As the only NIEHS supported center located in the desert Southwest, SWEHSC strives to become a leader in environmental health issues associated with at-risk populations residing in arid environments. Our mission is to facilitate and implement innovative research aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying the modulation of human disease risks due to environmental exposures among populations living in arid environments. The geographic location of the SWEHSC, with its large Hispanic and Native American communities, provides unique opportunities for basic environmental health sciences research to impact the health of these populations. The themes of the SWEHSC are based on the unique environment and distinctive populations in the desert Southwest, which are unlike any other in the US yet similar to many other global environments. The desert Southwest is the only US region that adequately represents much of the world’s arid habitats.
The SWEHSC Administrative Core promotes research excellence in the environmental health sciences by facilitating SWEHSC initiatives on the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC) campus, statewide, nationally, and internationally.
- Provide infrastructure that stimulates the integration of investigators with diverse expertise and skills.
- Develop innovative solutions based on emerging environmental health concerns.
- Continue to build translational research expertise.
- Provide an unbiased environmental health resource to Southwestern US communities.
Overall Structure and Composition of the Administrative Core
The University of Arizona is a state-supported, land grant university that operates under the auspices of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). The UA President, Dr. Robert Robbins, reports directly to the Board. The Dean of the College of Pharmacy (Rick Schnellmann) is also a SWEHSC member and NIH funded researcher who has direct oversight of the Center for Toxicology. The Center for Toxicology, commissioned by the ABOR, houses the NIEHS programmatic initiatives including the SWEHSC and the Super Fund Research Program, the NIEHS T32 Training Program in Environmental Toxicology of Human Disease, and the R25 EHS-TRUE Undergraduate Research Training Program, which greatly enhance the EHS research environment at UA. The SWEHSC is directed by Dr. Nathan Cherrington and remains an integral part of the University of Arizona Health Sciences.
The Internal Advisory Board (IAB) assists the Director in leading SWEHSC activities and functions in oversight, evaluation, management, and direction roles. The constitution of the IAB includes all Directors of the various Facility Cores, the Research Focus Group Directors and Co-Directors, the Director and Co-Director of the Community Engagement Core , the Seminar Coordinator, and the Pilot Project Coordinator. The IAB assists the Center Director in making scientific and administrative decisions and in the allocation of resources. The IAB is responsible for funding decisions following the peer review of Pilot Project applications. The IAB reviews activities, discusses strengths and weaknesses, and sets the direction for future activities. Key changes that have resulted from such oversight include the reorganization of the RFGs and FCs, the appointment and retention of SWEHSC investigators, small-scale flexible funding levels for Pilot Projects, and ultimately a redefinition of the role of the IAB. Additionally, the IAB evaluates SWEHSC investigators on an annual basis for continued appointment.
Paloma Beamer (RFG1 Co-Director). Paloma Beamer, Ph.D., has benefited directly from the SWEHSC Career Development and serves in the IHSFC. She also serves as a co-I for the UA component of the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) and is a lifetime member of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
Dean Billheimer (IHSFC Director). Dean Billheimer, PhD, is Director of the UA Statistics Consulting Laboratory and has over 20 years of experience in statistical consulting and scientific collaboration spanning laboratory, translational, clinical, and public health studies. In addition to collaborative research, he has been a key investigator in NIH funded projects aimed at developing new statistical methods in proteomics measurement, the analysis of high-dimensional ‘omics’ data, and evaluating the predictive properties of novel biomarkers.
Jefferey Burgess (RFG1 Director, IHSFC Co-Director). Dr. Burgess is the Associate Dean for Research at MEZCOPH. Dr. Burgess has worked effectively to bring more public health researchers into SWEHSC and has extended the work of SWEHSC to address the health effects of environmental exposures in American Indian and Alaska Native populations in the Center for Indigenous Environmental Health Research (CIEHR), funded by the NIEHS and EPA.
Bernard Futscher (RFG3 Director, Genomics FC Co-Director). Dr. Futscher is the founding director of the Genomics Shared Service and has been responsible for the development and implementation of genomic and epigenomic tools. Dr. Futscher is highly respected for his service on NIH study sections, editorial responsibilities, and scientific contributions with an h-index of 44 (google scholar) and 94 primary research articles (PubMed).
Walt Klimecki (CEC Co-Director). Dr. Klimecki is currently the Interim Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and is the Program Director of the NIEHS-funded R25 grant aimed at providing research experience and training to underrepresented undergraduates.
Clark Lantz (Deputy Director, Cellular Imaging FC Director, RFG2 Director). Dr. Lantz has served as the Deputy Director fo the SWEHSC since 2000. He has served as the Director of the Cellular Imagig Facility Core since the SWEHSC was first funded in 1993. He also serves as the leader of RFG2. Dr. Lantz has received the Inhalation and Respiratory SOT Specialty Section Career Achievement Award in recognition of his efforts in pulmonary toxicology.
Marti Lindsey (CEC Director). Marti Lindsey, PhD, was appointed Director of the SWEHSC CEC in 2002 and created the Keep Engaging Youth in Science (KEYS) High School Student Research Internships Program. Dr. Lindsey collaborates with SWEHSC members to integrate environmental public health outreach, translational opportunities, and environmental health literacy for youth, educators, and tribal audiences and builds bridges between groups and cultures. Dr. Lindsey participates in the weekly administrative staff meetings with Dr. Cherrington to ensure a direct line of communication between the AC and CEC.
Richard Vaillancourt (Seminar Coordinator). Dr. Vaillancourt has served on the Superfund Research Program Steering Committee and as the president of the Mountain West Regional Chapter and the Mechanisms Specialty Section of the SOT.
Georg Wondrak (RFG3 Co-Director). Georg Wondrak, Ph.D. is a SWEHSC career development success and is now a tenured Associate Professor and the elected president of the American Society for Photobiology, the world's leading scientific organization representing the photochemical, photobiological, and photomedical sciences.
Donna Zhang (RFG2 Co-Director, Pilot Project Director). Donna Zhang is a highly prolific and highly cited researcher who has made seminal contributions to both the mechanistic understanding of Nrf2 regulation and the dual role of Nrf2 in human disease. She has served on multiple NIH study sections and editorial boards.
The External Advisory Board (EAB) is appointed by the Center Director following consultation and input from the Internal Advisory Board (IAB). The EAB provides an independent assessment of SWEHSC programs and progress and insight for future direction. Members of the EAB are all distinguished scientists selected for their excellence in specific areas of research and for their familiarity with the research activities of SWEHSC investigators. It should be noted that all EAB members have expertise in human gene-environment interactions and in the genetic predisposition of human populations to environmental disease. In addition, their expertise in “translational research” is particularly invaluable. EAB members also have considerable experience in program administration, grant and manuscript review, and multidisciplinary initiatives. The EAB appreciates the nature in which collaborative, interdisciplinary efforts can lead to major scientific advances.
Dr. Curtis Omiecinski, EAB Chair, Professor and Hallowell Chair, Center for Molecular Toxicology and Carcinogenesis, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Omiecinski’s research focus includes genetic susceptibility factors and regulatory mechanisms that determine inter-individual susceptibilities to the toxic effects of xenobiotic exposures.
Dr. M.W. Anders, Professor Emeritus, Pharmacology and Physiology, Anesthesiology, and Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Anders’ research focus includes mechanisms by which drugs and chemicals induce cell and organ toxicity and the role of cellular cytoprotective mechanisms in modulating toxicity.
Dr. John DiGiovanni, Professor and Coulter R. Sublett Chair in Pharmacology, Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Texas Austin. Dr. DiGiovanni’s research focuses on the identification of critical targets and mechanisms involved in the initiation and promotion stages of chemical as well as UV skin carcinogenesis and prevention.
Dr. Kelly Edwards, Associate Professor, Department of Bioethics and Humanities, University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Edwards’ research focuses on community-based research practices, biobank governance, environmental justice, everyday ethics in research practice, feminist and narrative approaches to bioethics, and integrating ethics into training programs, public conversations about science, and public policy.
Dr. Frank Gilliland, Hastings Professor of Preventive Medicine, Director of the Division of Environmental Health, University of Southern California. Dr. Gilliland’s research focuses on air pollution, respiratory health and cancer epidemiology, and gene-environment interactions.
Dr. Thomas Kensler, Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, University of Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Kensler’s research focuses on the Keap1-Nrf2 signal transduction pathway as a target for cancer prevention.
Appointment as a SWEHSC investigator is based on the following criteria, which serve as guidelines for new and continuing appointments.
- Investigators maintain an active, extramurally funded research program with a focus within the broad scope of the NIEHS mission.
- Investigators collaborate with colleagues within the SWEHSC to conduct interdisciplinary research in accord with the NIEHS mission.
- Investigators participate in the activities of the SWEHSC research program with which they are affiliated.
- Investigators contribute to the educational and outreach activities of the SWEHSC CEC.
- Investigators actively utilize the SWEHSC FCs in their research.
- Investigators contribute to SWEHSC research training and career development activities.
Currently, there are 4 key SWEHSC personnel and 48 investigators who are members of one or more of the three Research Themes. Although the members are listed by their primary research themes, collaboration and interactions across themes occur, and are encouraged with support by SWEHSC.
Key personnel are defined as SWEHSC participants who play an active and essential role in the Center, either within the FCs or as advisors. These include two FC Directors (D. Billheimer and G. Watts), an FC Manager (D. Cromey), and the CEC Director (M. Lindsey).