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Dr. Megan Schwarzman named 2021 Rosati Lecturer

Congratulations to Megan Schwarzman, MD, MPH ’07, who has been named the 2021 Rosati Lecturer in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

Schwarzman, a physician and environmental health scientist, is being honored for her contributions to the study of synthetic chemicals’ impact on human health and the environment; her research on U.S. and European chemical policies; and her dedication to advancing the professional careers of her students.

“I’m honored to be recognized alongside my colleagues who are dedicated to helping students learn in real-world contexts,” Schwarzman said. “Our students feel an imperative to address serious public health problems, and I think it’s powerful to give them opportunities to create real change.”

Every two years, the Rosati lectureship is bestowed on a faculty member or practicing professional who provides students with real-world experiences in public health, closing the gap between research and practice. In that, Schwarzman is a true leader: She co-developed and continues to teach Berkeley’s one-of-a-kind “Greener Solutions” course, an inquiry-driven course that assembles teams of graduate students in chemistry, environmental health, and engineering to develop safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals and manufacturing processes.

“Meg is a compassionate, thoughtful, and brilliant person. If there was anyone mentally equipped to teach a class during 2020, it was her,” said Ned Antell, a third year PhD student in environmental engineering. “The class was really challenging, but she was right there with us all along the way. She has found that fine balance between supporting us and challenging us. ”

Greener Solutions students learn principles of hazard assessment and green chemistry while collaborating directly with companies to develop more sustainable manufacturing processes and products.

“We give students thorny problems that no one has solved yet, and it’s so inspiring to watch them come up with solutions that can actually be applied by our partner organizations,” Schwarzman said. “This experience sets our students up to be very effective in the world. They quickly discover that public health problems are deeply interdisciplinary, and that the bigger the problem, the wider the array of expertise they need around the table.”

The Legacy of Guido Rosati

The division of Environmental Health Sciences selects a new Rosati Lecturer every two years to honor Guido Rosati, a 1941 alumnus at UC Berkeley who taught at the School of Public Health after retiring as Chief of Industrial Hygiene and Health Physics at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo in 1978. As a Berkeley lecturer, he was passionate about mentoring students to prepare them for future careers in public health. After he passed away in 2011, his family created an endowment in his honor to continue his tradition of exposing students to real-world applications as part of their public health education.

“Meg Schwarzman is training our students to tackle pressing sustainability challenges of our day, and positioning them to change the world,” says Justin Remais, professor and chair of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences. “Taking on the problem of toxics in many sectors, from electronics to building materials to home furnishings to textiles, Meg sharpens students’ technical skills, preparing them to help design inherently safer chemicals and materials in products we interact with every day.”

Schwarzman came to the School of Public Health with a medical degree from the University of Massachusetts. She completed specialty training in Family and Community Medicine at UCSF, where she earned the Julius R. Krevans Award for Clinical Excellence, and continues to train family medicine residents in reproductive medicine.

She earned her MPH from Berkeley Public Health in 2007, after which she launched a research program focused on reproductive environmental health and the development of safer materials through green chemistry. She applies her environmental health expertise to chemicals policy, studying, for example, the impact of Proposition 65 on Californians’ exposure to breast carcinogens.

“Meg has a wonderful superpower to inspire students with clear and refreshing insights with limitless support and poise. Her ability to draw connections from policy and science represented the type of ideological rigor each of us aimed for, and her infectious passion is what motivated us to keep growing,” Aaron Maruzzo, a first-year MPH student, said. “She teaches to empower. It’s no surprise that many of her former students have turned into leaders in their own ways and still speak highly of the course, and I feel very lucky to be among them.”

Schwarzman served for a decade on the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Ribbon Science Panel advising the groundbreaking Safer Consumer Products Program, and as a member and chair of the Scientific Guidance Panel for California’s biomonitoring program since 2014.

“Drawing on my career interacting with countless business, government, and advocacy partners, my main message to students is to seek out environments where you can be a graceful learner. It takes tremendous humility to remain open and curious when you realize you only partially understand something,” Schwarzman said. “While it’s important to own your own expertise, it’s even more important to bring kindness and curiosity to your inquiry, both inside and outside the classroom.”