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Joanna M. Gaitens, PhD, MSN, MPH

Academic Title:

Associate Professor

Primary Appointment:


Secondary Appointment(s):

Epidemiology & Public Health


University Square, 11 S. Paca Street, Suite 200

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-7464


(410) 706-4078

Education and Training

  • PhD, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • MSN/MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and Bloomberg School of Public Health, Community Health Nursing and Public Health
  • BSN, University of New Hampshire, Nursing
  • ADN, Norwich University, Nursing


My main research interest centers around understanding potential long-term effects associated with the presence of metals in the body. I serve as the Deputy Director of the VA’s Toxic Embedded Fragment Surveillance Center which utilizes urine biological monitoring to assess systemic metal exposure from embedded fragments, characterizes fragment composition for surgically removed fragments from Veterans, and provides VA clinicians with tailored medical management guidance linking urine metal results to recommended surveillance elements. As part of this work, I oversee the VA’s Embedded Fragment Registry which captures clinical surveillance data from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with retained fragments, who were injured primarily from improvised explosive devices, for population-level analyses.

I am also involved in clinical investigation of depleted uranium (DU)-exposed Gulf War I Veteran’s injured during “friendly fire” incidents. Other additional metal-related activities have included investigating determinants of elevated cobalt and chromium concentrations in a cohort of metal-on-metal hip implant patients as well as work in the area of lead poisoning prevention. 

A second area of interest focuses on the protection of healthcare workers from occupational hazards. As part of our divisions’ role as a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Collaborating Center for Occupational Health, I work with our team to provide content knowledge and technical expertise in support of WHO’s Global Plan of Action on Workers Health and have delivered occupational health and safety trainings for health workers for countries in the Americas as well as in Africa.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Metals, biological monitoring, embedded fragments, medical surveillance, registries, occupational health

Highlighted Publications

Gaitens JM, Centeno JA, Squibb KS, Condon M, McDiarmid MA. 2016. Mobilization of  metal from retained embedded fragments in a blast-injured Iraq war Veteran. Military Medicine, 181(6): e625-e629.

McDiarmid MA, Gaitens JM, Hines S, Condon M, Roth T, Oliver M, Gucer P, Brown L, Centeno JA, Streeten E, Squibb KS. 2015. Biologic Monitoring and Surveillance Results for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Depleted Uranium Cohort: Lessons Learned from Sustained Exposure Over Two Decades. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 58(6): 583-594.

Squibb K, Gaitens J, Engelhardt S, Centeno J, Xu H, Gray P, McDiarmid M. 2012. Surveillance for Long Term Health Effects Associated with DU Exposure and Retained Embedded Fragments in U.S. Veterans. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 54(6), 724-732.

Gaitens J, Dorsey CD, McDiarmid MA. 2010. Using a Public Health Registry to Conduct Medical Surveillance: the Case of Toxic Embedded Fragments in U.S. Military Veterans.  European Journal of Oncology, 15(2), 77-89.

Gaitens J, Dixon S, Jacobs D, Nagaraja J, Strauss W, Wilson J, Ashley P. 2009. U.S. Children’s Exposure to Residential Dust Lead, 1999-2004: I. Housing and Demographic Factors. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117, p 461-467.