Environmental Health Expert Named Deputy Secretary at State Environmental Protection Agency

UCSF’s Gina Solomon Appointed to New Post

April 20, 2012
Gina Solomon, MD, MPH

Gina Solomon, MD, MPH

Keeping her eyes on the strawberry fields of central California, the bustling diesel truck routes in Oakland, and the stubborn toxic soils of the former Naval ship yards at San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point, UCSF Clinical Professor Gina Solomon, MD, MPH will soon have a new vantage point — the state capitol.

Solomon, an occupational and environmental medicine specialist, has been appointed deputy secretary for science and health at the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA), a newly created post by Governor Jerry Brown. She will start the full-time position in May.

“The science on the health effects of pesticides, toxic chemicals, air pollutants and climate change is exceedingly complex,” said Solomon. “The challenge is how to protect human health while being pragmatic.”

Solomon, who started teaching at UCSF in 1998 and has led community health investigations nationally, is also a senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit advocacy group, a position she’ll leave for Sacramento.

At UCSF, she has served as the director of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency Program and as the associate director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit.

An expert in analyzing the effects of toxins on humans, Solomon is passionate about using evidence-based science to help those affected by unhealthy exposures.

“I’ll try to make sure their voices are heard one way or another when policies are made in Sacramento.”

Her wide experience includes leading a team of specialists assessing public health risks after hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Oil spill, advising local communities and government officials.

Environmental health is at a vulnerable juncture, facing shrinking funding, and the growing political influence of science skeptics, she said. “I think it’s time for scientists and physicians to speak out and say it’s not acceptable to distort the science and take positions that are harmful to people’s health.”

Solomon said the new post is a reflection of the critical importance of using science to inform public policy.

“The secretary of Cal EPA, Matt Rodriquez, is a fantastic attorney with no science background, and he has discovered that the science issues that come before the agency are legion,” Solomon said. “He felt he needed a person with a strong science and health background to help address the agencies many pressing issues.”

Solomon will cut back but not leave her UCSF duties. She plans to continue as a clinical professor and will continue to teach, even allowing students and residents to work with her on projects at the Cal EPA.

Photo by Susan Merrell