State Health Department Physician Honored For Lifetime Contributions in Birth Defects Research

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 19, 2009) - Charlotte Druschel, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Congenital Malformations Registry and Research Section in the New York State Department of Health (DOH), has been named the 2008 recipient of the Godfrey P. Oakley Jr. Award, presented by the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to honor her lifetime contributions to the field of birth defects research.

This annual recognition is named in honor of Dr. Godfrey P. Oakley Jr., former director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, who has been called "the folic acid ambassador" for his work to prevent birth defects resulting from folic acid deficiencies, including paralyzing spina bifida.

"We congratulate Dr. Druschel on receiving this prestigious award," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Throughout her career, Charlotte has demonstrated a strong commitment to birth defects research and has worked tirelessly to improve the health of infants and children."

As a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist and director of DOH's Congenital Malformations Registry, Dr. Druschel oversees the analysis of information received from more than 10,000 reports submitted annually of New York children diagnosed before age two with birth defects. This information helps public health scientists understand the frequency, variety and pattern of birth defects. She has also developed a surveillance system to track fetal alcohol syndrome in New York State and has worked with others to develop new methods for the surveillance and epidemiology of muscular dystrophy.

"For 25 years, Dr. Druschel has provided outstanding leadership in her field," said Howard A. Freed, M.D., Director of DOH's Center for Environmental Health. "We recognize her passion, her scientific integrity, and the effective way in which she collaborates with other scientists."

Dr. Druschel is the principal investigator on several CDC projects, such as neural tube defect surveillance in the Lower Hudson Valley, which will lead to the development and implementation of a prevention program for such defects. She is also the principal investigator for a research contract with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to identify genetic risk factors for major birth defects. Her most recent publications have focused on identifying environmental and genetic risk factors for specific birth defects.

In addition to her own research, Dr. Druschel has mentored young scientists as they developed careers in maternal and child health epidemiology. For nearly two decades, Dr. Druschel has served on the faculty of the University at Albany School of Public Health. She is also a faculty member in the New York State Preventive Medicine Residency Program, jointly sponsored by the state Health Department and School of Public Health.

Dr. Druschel has played a key leadership role in the National Birth Defects Prevention Network. She was the co-chair at its inception, helping to launch the organization. She was responsible for the collection and publication of state data on birth defects and provided leadership and numerous contributions to the National Birth Defects Prevention Study.

Dr. Druschel received her medical degree from the University of Minnesota and holds a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. She resides in Ballston Spa, N.Y.