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Alan  Woolf, MD, MPH

Medicine Research
General Pediatrics Research
Hospital Title:
Director, Program of Environmental Medicine
Academic Title:
Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Research Focus Area:
Environmental health

Research Overview

Alan Woolf, MD, MPH is Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School (HMS), attending physician at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), and a member of both the Academy at HMS and the Teaching Academy at BCH. Dr. Woolf and his colleagues have done seminal research into topics in clinical toxicology, medical therapies in the management of childhood poisonings, and topics in poisoning epidemiology and prevention. He has studied the epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of childhood metals poisoning, including lead and aluminum, and their comorbidities. He has investigated the toxicity, safety and marketing of herbs and dietary supplements as well as health policy implications of use of herbs by families. Dr. Woolf’s research into poison control centers and their role in poisoning prevention has influenced subsequent legislation and public policy. He has authored over 250 original reports, scientific reviews, chapters, and other publications, many of them on topics concerning children’s poisoning and toxic environmental exposures. He is medical editor of the book: The Children’s Hospital Guide to Your Child’s Health & Development (Perseus Press, Cambridge, MA).  

About Alan Woolf

Dr. Alan Woolf is a pediatrician, educator, and medical toxicologist. He received a BS degree in honors biology from Stanford University, his MD from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, his MPH from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an honorary master of arts from Harvard University. He completed his pediatric residency and a Robert Wood Johnson-sponsored fellowship in general academic pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Woolf is the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME) Designated Institutional Official (DIO) for BCH with oversight of its 40 ACGME-accredited residencies and clinical fellowships comprised of more than 500 physicians-in-training. He is also the Director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Center at BCH, Director of its fellowship training program in pediatric environmental health, and Co-Director of Region 1 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU), sponsored by the Association of Occupational & Environmental Clinics (AOEC), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Dr. Woolf is also Site Course Director for the pediatrics segment of the HMS Course: Patient-Doctor II. He is the Medical Director for the annual BCH pediatrics regional postgraduate course: ‘Advances in Pediatric Health Care’ and he is a member of the Committee on Continuing Education at HMS. He is a past-president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), and immediate past-president of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT). Dr. Woolf has also served as external consultant to the World Health Organization’s International Program in Chemical Safety and as a member of the National Advisory Committee for Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances, EPA. He was recently chosen as a member of the General Hospital & Personal Use Device Panel of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and also serves as a consultant to the Medical Devices Advisory Committee of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health of the FDA.

Key Publications

Woolf AD, Lewander W, Filippone G, Lovejoy F. Prevention of childhood poisoning: efficacy of an educational program carried out in an emergency clinic. Pediatrics. 1987;80(3):359-363.

Woolf AD, Wenger T, Smith TW, Lovejoy FH. The use of digoxin-specific Fab fragments for severe digitalis intoxication in children.  N Engl J Med. 1992;326(26):1739-1744.

Woolf AD, Saperstein A, Forjuoh S. Poisoning prevention knowledge and practices of parents after a childhood poisoning. Pediatrics. 1992;90(6):867-870.

Woolf AD, Alpert HR, Garg A, Lesko S. Adolescent occupational toxic exposures – a national study. Arch Pediatr AdolescMed. 2001;155(6):704-710.

Woolf AD, Watson WA, Smolinske S, Litovtz T. The severity of toxic reactions to ephedra: comparisons to other botanical products and national trends from 1993-2002. Clin Toxicol. 2005;43(5):347-355.

Woolf AD, Erdman AR, Nelson LS, Caravati EM, Cobaugh DJ, Booze LL, Wax PM, Manoguerra AS, Scharman EJ, Olson KR, Chyka PA, Christianson G, Troutman WG. Tricyclic antidepressant poisoning: an evidence-based consensus guideline for out-of-hospital management. Clin Toxicol. 2007;45(3):203-233.

Gardiner P, Phillips R, Kemper K, Legedza A, Henlon S, Woolf AD. Dietary supplements: inpatient policies in U.S. children’s hospitals. Pediatrics. 2008;121(4):e775-781.

Lin CG, Schaider LA, Brabander DJ, Woolf AD. Pediatric lead exposure from imported Indian spices and cultural powders. Pediatrics. 2010;125(4):e828-835.

Harris ESJ, Cao S, Littlefield BA, Craycroft JA, Scholten R, Kaptchuk T, Fu Y, Wang W, Liu Y, Chen H, Zhao Z, Clardy J, Woolf AD, Eisenberg DM. Heavy metal and pesticide content in commonly prescribed individual raw Chinese herbal medicines. Sci Total Environ. 2011;409(20):4297-4305. PMCID: PMC3163780.

Kesselheim JC, Sun P, Woolf AD, London WB, Boyer D. Balancing education and service in graduate medical education: data from pediatric trainees and program directors. Academic Med. 2013;89(4):652-7.

Active Projects

2012-2015   Aluminum levels and childhood development in one-year-old infants

Gerber Foundation
Principal Investigator

This is a study of blood and hair aluminum concentrations in normal infants aged 9-13 months and associations of these levels with other elevated heavy metals such as lead and/or childhood developmental progress.

2013-2014  Development of Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units

ATSDR Cooperative Agreement Award 1U61TS000118-05
Principal Investigator

This is a research, service and teaching grant. Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) are formed to utilize collaborations between pediatric clinics and occupational/environmental clinics in order to reduce environmental health threats to children, improve access to expertise in pediatric environmental medicine, strengthen public health prevention capacity in focus areas, and educate health providers about pediatric environmental health issues.  One of the purposes of PEHSU is to study the impact of environmental hazards on children, an area of growing concern and attention.

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