Black History Month: NIOSH Remembers Derek E. Dunn, Ph.D.

February 28, 2014
NIOSH Update:

Press Office Contact: Jenise Brassell (513)533- 8360

As Black History Month 2014 nears its close, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) remembers the rich legacy of the late Derek E. Dunn, Ph.D. Dr. Dunn (1945-2002) was a tireless champion of worker health and safety, a leader in promoting diversity in the scientific professions and the federal workforce, and an award-winning health researcher, educator, and public servant.

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Dr. Dunn had a remarkable career at NIOSH. He authored numerous peer-reviewed scientific publications on the causes of noise-induced hearing loss and prevention of occupational hearing loss. His research bolstered NIOSH’s strategic program of research and recommendations to prevent work-related hearing loss and thus improve the quality of life for millions of American workers and their families.

Dr. Dunn was a natural leader, assuming successive leadership roles which included Section and Branch Chief, Division Associate Director for Science, and Division Director, all in the former NIOSH Division of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences, now the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology in Cincinnati. Dr. Dunn also held the rank of Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service, in 1998-99, he re-located to Washington D.C., to serve as Executive Assistant to Principal Deputy Assistant Nicole Laurie in the office of U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher.

Among Dr. Dunn’s various achievements was serving as the national president of the Commissioned Officers Association. He received more than 20 significant professional awards for his work, including the U.S. Public Health Service’s Meritorious Service Medal, the Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medal, and the NIOSH-Cincinnati Supervisor of the Year (awarded by American Federation of Government Employees Local 3840).

Dr. Dunn received his B.S. (1969), M.A. (1970), and Ph.D. (1972) from the University of Cincinnati, and was devoted to the University and its students throughout his career. He also completed an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship in electron microscopy and cochlear morphology at Ohio State University, and was a guest researcher at Sweden’s University of Lund. He was an adjunct professor at both the University of Cincinnati and the Miami University.

One of Dr. Dunn’s greatest passions was mentoring young students, scientists, and public health officers. For several years, he was the primary NIOSH liaison to Project IMHOTEP, an undergraduate program in the Atlanta (Ga.) University Center. Project IMHOTEP is designed to better prepare underrepresented minority students for entry into graduate programs at schools of public health with special emphasis on the quantitative areas of biostatistics, epidemiology, and occupational safety and health, as well as health policy and management, health promotion and behavior, environmental health science, nutrition, global health, maternal and child health, and industrial hygiene. As NIOSH liaison, Dr. Dunn personally handled the recruitment and matching of minority students to summer research opportunities throughout NIOSH.

On Jan. 8, 2003, Dr. Dunn’s home town passed the City of Cincinnati Resolution R/002-2003, recognizing and commending his outstanding scientific contributions. In his memory, the Derek E. Dunn Memorial Alumni Scholarship Fund was created in honor of his service as the longtime president of the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences Alumni Association, University of Cincinnati. In addition, the conference room in the NIOSH Office of the Director in Washington, D.C. was named in honor of Dr. Dunn and dedicated on March 1, 2004. The dedicatory plaque quotes Dr. Dunn’s frequent exhortation to colleagues, to remind them of the importance of NIOSH’s mission:

“What have you done for the worker today?”

Page last reviewed: February 28, 2014