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Former North Carolina Cabinet Member Takes Post at Duke

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

William G. Ross Jr., former secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has joined Duke University as a visiting scholar.

${cabinetmember.jpg?left}Ross will hold a joint appointment in the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Nicholas School of the Environment. His work will focus on the development of environmental policies and plans for a new Cancer Center program that will focus on environmental factors that can lead to cancer.

H. Kim Lyerly, MD, director of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, says both patients and scientists feel increasing urgency about better understanding environmental links to cancer.

"We have made significant progress identifying the molecular underpinnings of carcinogenesis, and now we must apply this knowledge in order to more clearly understand how the environment influences these factors," says Lyerly. "Bill's tenure will complement this work and help us translate this new knowledge into policy change."

Duke, home to a top-10 Comprehensive Cancer Center and nationally recognized school of the environment, is uniquely positioned to leverage Ross's talents, says Lyerly. "The Duke Cancer Center and the Nicholas School already have a close relationship, and Bill will help enrich that even further."

Since 2006, the two organizations have been working on nine collaborative research projects exploring how environmental agents interact with genes to promote the growth and spread of cancer. In addition, they have co-sponsored international conferences aimed at understanding the link between the environment and disease.

"Every year, humans introduce new chemicals into the environment, often with little understanding of how they affect human health and the health of our planet," says William L. Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School.

"We look forward to working with Bill to expand our collaborative effort, to define the long-term impacts of these chemicals, and apply our newfound knowledge to policies that help forge a sustainable future."

Ross is a native of Marion, NC, and an attorney specializing in environmental law. He was a partner with the Greensboro and Raleigh law firm of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard before serving as secretary of DENR from 2001 to 2009.

For many years Ross has been active in organizations dedicated to natural resource conservation and environmental protection throughout North Carolina, including The Nature Conservancy, the Guilford County Parks and Recreation Committee, the Piedmont Land Conservancy, the Raleigh Greenway Commission, the Environmental Education Fund and the North Carolina Environmental Defense Fund.

"A deep interest in conserving and protecting natural resources runs in our family," says Ross.

"My grandfather, George Ross, served as North Carolina’s director of the Department of Conservation and Development, a predecessor of the DENR, from 1949 to 1953, and I was privileged to continue that service. Now, I look forward to working at one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world in furthering interests important to me and to the people of North Carolina and beyond. I am grateful for the opportunity."

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