Roger O. McClellan Receives 2018 SOT Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award

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Roger O. McClellan, DVM, MMS, DSc (Honorary), DABT, DABVT, ATS, Member-National Academy of Medicine, Toxicology & Human Health Risk Analysis, is the recipient of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) 2018 Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award. Dr. McClellan is receiving this award for his substantial and seminal scientific contributions to the understanding of radiation toxicology and the broader impact of this body of research on the field of toxicology. 

During high school in Richland, Washington, site of the Hanford Atomic Products Operation, Dr. McClellan was introduced to the science ofv2Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award PhotoRoger McClellan.jpg radiation and its effects on health. As a Washington State University (WSU) student, he worked with Hanford scientists as an intern on radiation issues. His research on metabolism and dosimetry of Zn65 in sheep was used as an honor’s thesis for his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine with Highest Honors from WSU in 1960. 

Dr. McClellan then joined the Hanford Laboratories’ staff, conducting research on transfer of radionuclides through ecosystems, intake by livestock and humans, and exposure-dose-response relationships for endpoints from reproductive effects to cancer. He had responsibility for a major lifespan study on health effects of Sr90 ingestion by miniature pigs. Another major study was on transfer of I131 from cows to cow’s milk to human thyroid. This work became predictive of effects to human populations after the Chernobyl reactor accident.

In 1965, Dr. McClellan was assigned to the US Atomic Energy Commission (US AEC) with responsibility for the AEC Internally-Deposited Radionuclides Program. The next year he assumed leadership of what became the Lovelace Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute (LITRI), Albuquerque, New Mexico. The LITRI mission was to provide information for evaluating health consequences of catastrophic reactor accidents. He quickly recruited a multidisciplinary team to investigate health effects of inhaled radionuclides in various forms.

This series of studies continued for more than three decades—unparalleled in experimental toxicology. The peer-reviewed publications from this research comprise a substantial portion of the world’s literature in this field, providing a basis for establishing radiation protection standards and evaluating the consequences of nuclear accidents. Dr. McClellan was president and scientific leader (1988–1999) of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology (CIIT) before becoming an independent advisor on inhalation toxicology and risk analysis.

For more than 60 years, Dr. McClellan has been a leading scholar, improving knowledge of the health effects of exposure to radionuclides and air contaminants. His contributions have come from his work as an investigator and team leader. He has strongly advocated “issue-resolving” research that reduces scientific uncertainty in assessing safety and risks of various technologies. He has authored 350 papers, edited 10 books, and contributed to numerous reports by advisory committees of the National Council on Radiation Protection, the National Research Council, eight federal agencies, and the National Academy of Medicine to which he was elected in 1990.

For his many enduring contributions to the development of knowledge on the toxicology of airborne toxicants, Dr. McClellan has received the SOT Arnold J. Lehman Award (1992), Merit Award (2005), and Founder’s Award (2009), as well as numerous honors from other organizations. Dr. McClellan has been an active SOT member, serving on many SOT Committees, on the SOT Council, as founding chair of the SOT Endowment Fund Board, and as SOT 1989–1990 President.

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