A 42-year-old woman came to the office of Louisville neuropsychologist Martine RoBards in 1999. Once the "star" of her workplace, a railroad mechanic shop, the woman now suffered insomnia, depression, anxiety, and memory loss. She had trouble organizing her thoughts and reciting her own history. The woman reported eight years of chronic exposure to mixed organic solvents used to clean engine parts. RoBards, who describes herself as a medical Nancy Drew, with help from a neurologist, made a diagnosis of chronic toxic encephalopathy1 caused by exposure to the solvents. She then set off to examine 92 of the woman's coworkers. Little did RoBards realize this small study would propel her on an 18-month odyssey. Eventually RoBards would help prompt a federal investigation into the University of Michigan's institutional review board (IRB), and of a team of UM investigators whose paper on toxic encephalopathy won a prestigious award.2
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