lutz is a Certified Mine Safety Professional, accredited through the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals (ISMSP). Since the 1990s, he has accrued a wealth of health and safety experience in the private sector, including working for the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio; BioGard Environmental Services in Phoenix, Arizona; and Anderson Group International in Bakersfield, California. He also delved into a successful entrepreneurial venture, starting his own environmental company and then eventually selling it.

Dr. Lutz has published 17 peer-reviewed journal articles on worker health and safety and infectious disease research, typically with a specific focus on miner health and safety. He has been highly active in health and safety training in the international mining community, travelling to countries including Chile, Mexico, China, and Uganda. Recently, he was recognized by the ISMSP with the 2015 Highest Degree of Safety Award–National for his outstanding contribution to the reduction of mining injuries in the United States. Currently, Dr. Lutz is director and cofounder (in 2010) of the Health and Safety Technical Advisory Committee of the Institute for Mineral Resources (IMR), whose membership includes over 40 mining health and safety professionals, representing all major commodity sectors in U.S. surface and underground mining.

Dr. Lutz is the Chair of the Health and Safety Division in the Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME). He is also the cofounder and vice chair of the Mining Working Group of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

Dr. Eric A. Lutz meets children in China and Ethiopia

Dr. Lutz meeting children during his travels: In China while he was working with the Chinese CDC on community health surveillance, and in Ethiopia working on One Health research and education initiatives with the Ethiopian government and academic institutions.

Serving people and country is a motivating theme for Dr. Lutz, giving him purpose in his life's work, as he is “committed to saving and improving miners’ lives through the advancement of technology and research, and also in understanding the implications of our changing world for miners.” While serving in the Navy Reserves Seabee Construction Battalion (CB) from 1989–1996, Dr. Lutz adopted into his life the U.S. Navy’s motto, "Non sibi sed patriae"—Latin for "Not for self, but for country."

Dr. Lutz is also a Captain in the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard where he is the Public Health Officer in Charge (OIC). In 2015 he was recognized as Company Grade Officer of the Year for the Medical Group and also received the Air Force Commendation Medal for his work as a Public Health Officer.

Married with two children, Dr. Lutz recently relocated with his family to Spokane, Washington, to take the helm as SMRD Director. Outside of work, he plans to continue his love of outdoor pursuits, including one of his favorite activities, trail running, which he pursues for exercise and as a way to connect with nature.

The Spokane Mining Research Division was created in April 2015 and is located at the NIOSH facility in Spokane, Washington. SMRD provides leadership for the prevention of work-related illness, injury, and death in the extractive industries, with an emphasis on the special needs of these industries in the western United States.