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01 July 2013

Prestigious Paracelsus Medal awarded to Emeritus Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini, Professor Hans-Joachim Woitowitz (Germany)

The prestigious Paracelsus Medal awarded to Emeritus Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini, Professor Hans-Joachim Woitowitz (Germany), for his outstanding contribution to occupational health, his life's work on Asbestos research and regulation and his unbending fight for Asbestos-victims and their compensation. The Paracelsus Medal is the highest distinction of the German Federal Medical Association, the chamber representation of all 400.000 German physicians. Among the recipients are distinguished names such as Albert Schweitzer.

The award has been granted annually since 1952 during the General Medical Assembly, usually to three physicians for outstanding academic achievement, for exemplary conduct or for contribution to the medical profession. Hans Joachim Woitowitz has fulfilled not only one, but all three selection criteria: He received the honor for his clinical and scientific work as well as for his great commitment to occupa-tional and general public health and for his diligent work towards ensuring good professionalism among the generation of occupational physicians to come.

Hans Joachim Woitowitz was the chair of the Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational and Social Medicine of the University Giessen for nearly 30 years. His main interest focused on occupational cancer risk, especially through the exposure to Asbestos. He was one of the first to raise his voice against the uncontrolled and ubiquitous use of Asbestos and has significantly contributed to Asbestos regulation and compensation practice in Germany through high-level policy advice. He still provides expert opinion on suspected Asbestos-related disease to most of the German Social Law Courts and voluntarily assists Asbestos victims in their fight for receiving justice and compensation, often in charity work.

Hans Joachim Woitowitz was born in Allenstein (East Prussia) on October, 18, 1935 and grew up in Saxo-ny and later Westphalia where his family had taken refuge. He attended Medical School in Marburg and Koln. After finishing his doctoral thesis, he followed Helmut Valentin, his scientific teacher at that time, in 1965 to the University Erlangen-Nurnberg to establishing a new Institute for Occupational Medicine and Social Medicine. After board qualification in Internal Medicine in 1969 and later in Occupational Medicine, he received the E. W. Baader Award for outstanding scientific work by the German Association for Occupational Medicine. His PhD Thesis "Occupational medial and epidemiologi-cal investigations of the immediate health risks of Asbestos" was honored again with the E. W. Baader Award. Work on Asbestos became his calling. The intensive research and occupation with the intricacies of Asbestos soon lead to the recognition of the severe danger to human health through ubiquitous use of the substance and helped to elucidate also the more hidden and delayed forms of Asbestosis-related disease such as the various forms of malignancies in several organ systems. In 1974, Hans Joachim Woitowitz became Chair of the Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational and Social Medicine of the University Giessen and filled the position until his retirement in 2004.

His profound expertise was widely recognized far beyond the world of science. He has served as a key policy advisor, participating and chairing various high-level working groups. His advice was essential in leading to the German Ban of Asbestos in 1993. Of equal importance was his influence on the regulation of the recognition occupational disease.

He was extremely committed to the formation of a future generation of occupational physicians through personal teaching, as well as through using all influence to establish an Academy for Occupational Medicine and Social Medicine in Bad Nauheim, and through his active involvement into the modernization of the occupational physicians' training curriculum in adaptation to the changing world of work during recent decades. He served as a longstanding member of the Permanent Conference on Occupational Medicine of the German Federal Medical Association.

Hans Joachim Woitowitz was an influential member of the executive board of the German Society for Occupational Medicine from 1991 to 2000. In 1987 he was elected Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini. He was member of the executive board of the Ramazzini Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health Research in Solomons, Washington, USA. He is author of more than 500 scientific publications.
His untiring commitment was publicly recognized and honored at many occasions: The double decoration with the E. Baader Award was followed by the Federal Cross of Merit, the Ernst-von-Bergmann-Plakette of the German Federal Medical Association, the Ramazzini Award of the Collegium Ramazzini, and others more.

He has been married to physician Dr. Rotraud Helga Woitowitz for 54 years, they have two daughters and three grandchildren.

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