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Rubber Industry ExpertEarns Howard Ph.D

(Washington, DC) Spring has been extra special for Akron native Yanick Rice Lamb. In addition to celebrating Mother’s Day weekend with her family, she received a Ph.D. in medical sociology from Howard University following a commencement speech by President Joe Biden. She was also selected for a faculty spotlight, and the video was featured on the jumbotron at Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Wizards, just before the commencement ceremony.

A few weeks earlier, Dr. Rice Lamb successfully defended her dissertation, titled “Toxic Tires: The Sociological Impact of Exposure to Rubber Chemicals on the Autoimmune Health of African Americans in Akron, Ohio.” The dissertation focused on 35 people with ties to Akron from research that she gathered through community focus groups and interviews.

“It is my belief that through research, interviews and focus groups Yanick may uncover one of Akron’s most hidden mysteries,” said radio personality Kym Sellers, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 25 years old and is president of the Kym Sellers MS Foundation.

“I’m extremely greatly to everyone who shared personal and family stories or supported this project in other ways,” Dr. Rice Lamb said. “Their invaluable contributions will help to build a foundation for much-needed research in the future. I learned a great deal and hope to expand upon this work. In the meantime, I want to present my findings to the Akron community, local leaders and medical professionals.”

In addition to her dissertation, Dr. Rice Lamb wrote an “Unintended Consequences” series about the health impact of the rubber industry that was published by Belt Magazine, the Center for Public Integrity and The Reporter with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism. Two days after defending her dissertation, Morgan State University presented her with the Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence at the National Press Club for her rubber series.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive an award named for such a respected journalist and Black Press pioneer,” Dr. Rice Lamb said of Vernon Jarrett, who started his career at the Chicago Defender and worked in newspaper, radio and television. Jarrett also founded the NAACP ACT-SO program.

Dr. Rice Lamb proudly wore the Jarrett medal for three days straight – not only during commencement, but also during the doctoral hooding ceremony, which began with a procession across campus led by African drummers, as well as the ceremony for her own graduating seniors in the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, where she is a tenured professor in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film.

A week after graduation, Dr. Rice Lamb accepted the Occupational Health and Safety Story of the Year Award for Part 3 of her rubber series on May 22 in Phoenix, Arizona. The honor included giving the Upton Sinclair Memorial Lecture at the American Industrial Hygiene Association conference at the Phoenix Convention Center. Upton Sinclair wrote a book in 1906 titled “The Jungle” that exposed unsafe practices in the meat-packing industry and that led to new laws to protect the public.

In addition, Dr. Rice Lamb’s articles on the rubber industry also won an investigative reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. The National Press Foundation described the series as “powerful and effective” in naming her a co-winner of Thomas L. Stokes Award for Best Energy and Environment Writing.

Dr. Rice Lamb, who grew up in Akron, graduated from Buchtel High School and The Ohio State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She also holds a master’s in business administration from Howard. She is the daughter of the late Carmelie Jordan and William R. Rice. She dedicated her dissertation to her stepfather, Charles Jordan- a rubber worker who died of lung cancer at the age of 42.


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