About the College

Biography - James A. Merchant, M.D., Dr.P.H.

Dr. James A. Merchant was appointed as the first dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health on July 1, 1999. Dr. Merchant is a nationally known expert on occupational and environmental health, rural health, and public health policy. He served as head of theUI College of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health from July 1, 1997, to June 30, 1999, directed the department’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Health and Institute for Rural and Environmental Health from 1983-1997, and taught in the department since 1981.

A native of Ames, Iowa, Dr. Merchant received a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology from Iowa State University in 1962 and an M.D. degree from The University of Iowa in 1966. He completed an internship and an internal medicine residency at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, followed by a fellowship in pulmonary and environmental medicine at Duke University. In 1973, he received a doctorate in public health in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was awarded a Trudeau Fellowship from the American Thoracic Society for post-doctoral study at the University of London’s Brompton Hospital and Cardiothoracic Institute. Dr. Merchant directed the Appalachian Laboratory for Occupational Safety and Health and the Division for Respiratory Disease Studies for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before returning to Iowa in 1981, and taught and practiced pulmonary medicine at the University of North Carolina and West Virginia University (adjunct appointment).

Dr. Merchant previously directed the University of Iowa’s NIOSH-supported Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, the Injury Prevention Research Center, the Center for International Rural and Environmental Health, and the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center.

At the national level, Dr. Merchant currently chairs the NIOSH Board of Scientific Counselors, serves as a consultant member of the Advisory Committee to the Director for the CDC, and is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine. Among his awards and honors are a commendation medal from the US Public Health Service, a Health Policy Fellowship with the US Senate, and the William Steiger Memorial Award from the ACGIH. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1999.

Dr. Merchant’s research interests include the epidemiology of occupational/environmental lung disease, environmental and occupational health, rural health, agricultural disease and injuries, international health, and public and rural health policy. He has received numerous grants from the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, private foundations, and corporations.