Human Populations and Exposure Resource (HPER)


Human studies are a fundamental component of translational environmental health research, but their unique challenges present a formidable barrier to inexperienced investigators. The HPER leverages SWEHSC human studies and exposure assessment experts to provide a central resource for researchers conducting environmental health studies. Key functions of HPER scientists are to identify local government, health, cultural, or thought leaders in Southwest communities to better engage participants and to provide ‘boots on the ground’ assistance to identify, recruit, and enroll research participants through collaborations with community health centers and organizations. In addition, HPER scientists provide scientific guidance and practical assistance with methodologies for exposure estimation and measurement. These include exposure modeling, GIS techniques, and sampling of environmental media (e.g. air, water, dust, soil) and human biomarkers. This newly structured resource: 1) provides strategies for community engagement to ensure stakeholder buy-in and participant recruitment; and 2) provides scientific expertise and experienced personnel to design and implement exposure and health assessment methods.

HPER provides technical service to center investigators, including Pilot Projects, requiring support in study design and development, methodology related to sample collection, and development and implementation of computational exposure models. Further, HPER helps identify important exposure concepts that promote an understanding of exposure science for use in the translation of results to the community by the SWEHSC CEC. Mentoring and guidance on technical aspects of projects important to Southwestern underserved populations will build trust and technical skill capacity among community scientists and leaders and promote environmental health literacy among community members. The HPER interacts directly with community members through training events, teach-ins, sampling consultations, identification of analytic laboratories, interpretation of data, and intervention development and implementation. In this regard, core members are involved in building community capacity among diverse populations in the Southwest to reduce environmental health disparities.


PROJECT CONSULT : The IHS Pathway to Project Support

The HPER has developed a structured approach to providing assistance for projects receiving subsidized support, to ensure that the best delivery of support results in successful research outcomes. 

You can contact HPER leader Dr. Jefferey Burgess, MD, MS, MPH, HPER Leader, by calling (520) 626-4918 or click here to send him an email



The HPER is led by IHSFC Co-Director, Jeff Burgess, MD, MS, MPH. Dr. Burgess is Associate Dean for Research and Professor at MEZCOPH and the Director of the NIEHS funded CIEHR. He brings extensive research experience working with Arizona’s diverse populations.

Paloma Beamer, PhD is the co-leader of HPER and is responsible for day-to-day operations. She is an Associate Professor of Environmental Health, co-PI of the NIEHS funded “Tó Łitso – Our water is yellow” R21, and co-Lead of the Exposure Core within CIEHR, which engages multiple communities in the Navajo Nation to assess the environmental and human impact of the Gold King Mine toxic waste spill. Dr. Beamer is fully bilingual (Spanish) and experienced in exposure modeling and assessment, particularly with regard to children. An engineer-by-training, she is also knowledgeable in the design and implementation of interventions for reducing exposures. She has collected air, water, soil, dust, urine, blood, toenails, and breast milk, which have been analyzed for pesticides, metals, solvents, and traffic-related pollutants. She has substantial experience with Arizona’s rural, Latino, and American Indian populations and with reporting study results back to these communities in a culturally appropriate manner. She serves on the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors Chemical Sustainability Subcommittee, and has co-authored multiple EPA guidance documents.