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At WHO in Geneva, VCU post-doc fellow works on tobacco regulatory policy

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Carolina Ramôa, Ph.D.

A postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University just wrapped up a prestigious three-month internship with the World Health Organization in Geneva, working on regulatory policies related to tobacco.

Carolina Ramôa, Ph.D., interned with the WHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases within the Tobacco Free Initiative, which was launched in 1998 to reduce the global burden of disease and death caused by tobacco, thereby protecting present and future generations from the health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

“The experience was eye-opening and extremely informative,” Ramôa said. “The bulk of my projects revolved around the Conference of the Parties documents, which are used to inform countries that have signed a treaty called the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

“This treaty was adopted by the WHO, and every two years the countries [involved with this treaty] meet to discuss what information is necessary to help them make tobacco regulatory policy at the national level,” she said. “The WHO then fulfills these requests by gathering information from scientists and policy makers through meetings and conferences as well as commissioned papers.”

The experience was eye-opening and extremely informative.

As part of her internship, Ramôa organized a regulatory consultation on electronic nicotine delivery systems in Panama City, Panama, and served as the master of ceremonies and presented on electronic nicotine delivery system toxicant emissions, user exposure and policy implications.

“Upon my return to the WHO in Geneva, I compiled a 100-plus page document that included the information learned at the consultation,” she said.

At VCU, Ramôa is a postdoctoral research fellow in regulatory science at the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. The Center for the Study of Tobacco Products is funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“My projects have focused on tobacco products, such as water pipe (hookah) and electronic cigarettes,” she said. “My current project is trying to measure the abuse liability of electronic cigarettes.”

Ramôa’s internship with the WHO is the first in an ongoing series for Center for the Study of Tobacco Products trainees as part of its role as a WHO collaborating center. The Center for the Study of Tobacco Products received that designation in 2014 to assist the global health organization with questions related to tobacco product testing and research.

“This ongoing internship program allows the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at VCU to strengthen its role as a collaborating center with the WHO while giving our trainees international experience in tobacco product regulation and tobacco control policy,” said Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products. “We at the CSTP are honored to have the opportunity to work with the WHO and very happy that we can offer this important field experience to all of our trainees.”

Ramôa’s internship was supported by resources provided by the Massey Cancer Center, the Department of Psychology and the Office of the Provost. She said she is grateful to have had the opportunity to get hands-on international policy experience. Down the road, she said, she hopes to continue working in the line of biological research with regulatory policy.

“I would love my next job to be in tobacco regulatory policy at the FDA, CDC or NCI,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to also work in global tobacco regulatory policy in the future.”

 

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