U.S. Department of Energy

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

‘We Can’t Do It Alone’

Academia, government, industry, military, and national laboratories convene on human health
Participants of the Total Exposure Health conference.

Just before a small storm rolled into the Washington D.C. area, more than 100 civilians and military personnel gathered for the first Total Exposure Health conference hosted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The purpose of the event: To highlight scientific and technological advancements—as well as opportunities and gaps—in exposure science and precision medicine.

Foregoing the usual podium speech, Major General Robert Miller, Director of Medical Operations and Research Office of the Surgeon General, instead walked and talked on the floor, using his opening remarks to set the tone of the conference. 

“We can’t do it alone,” he said as he talked about the importance of human health and the desire to protect—not just treat—soldiers who serve or have served our nation.

Major General Miller expressed his enthusiasm about the thought leaders in the audience and the collaborations that could result from the conference. His vision for the conference—to have a conversation, rather than a presentation—became a common thread over the two days.   

Exposure science—a  rapidly maturing field of study that focuses on environment, workplace, and industrial elements that affect human health—is more than just a piece of the human health puzzle. It’s akin to a joint that connects different parts of a whole.

Hearing loss was one key topic of conversation. “It should be in the news more often,” Air Force Colonel Philip Goff said, after noting that40 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have noise-induced hearing loss. The Air Force, he said, is conducting a noise demonstration study at Moody Air Force Base, which uses sensors to measure a person’s noise exposure 24 hours a day.

Other presenters discussed exposures that we can’t hear, see, smell, or touch but that could affect our health, particularly if we have susceptibilities in our DNA.

And it was this formula—exposures plus who we are as individuals—that drove frank and informative discussion over two days.

“I was very pleased with both the content and the attendees,” said PNNL’s Justin Teeguarden and a co-chair of the event. “Having decision-makers and researchers in one room is how we can make a difference in human health.” 

Dr. Kim Anderson, a professor at Oregon State University and co-founder of MyExposome, Inc. presented findings from a recent study that evaluates cultural and environmental differences in human exposures and health. For the study, participants wore MyExposome bracelets, which have a special coating that absorbs chemicals from exposures. When tested back at her lab, the bracelets reveal the compounds that people are exposed to.

During Anderson’s presentation, Mr. Steven Jones, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Readiness Policy and Oversight, commented “One of our priorities is finding suitable technology that doesn't occupy too much weight and space on the warfighter.”

As if on queue, Anderson added other wearable forms of the technology, including a dog tag, onto the podium.

Col (ret.) Kirk Philips—known as the originator of the total exposure health concept—wrapped up the conference and noted, “We can’t have the healthiest population by treating the ill. You have to prevent the disease.”

So, will there be a 2ndannual TEH conference?

“We had many conversations about subjects that would be great topics for another conference," said PNNL’s Teeguarden. “But for now, there are plenty of opportunities to make progress with what we learned this year.”


Participants included:


Air Force Institute of Technology

Air Force Surgeon General

Defense Health Agency

Department of Defense

Department of Veterans Affairs

DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic

National Institutes of Health

Office of the Under Secretary of Defense

Military Operational Medicine Research Program

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army

U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

VA Boston Healthcare System


Case Western Reserve University

Duke University

Johns Hopkins University

Oak Ridge Associated Universities

Oregon State University

Texas A&M University

University of Kentucky

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine 

University of Southern California

University of Utah


Alexa Research & Engineering

American Industrial Hygiene Association

Battelle Memorial Institute



Dovel Technologies

Edaptive Computing, Inc.


Health & Environmental Sciences Institute

Hillltop Lab Animals, Inc.


Intelesense Technologies


Jeeva Informatics


MyExposome, Inc.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine


Summit Toxicology, LLP


Tyrula, LLC



October 2018
| Pacific Northwest National Laboratory