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Biography of Walter Klimecki

Academic: I hold two doctorates, a DVM from Ohio State University (1984) and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Arizona (1994). I completed an NRSA-funded post-doctoral fellowship at the Arizona Cancer Center. Following employment in the biotech sector developing human genetic testing platforms I joined the University of Arizona in 2000 as an Associate Research Scientist, and transitioned to a tenure-track position in Pharmacology and Toxicology in 2006, where I am currently an Associate Professor.

Research: My academic research has progressed in two complementary paths. My work has studied the human determinants of individual variability in disease and in response to environmental toxicants. Featured prominently within that is my keen interest in inherited human genetic variation and its potential impact on human health. My work has involved numerous IRB-approved studies in populations of human research participants. Among other findings, our work has identified genetic and non-genetic factors that drive person-to-person differences in ingested arsenic biotransformation, a well-recognized risk factor for human arsenic-associated disease. My laboratory also has a sustained, funded effort in mechanistic toxicology. We currently have two funded projects aimed at understanding the carcinogenic mechanism of action of inorganic arsenic in experimental models of lung cancer. I believe that the translational spectrum of the research that I have led gives me a unique tool set to bring to the HSRB.

Teaching, Mentoring, Outreach: I have a longstanding commitment to teaching and to outreach to communities impacted by environmental contaminants. I am an active educator at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional course level. I have presented at workshops on ethics pertaining to human genetics. Last summer I participated in a residential 2-day undergraduate retreat on bioethics, and I have been invited to return this summer. I am the P.I. of a recently-awarded R25 from NIEHS aimed at providing two years of training and paid research experience in the environmental health sciences to disadvantaged undergraduates. As one example of putting teaching and outreach into action, two weeks ago, over spring break, I led a team of my R25 trainees to the Navajo nation to work on a colleague’s R21 (NIEHS) project quantifying metal levels in soil, water, and sediment downstream of the Gold King Mine spill. During that visit I presented a community-understandable summary of the toxicology and potential health impact of selected metals. I have delivered many similar talk in diverse communities and settings, on both sides of the US/Mexico border. I cite these examples to emphasize that the experience that I have as a leader of studies utilizing human participants is within a larger context and value system of respect and empathy that I think is important in the review of studies involving human participants.

Leadership: I am the Interim Head of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at U. Arizona. At the college level I am an elected member of the Academic Freedom and Tenure committee. I was recently appointed as the Chair of the University of Arizona Graduate Council, the shared governance body for graduate education at U.A. I have served as an elected Counselor, and more recently in the Presidency 4-year track of the Metals Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology.