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HEI names new president

Elena Craft

The Health Effects Institute’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Elena Craft as the organization’s new President, bringing more than two decades of experience in expert scientific research and science communications that informs important air quality and public health decisions.

HEI Board of Directors Chair Richard Meserve said, “We are thrilled to have Dr. Craft join HEI at such an important time for the organization. We know she’ll have immediate and positive impacts on our contributions to science and on our strategic vision moving forward.”

Dr. Craft, who holds a Ph.D. in toxicology from Duke University, has worked with both government and industry stakeholders, conducted research on air toxics exposures and effects, published her work in a wide range of scientific journals, and communicated scientific results to diverse audiences. Most recently, she served as Associate Vice President of the Environmental Defense Fund, where she built and led a multidisciplinary team of 20 experts producing science used to inform decisions that helped reduce environmental exposures and improve public health.

Her many contributions include:

  • initiating and leading a partnership with Port Houston and other local agencies to secure nearly $10 million in federal funding to reduce air pollution through the replacement of aging vehicles with cleaner models;
  • enabling public officials to identify toxicological exposures from large releases of air pollution, e.g., from hurricanes and other natural disasters interfering with operation of major chemical facilities;
  • supporting city, county, and state agencies in their use of mobile monitoring instruments to provide rapid and precise information on public health risks for emergency responders and people living near oil refineries, chemical plants, and other potential sources of toxic contamination; and
  • helping a historically Black neighborhood along the Houston Ship Channel to purchase and install a large community-owned and -managed network of air quality monitors, one of the largest in the State of Texas.

Dr. Craft, who also holds a B.S. degree in biology from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and an M.S. degree in toxicology from North Carolina State University, said, “In collaboration with balanced support from the private sector, government agencies, and philanthropies, HEI has always provided the highest quality scientific evidence to help inform national and global policy decisions. I am honored to join the team and excited to lead an organization that is steadfast in advancing knowledge and fostering an inclusive environment for all stakeholders.”

Following the retirement of Daniel Greenbaum, who served as HEI President for 29 outstanding years, Dr. Craft takes over at a time of significant opportunity in providing trusted scientific research on air pollution and its effects on health. In recent years, HEI has launched several dynamic new initiatives, including a  separately funded Energy program, an expanded Global Health program, and, this past year, new science to address issues of environmental justice for traditionally marginalized communities and assess the health impacts of traffic in a rapidly changing transportation landscape.

HEI’s Board of Directors has appointed HEI Vice President Robert O’Keefe as Acting President until Dr. Craft begins her tenure on August 15.