UC Davis reproductive health leader honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Jeanne Conry, associate clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and an alumna of the UC Davis School of Medicine, was honored by United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson as an environmental health champion for her national leadership to advance understanding of the risk to reproductive health of exposures to environmental toxins.
Conry was presented with the 2012 Children’s Environmental Health Champion Award for the Pacific Southwest Region during a ceremony in San Francisco. She was lauded for her extensive efforts to promote better health for babies and women by preventing harmful chemical exposures during pregnancy. She was further acknowledged with a lecture before medical students and health professionals at UC San Francisco on “Reproductive Health and the Environment: Well Women Care and Preconception Health on the National Agenda.” Administrator Jackson and Southwest Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld also delivered remarks.
“I am deeply honored to accept this award from the Environmental Protection Agency,” Conry said. “It has become clear that environmental exposures have the potential to seriously impact the health of women and the health of future generations. As physicians, we are in a unique role, advising our patients, sharing information with colleagues, and advocating for changes that ultimately improve the quality of care.”
Conry is president-elect of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the nation’s leading advocacy organization for women’s health, and will assume the position of president in May. She also serves on the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Select Panel on Preconception, a coalition of government and health-care providers seeking to improve pregnancy outcomes by emphasizing the need for healthy choices across the reproductive life span of women.
Conry was nominated for the award by colleagues at UC San Francisco for her commitment to educating about the importance of avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals during pregnancy.
Research suggests that most pregnant women have measurable levels of chemicals (such as lead, mercury, pesticides, bisphenol A, and flame retardants) in their bodies that may affect fetal development. Fetuses can be exposed to chemicals because some metals and chemicals pass through the placenta. Researchers have found that prenatal exposures to chemicals may affect birth size, neurodevelopment and may increase the risk of birth defects and adverse health outcomes later in life.
Conry, who also is an assistant physician-in-chief at Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Roseville, Calif., said that it is time to acknowledge the health effects of these toxins on the fetal environment.
“We are familiar with the impact of diabetes and obesity on reproductive health, and clinicians have long advocated for improved health prior to conception in order to improve maternal and newborn outcomes,” Conry said. “It is time for all clinicians to understand that the term 'environment' can refer to a broad range of exposures, from the medications we prescribe and the chronic medical condition of our patients, to the chemical toxicants in our surroundings. The environment impacts health, it impacts reproductive health, and it impacts the health of future generations.”
Conry chaired the CDC Second International Summit on Preconception Health in 2007 and has been a member of the CDC’s Select Panel on Preconception Health from 2006 to the present. She also has been a member of the Preconception Care Council of California since 2006, chairing the body from 2006 to 2010.
Conry is a 1986 graduate of the UC Davis School of Medicine and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis in 1990. She received a doctoral degree in biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1978.
The EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s Environmental Awards program acknowledges commitments and significant contributions to protecting the environment in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Pacific Islands and tribal lands. Groups and individuals were selected from nominees received from businesses, government officials, tribes, media, academia, environmental organizations and community activists.