Biographies - Folic Acid

R.J. Berry, MD, MPHTM
Photo of R.J. Berry, MD, MPHTM

Dr. R.J. Berry is a graduate of the University of Utah (BS in Molecular and Genetic Biology) and Weill Cornell Medical College (MD) and Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (MPHTM). While a medical student, he spent one year working at the Institute of Human Biology, Goroka, Papua New Guinea, which was influential in his choosing to be a pediatrician. In 1981 he joined the Epidemic Intelligence Service program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA and was assigned to the Birth Defects Branch, Chronic Diseases Division in the Center for Environmental Health. In 1988 he and colleagues in China began planning how to conduct a randomized clinical trial for the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs). In 1991 he was assigned to Beijing as the US Project Director and led the team that established, through a study which included almost 250,000 women and their children, that use of 400 µg of folic acid alone prevents NTDs. In 1994, he was awarded the Friendship Award by the Chinese government, which is the highest award given to foreigners working in China. In 2011, the United States Public Health Service awarded Dr. Berry the Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of promoting the use of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects through innovative analytical work and ground-breaking publications.

Godfrey P. Oakley, Jr. MD, MSPM
Photograph of Godfrey P. Oakley, Jr. MD, MSPM

Dr. Godfrey P. Oakley is the Director of the Center for Spina Bifida Research, Prevention and Policy and a Research Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University. Dr. Oakley is the former Director of the Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While at CDC, he and his team provided scientific and policy leadership critical to persuading the Food and Drug Administration to mandate folic acid fortification of “enriched” flour to prevent spina bifida, a disabling birth defect. Acknowledged as a worldwide expert, Dr. Oakley actively monitors scientific and policy issues concerning folic acid worldwide, and provides information to those considering fortification. He has authored and co-authored numerous scientific papers and served as president of the American Teratology Society and Chairman of the International Clearinghouse of Birth Defects Monitoring Systems. Among his awards have been the Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Washington School of Public Health; three awards from the American Public Health Association; and the Bowman Gray Medical Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award.

Deborah Kowal, MA, PA
Photograph of Deborah Kowal, MA, PA

Deborah Kowal, MA, PA, is the Executive Editor and a co-author of Contraceptive Technology and its derivative works. As a medical writer specializing in women’s reproductive health, maternal mortality, and infant survival, she has consulted for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization Collaborating Center in Reproductive Health, and other health organizations. For more than 30 years, she wrote the Public Health section in WorldBook Encyclopedia’s Science Year Annuals. Formerly, Ms. Kowal provided clinical care at the University of Michigan Health Service.

David Erickson, DDS, PhD
Photograph of David Erickson, DDS, PhD

After achieving the DDS degree, Dave practiced dentistry for 4 years and later obtained an MPH in Dental Public Health, and a PhD in epidemiology. He joined CDC as an EIS Officer in 1974, assigned to the Birth Defects Branch in the Bureau of Epidemiology. Most of his career at CDC was occupied by a pursuit of risk factors for birth defects and methods for preventing them. CDC provided incomparable opportunities to work on several fronts, some leading to primary prevention of spina bifida and anencephaly through increased consumption of folic acid. Collaborating on the design and conduct of the massive community intervention in China was an awesome experience. Among Dave’s other activities were evaluations of alleged dangers of community water fluoridation (Down syndrome, cancers), and studies related to the possible adverse health effects of military service in Vietnam, with specific emphasis on the notorious herbicide “Agent Orange.” Dave served on the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on the Health Consequences of Using Smokeless Tobacco, and the VA’s Advisory Committee on Health Related Effects of Herbicides. He also served as the Chairperson of the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Monitoring systems, and as Chair of the Scientific Oversight Committee of the Hungarian randomized controlled trial of vitamin use and spina bifida.

Page last reviewed: October 11, 2017
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