NIH Welcomes Inaugural Class of Climate and Health Scholars
NIH has selected eight established scientists with expertise in climate and health to work on the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative. This inaugural class of NIH Climate and Health Scholars will become part of the cross-cutting NIH effort to reduce health threats from climate change across the lifespan and build health resilience in individuals, communities and nations around the world, especially among those at highest risk.
The diverse group of scientists went through a competitive selection process and began working with NIH staff last month. Each scholar is currently employed at a major university or with a research-based organization but will be hosted by an NIH institute or center for approximately eight months. They will work with staff across NIH to share knowledge and help build capacity for conducting climate-related and health research.
“We see this scholars program as something akin to a residency where we bring in established scientists from outside the government with solid experience in climate and health research to enhance our capabilities at NIH,” said Dr. Gwen Collman, strategic advisor for the initiative and director of the scholars program. “Looking at the intersection of climate and health is a relatively new area of research for NIH. We have a few researchers at NIH with expertise in this area, but we need more. There are many staff at NIH who want to learn more about this important issue and expand their knowledge.”
Each scholar will be assigned an ambassador or host to help them become familiar with NIH and to develop a customized plan that works toward meeting the objectives outlined in the initiative’s strategic framework. Scholars will present their research to many audiences across NIH and engage with both the intramural and extramural communities as everyone works to address the framework’s four core elements—health effects research, health equity, intervention science, and training and capacity building.
“We are excited about this new scholars program,” said Dr. Rick Woychik, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and chair of the initiative’s steering committee. “We were fortunate to have an abundance of interest from many highly qualified applicants. I think we will all learn a great deal about how to integrate climate and weather data into health research and so much more.”
Woychik noted that the program had enthusiastic support throughout NIH and that the first year of funding came from the NIH Office of the Director.
The expertise of the scholars includes work in the United States and abroad that has focused on studying the health benefits of weatherization, reducing the community health impacts of weather-related disasters, understanding the effect that rising temperatures have on infectious disease rates, implementing evidence-based interventions in vulnerable populations, and establishing environmental climate and justice programs.
In addition, the scholars have sought to influence policy and programming to reduce health disparities, including in older adults.
Meet the 2023 NIH Climate and Health Scholars
Dr. Luis Fernando Chaves
Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, School of Public Health, Indiana University Bloomington
Dr. Lauren Clay
Associate Professor & Department Chair, Department of Emergency Health Services, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Dr. Ferdouz Cochran
Climate-Health Science Lead, Health Innovation Center at MITRE Labs
Dr. Zhen Cong
Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Dr. Carina Gronlund
Research Assistant Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, School of Public Health, University of Michigan
Dr. Praveen Kumar
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Boston University
Host: Fogarty International Center
Dr. Patrice K. Nicholas
Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Health, Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions
Dr. Leticia Nogueira
Senior Principal Scientist, American Cancer Society