Three Decades of Pioneering Research

In 1986, pharmaceutical company representatives pitched an idea to Dr. John Ochsner: What did he think of establishing an award relating smoking and health in his father’s name? Dr. John thought that was a fine idea, and the Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Disease was born.

Fast forward three decades. The award has been presented annually for 31 years, and the recipients are some of the world’s most groundbreaking researchers into the effects of tobacco on animals and humans.

In 2017, we understand very well the myriad deleterious effects of tobacco smoke, but that wasn’t the state of affairs in 1939 when Drs. Alton Ochsner and Michael DeBakey published their opinion that cigarette smoke and lung cancer were linked.

At the time, their opinion was ridiculed by the medical establishment. It took many years for the link between smoking and cancer to be established scientifically, and the scientists who have received the Alton Ochsner Award over the years have been instrumental in providing the proof to back up the speculation that Drs. Ochsner and DeBakey published in 1939.

From the award’s inception, Dr. Edward Frohlich has chaired the selection committee. In 1999, he provided an update on the award and the history behind it. In 2017, he provided another status report that is published in the fall issue of the Ochsner Journal, along with a feature on three of the award winners.

Thanks in part to the work of these researchers and the awareness their work brought to the hazards of direct and secondhand inhalation, today, our offices, stores, theaters, and other public spaces are free of the haze of cigarette smoke.

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