The Mount Sinai Archives has recently installed a new exhibit in the display cases in the Annenberg North lobby that celebrates the centennial of the birth of Irving J. Selikoff, MD, a Mount Sinai physician who was a pioneer in occupational and environmental medicine. The display was created as part of the Department of Preventive Medicine’s recent celebration of the centennial of his birth. Irving J. Selikoff was a physician and researcher who made landmark contributions to the treatment of tuberculosis, engaged in seminal research on asbestos associated illness, and crusaded for the adoption of laws to make workers safe.
As a researcher, many of his efforts were aimed at documenting the link between asbestos and various cancers, but as a specialist in lung disease, other topics of interest included tuberculosis and later AIDS. As an advocate, Selikoff’s research and testimony helped lay the foundation for the establishment of the 1970s Occupational Safety and Health Act, Worker’s Compensation reforms, and the 1989 Environmental Protection Agency limitations on asbestos use, and inspired investigation into the ill effects of other commonplace environmental and industrial hazards. As a physician, the clinical programs that Dr. Selikoff established have cared for thousands of workers and their families impacted by occupational diseases. The Selikoff Centers for Occupational Health, since named in his honor, continue to grow and treat patients in need. As an educator, the medical students, residents and fellows he trained have spread knowledge of and interest in the field of Occupational Medicine around the world.
Irving J. Selikoff, MD, an advocate for the health of the average man, died May 20, 1992 after fifty years of service to the global community. He changed the everyday lives of millions with his work on tuberculosis and as a pioneer in Occupational Medicine. Selikoff’s influence shaped public policy, initiated multi-million dollar litigation, toppled an industry, and saved lives.
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