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Weiss receives UW's first-ever graduate mentor award

Dr. Noel Weiss, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, has been named UW's 1999 Distinguished Graduate Mentor. The honor, announced by University president Richard McCormick, represents the first time the UW has formally recognized outstanding mentoring of its graduate students.

An ad hoc committee appointed by Dr. Marsha Landolt, vice provost and dean of the UW Graduate School, selected Weiss from among 119 faculty members nominated by 300 current and former UW graduate students.

Weiss for the past 25 years has been an active member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division and the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine, where he's a professor of epidemiology.

Epidemiology, a discipline central to public health research, involves the assessment of biological, behavioral and environmental factors -- from genetics to diet -- in the development of diseases such as cancer.

One of Weiss' major areas of research is the link between post-menopausal hormone therapy and endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining). His other research interests include assessing the effectiveness of various cancer-screening tools in reducing cancer deaths.

Although Weiss is perhaps best known for his scientific research, he says the most rewarding part of his career has been working with colleagues and students.

"It's a very enjoyable process," he says of teaching in particular. "Even when the students leave, I get to continue to keep in touch with them and with what they're doing."

His graduate students earn what Weiss calls their "union card," described by one former student as "a lifetime contract for continued assistance and mentorship." Even more than a decade after leaving the UW for professional posts all over the world, Weiss' students report that he remains a key advisor, generous colleague and inspiring role model in their lives and work.

Among those to nominate Weiss was Dr. Lynda Voigt, a senior staff scientist in the Hutchinson Center's Epidemiology Program.

"He was an outstanding mentor through my Ph.D. and continues to mentor me in my career in epidemiology," she wrote. "He always has time, despite his busy schedule, for students, non-students and colleagues. He listens to ideas and helps students evaluate themselves."

Comments from other graduate students who nominated Weiss include:

  • "Qualities that make Noel truly extraordinary are his generosity in time and attention to his graduate students, whether they currently or formerly worked with him."
  • "[His] mentoring philosophy I have carried with me as a model for my own students."
  • "[He is the] single most important person behind our choosing epidemiology as a career."
  • "He continues to inspire our best thinking."
  • "He treated me as a colleague from the very beginning of our association."

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Editor's note: A photograph of Dr. Weiss is available upon request.

Kristen Woodward (206) 667-5095

May 27, 1999

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