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Dr. Henry Gong Jr., 60; professor was a pioneer in the study of air pollution's effect on health

August 22, 2007|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Dr. Henry Gong Jr., a renowned Southern California physician, researcher and professor who was instrumental in obtaining a better understanding of the health effects of air pollutants and was a pioneer in the study of inhaled particulate matter, has died. He was 60.

Gong, a member of the California Air Resources Board, died of heart failure Friday at his home in Pacific Palisades, said his wife, Jan.

Gong was chairman of the department of medicine, medical director of respiratory care services and chief of environmental health services at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey. He published more than 250 papers and book chapters on respiratory diseases and the health effects of air pollution.

"He was one of the first to apply advanced engineering technology to capture pollution particles from the atmosphere and use them in studies with human volunteers," said William S. Linn, the senior scientist who worked under Gong at Los Amigos Research and Education Institute.

"He'll be greatly missed by the scientific community, as well as the medical schools of USC and UCLA and the county hospital system, [at] all of which he had prominent roles, often at the same time," said Linn.

Gong was a professor of medicine and preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. He also had served as director and principal investigator at the Southern California Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research at USC.

In 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Gong to the California Air Resources Board.

"Dr. Gong brought a unique, invaluable perspective to air issues as a physician specializing in pulmonary health," board chairwoman Mary Nichols said in a statement. "He would often cite data from his health studies in helping guide his fellow board members to passing protective public health regulations on everything from tougher diesel regulations to more stringent air quality standards.

"All of us who breathe California's air owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Gong as one of the state's true clean air champions," Nichols said.

Gong also served on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Born in Tulare, Calif., on May 23, 1947, Gong earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1969 from the University of the Pacific and a medical degree from UC Davis in 1973. After completing a fellowship in pulmonary medicine at UCLA, he became a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Among the many honors and awards Gong received over the years are the 2004 Environmental Achievement Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the 2000 Clean Air Award from the American Lung Assn.

Gong is survived by his wife of 39 years; his children, Greg and Jaimee; and a granddaughter.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church, 15821 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades.


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