New division head appointed in health program

by V. Paul

After a yearlong national search, the School of Public Health appointed one of its own faculty members last week to head the nearly 200-member Division of Environmental and Occupational Health.
With graduate-student recruitment as his priority, William Toscano, a University toxicology professor, beat out three other candidates for the position and will replace Donald Vesley, an environmental microbiologist, on June 19. Vesley has been interim division head since last June when former head Jack Mandel retired.
“Right now, we don’t have a diverse student body. Jack rebuilt the division when he was head. What he did was bring in great faculty,” Toscano said. “I’d like to get some more diversity among students.”
The division focuses on work in disease-prevention policy and research, involving fields such as environmental chemistry, industrial hygiene and epidemiology.
Toscano, who earned the unanimous support of the school’s 21 faculty members, has an academic and industrial background. In the late 1960s, he worked for a research company in Pittsburgh, developing protein from petroleum.
In 1978, Toscano earned a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Illinois and continued his research and teaching at the University of Washington and the Harvard School of Public Health before coming to the University in 1989.
Toscano left the University in 1993 to become chairman of the Environmental Health Sciences at the Tulane University Medical Center.
“He was the only one of the candidates that had such experience,” Vesley said.
His reputation as a consultative administrator earned him the respect of his peers. He has an interest in students and teaching, and “seemed like an excellent fit” for the school, said Edith Leyasmeyer, the school’s dean.
“I try to give students and faculty a wide berth, to let them do their jobs,” Toscano said.
Toscano expects to continue his toxicology teaching and his dioxin research while acting as division head.
He is also looking to expand an existing distance-learning program within his division, bringing public-health classes to greater Minnesota.
“I think that’s one of the ways of the future that (the School of Public Health) has to do,” Toscano said.

V. Paul Virtucio welcomes comments at [email protected].