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2019 Ellenhorn Award

Congratulations to 2019 Ellenhorn Award recipient Paul Wax, MD, FACMT. Dr. Wax will present the 2019 Ellenhorn Address at ASM on April 13.

Below is a nomination letter from Past-President Erica Liebelt, MD, FACMT:

It is with great pleasure to nominate Paul Wax, MD, FACMT, for the ACMT Matthew J. Ellenhorn Award. The purpose of this award is to honor an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the field of medical toxicology.

I have known and worked with Paul for over 20 years on multiple issues and in multiple forums/settings, most dealing with American College of Medical Toxicology where we served on the Board of Directors together for numerous years.

Thus, I feel I have the perspective and knowledge to provide the justification of Paul deserving this award.

I cannot think of a single medical toxicologist who has done more for the advancement of the specialty of Medical Toxicology in the last 10 years. He emulates the distinguished career of Dr. Ellenhorn as a clinician, educator and researcher. His contributions and service to medical toxicology are clearly on the same level if not higher of all the previous Ellenhorn awardees. Paul’s vision, creative thinking, expertise, insight, and not always wanting to accept the “status quo,” provide the foundation for his extraordinary contributions that have allowed the specialty to grow and reach a national respect among all the medical specialties. The latter are qualities that Dr. Ellenhorn also exhibited, for those of us who knew him and worked with him.

Paul became a member in the American College of Medical Toxicology in 1993 and served as President from 2006-2008. During this time, he recognized the need that our specialty needed increasing exposure and awareness, not only from our other medical colleagues, but also from the healthcare field, in general, that would increase the availability of our expertise to patients with toxic exposures in our country. Paul’s recognition of this need and gap evolved into an all consuming passion and commitment to grow the professional organization of physician medical toxicologists, e.g. ACMT, which could serve as the forum for providing the education and increased awareness and exposure through its numerous activities to the public, to healthcare, and to non-healthcare organizations.

Paul assumed the role of ACMT Executive Director in 2008, when I became President of the organization. In the last 10 years, he has elevated our national organization to a level that none of us could have imagined. Why is this so important? The number of medical toxicologists is small, and, at one time, there was concern that the ABMS primary specialties were going to dissolve our specialty. Paul would not stand for this and marched on with perseverance.

I do acknowledge that in his role as the Executive Director, Paul is a paid employee of ACMT. Some people might few this as a “conflict” in nominating him for this award. I personally do not for the following reasons. Paul continues to practice medical toxicology on the front line as an active faculty member with the toxicology group at the University of Texas at Dallas. His ongoing clinical practice allows him to keep a pulse on the relevant and timely issues that medical toxicologists are facing. In addition, he continues to serve as a reviewer for our major journals and is the lead or one of several authors of 84 manuscript publications and 64 book chapters/monographs, providing scholarly contributions which have allowed our field to advance on numerous fronts. In addition, he is invited to speak at numerous national conferences including other medical subspecialty national meetings.

In his paid position at ACMT, Paul goes far and above his delineated responsibilities as Executive Director. His Curriculum Vitae delineates in detail his career accomplishments as the leader of ACMT. I would like to highlight a few that warrant special recognition and notation. Paul provided the leadership, performed most of the ground work, authored or participated in the writing of, sought and established the important collaborators, and provided/provides oversight of ALL of the below – turning the vision of his and many others into a reality.

1. PEHSU Grant: ATSDR/CDC National Grant for Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) in the Western US. This is the largest grant that ACMT has ever obtained.

2. TOXIC Registry: Numerous national grants (including NIH) that involve the Toxicology Investigators Consortium Registry, (e.g. TOXIC). As a result, the amount of medical toxicology research that has been done and published has grown dramatically.

3. Chemical Terrorism Education: Provided the inception and led the development/implementation of the Agents of Opportunity Course (originally Chemical TICS and TIMs as Threats for Terrorism) over 15 years ago. This course has trained over 15,000 people.

4. Medical Toxicologists as Subject Matter Experts: Developed the ATSDR Subject Matter Expert network in conjunction with the ACMT cooperative agreements. Helped to develop a Subject Matter Expert group for DHS Dept. of Homeland Security to provide expert consultation to DHS’s Chemical Security Analysis Center on matters pertaining to their Chemical Terrorism Risk Assessment (CTRA)

5. JMT: Leader for the development of the Journal of Medical Toxicology

6. Collaborative relationships with prominent national leaders: Established collaborative relationships with National Institute of Drug Abuse that led to the development of ACMT’s yearly Forensic courses for 10 years and established collaborative relationship with NMS laboratories.

7. ACMT Growth: Paul was instrumental in growing the breadth and depth of our national organization over the last 10 years. Numerous education, research, and clinical initiatives and programs have been developed.

As the Executive Director of ACMT, Paul has overseen the accomplishment of so many clinical, education, and research programs that have significantly advanced the field of medical toxicology and continues to fulfill our vision of knowing the essential role and value of the medical toxicologist. This, alone, extends the philosophy of Matthew J. Ellenhorn and provides rationale and justification for Paul to receive this award and recognition.

Erica Liebelt, MD, FACMT