Marilyn Howarth, MD

PHILADELPHIA— Marilyn Howarth, MD, an adjunct associate professor of Emergency Medicine and Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been honored by the community organization Chester Environmental Partnership for her longstanding involvement with its efforts to protect the environment and safeguard the health of members of the Chester community.

Howarth, who is director of community outreach and engagement at Penn’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET), was honored along with four others at the Partnership’s annual awards dinner last month for their commitment to environmental stewardship.

CEET works to determine how harmful environmental exposure can lead to disease. Understanding these processes is crucial for early diagnosis, intervention, and prevention strategies. Penn CEET is one of 17 federally designated Environmental Health Science Core Centers in the United States.

Chester has a number of environmental problems stemming from numerous current and abandoned industrial sites, two major chemical manufacturers, municipal and infectious medical-waste treatment facilities, a trash-to-steam incinerator, and heavy automobile and truck traffic. The city has a 64-percent higher rate of ovarian cancer, a 24-percent higher rate of lung cancer, and three times the rate of asthma than the rest of Pennsylvania, according to statistics from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.  

Among the activities Howarth was recognized for providing environmental health expertise on a range of health and environmental justice issues to the Partnership, meeting with industry and regulatory agencies on setting permit standards for emissions, and working with medical providers on advising patients on how to avoid exposures to toxicants. She also emphasizes the importance of social factors such as poverty, crime, and housing quality in affecting health. For example, she has counseled residents that home maintenance problems such as dust and moisture can cause or aggravate asthma. In these efforts Howarth focuses on the concept of the exposome: the total environmental exposures of a lifetime and how they cumulatively affect individual and community health. 

As a physician-researcher Howarth has extensive experience evaluating and treating patients with exposure to heavy metals, solvents, mold, and respiratory allergens and irritants. She is a founding professor of Penn’s Master in Public Health environmental and occupational-health track and provides educational sessions on environmental health topics to community and employee groups. She joined the Penn faculty in 1995. Howarth earned her medical degree from the Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine and her undergraduate degree in biology from Swarthmore College.


Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.6 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $494 million awarded in the 2019 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 43,900 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2019, Penn Medicine provided more than $583 million to benefit our community.

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