For their work linking illnesses of Vietnam War veterans to the herbicide and defoliant sprayed by the U.S. military in country, The American Legion recognized chemist Jeanne Mager Stellman and her husband Steven, an epidemiologist, with the Distinguished Service Medal in 2003.
"They have played a key role in helping to convince lawmakers and leaders that Agent Orange exposure caused lingering health problems," National Commander Ronald F. Conley said. "Many ailing Vietnam veterans have a hard time proving to the Department of Veterans Affairs that their illnesses are related to Agent Orange exposure. Their research helps to ease the burden of that proof."
Accepting the award, Steven Stellman told convention delegates, "When some of the scientific community questioned both the science, and even the public-health importance, of studies involving veterans, you were always there to remind us that we were on the right track. We owe a large debt of gratitude to a thousand very special Legionnaires and their families."
Jeanne echoed her husband's sentiments. "We did a study for you and we ran right up against the opposition of the government," she said. "They said no one was exposed and no study could be done, and the Legion fought all the way up to the Supreme Court. They didn't win that fight, but they did manage to work with friends in Congress and get the Agent Orange Act passed in 1991, and it was the first time that outside scientists were brought in."
Jeanne belongs to the SUNY Downstate Medical Center faculty in Brooklyn, N.Y. She previously served 27 years at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York. Though her formal training is in physical chemistry, she has written extensively on occupational health hazards and women's occupational health. She was editor of the journal Women and Health for 19 years.
Steven is a professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York. In addition to his Agent Orange work, he has studied tobacco-related cancers and the environmental factors of breast cancer. He also served as research director for the World Trade Center Health Registry.
For more on Jeanne Stellman, click here (http://www.downstate.edu/publichealth/departments/faculty/stellman.html).
For more on Steven Stellman, click here (http://www.mailman.columbia.edu/our-faculty/profile?uni=sds91).