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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

December 2023

New class of seven Climate and Health Scholars named

NIEHS will host scholar Stefania Papatheodorou, M.D., Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Seven scholars were selected to share their specialized knowledge with National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers as part of the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative. The initiative is a cross-cutting, NIH-wide 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 visiting scholars program helps to build capacity within NIH as these scholars share their methodologies and research approaches directly with staff across NIH. Harvard epidemiologist, Stefania Papatheodorou, M.D., Ph.D., will be hosted by NIEHS.

Stefania Papatheodorou, M.D., Ph.D.
Papatheodorou is a lecturer in epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a trained obstetrician and gynecologist. (Photo courtesy of Stefania Papatheodorou)

Papatheodorou’s research lies at the intersection of climate change, environmental exposures, and women’s health. Her work has documented the vulnerability of the fetal brain to exposure to high temperatures and air pollutants during pregnancy. She has also examined associations between these factors and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as stillbirth, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.

“I am truly honored to be selected as an NIH Climate and Health Scholar at NIEHS and very excited for the year ahead,” said Papatheodorou.

Papatheodorou will be housed within the NIEHS Division of Translational Toxicology (DTT). She will work closely with DTT’s Developmental Neurotoxicity Health Effects Innovation program to develop comprehensive methods to evaluate how environmental pollutants and climate influence the development of neurodevelopmental disorders. She will apply mechanistic, behavioral, and physiological assessments to different animal models to examine complex neurodevelopmental issues.

Warren Casey, Ph.D.
Casey also serves as director of Strategic Partnerships at DTT. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw / NIEHS)

In addition, she will work with the Health Assessment and Translation Branch within DTT to evaluate existing evidence from epidemiological and animal studies and identify gaps for future research.

Warren Casey, Ph.D., Special Advisor to the Scientific Director for DTT, will serve as Papatheodorou’s ambassador or host.

“Dr. Papatheodorou’s extensive experience in clinical work, epidemiology, and data science makes her uniquely qualified to tackle the pressing climate-related challenges that NIEHS is focused on,” said Casey. “Our team is eager to work alongside Dr. Papatheodorou on a series of innovative projects. We are excited about the contributions she will make during her tenure with the Climate and Health Scholar program and hopeful for lasting collaborations that extend well beyond it.”

Six scholars hosted by other NIH institutes, centers, and programs

Along with Papatheodorou, six other scientists were selected to work with NIH staff through September 2024. Each scholar is currently employed at a major university or with a research-based organization but is 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.

This is the second class of scholars for the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative. Adriana Costero-Saint Denis, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, began serving as director of the scholars program this year. Gwen Collman, Ph.D. (see sidebar), Strategic Advisor for the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative served as the director for the inaugural class.

  • Laura Geer, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, the State University of New York Downstate School of Public Health.
    Host: All of Us Research Program.
  • Arnab Ghosh, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University.
    Host: National Institute on Aging.
  • Julie Postma, Ph.D.
    Professor, Department of Nursing and Systems Science and Associate Dean for Research, Washington State University College of Nursing.
    Host: National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.
  • Samendra Sherchan, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor and Director, Center for Climate Change and Health, Morgan State University.
    Host: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
  • Ricardo Wray, Ph.D.
    Professor of Health Communication, Department of Behavioral Science and Health Equity, Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice.
    Host: National Cancer Institute.
  • Caradee Wright, Ph.D.
    Chief Specialist Scientist, Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council.
    Host: Fogarty International Center.
Top row left to right, Laura Geer, Ph.D.; Arnab Ghosh, Ph.D.; Julie Postma, Ph.D.;  Stefania Papatheodorou, M.D., Ph.D. Bottom row, left to right: Samendra Sherchan, Ph.D.; Ricardo Wray, Ph.D.; and Caradee Wright, Ph.D.,.
Top row left to right: Geer, Ghosh, and Postma. Large photo on right: Papatheodorou. Bottom row, left to right: Sherchan, Wray, and Wright.

Detailed scholar bios are provided at the Climate Change and Health Initiative website. Stay apprised of initiative activities by visiting the NIH website regularly or by reading the Progress Update fact sheet.

(Erica Hinton is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

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