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Local researcher honored

August 12, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN

marlob@herald-mail.com

Because of the heat, a "virtual" plaque for the George W. Comstock Center for Public Health Research and Prevention was unveiled Thursday afternoon before more than 80 well-wishers in the air-conditioned comfort of the Washington County Health Department auditorium.

The real plaque graces the hallway of the center at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., where Comstock, a Johns Hopkins University researcher and founding director in Washington County, has worked since 1962.

"I had read articles written by George and then I got to work with him during our 30-year association," said Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, chair of the epidemiology department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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Comstock, who is 90 years old and still working, wrote his first article in 1938. His wife, Emma Lou Comstock, said Thursday that he had two articles published in a journal of medicine this month. And he's still teaching.

"If I had a question on smoking cessation or tuberculosis, I'd ask him, and within a few minutes there will be an article on my desk - and it would be an article written by Dr. George Comstock," said William G. Christoffel, health officer for Washington County.

Current and former colleagues joined students and budding scientists Thursday to honor Comstock.

"I've been lucky all my life," Comstock said. "But no one works alone and I have enjoyed remarkably good cooperation from the people of Washington County."

Before the renaming, the facility had been called the Johns Hopkins Training Center for Public Health Research. Through the work done at that center, Washington County residents have taken part in health studies for more than 84 years.

There have been several cancer studies in Washington County, starting with research conducted from 1957 to 1962 to determine if environmental causes, primarily radiation, were to blame for high cancer rates.

Two cancer research efforts in 1974 and 1989 - named CLUE I and CLUE II - collected blood from about 69,000 county residents to build a serum bank and establish a cancer registry.

Comstock continues to spend a considerable amount of time at the center reviewing manuscripts, editing and writing book chapters and advising students.

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