Message from the Director

Message from the Director, nathan j. cherrington, ph.d. 

I invite you to spend some time on our website to look through some of the impactful research and service activities going on in our Center. The Strategic Vision of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC) is to facilitate and implement innovative research and community engagement aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying environmental health (EHS) risks and disease among people living in arid environments undergoing climate change. The objective is to bring interdisciplinary scientists together to study environmental effects on the health and welfare of unique populations in the Southwest US, including Native American, Latinx, and rural communities, and, more broadly, the 2.1 billion people globally who live in arid lands. To the latter point, the desert Southwest is a unique arid environment in the US with conditions that mirror many other global desert climates. As climate change increases the burden on human health through water and respiratory exposures due to drought, wildfires, and decreasing water supply, the arid Southwest serves as the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the resulting health effects. If climate change is not reversed, the EHS factors prevalent in the desert Southwest will forecast the future concerns of much of the rest of the US and the world. Accordingly, our mission impacts not only the health and well-being of the arid Southwest populations, but also the billions of people across the planet affected by climate change.


The SWEHSC includes three Research Focus Groups (RFG). RFG1—Environmental Exposures to Underserved Southwest Populations—focuses on multiple routes of exposure in arid environments, including exposure to groundwater contaminants such as arsenic and inhalation exposures to dust caused by low humidity and high winds. RFG2 —Environmental Lung Disease—focuses on the adverse health outcomes following inhalation of air pollutants. Due to the prevalence of environmental exposures such as arsenic and ultraviolet light that result in oxidative stress, RFG3—Adaptive Responses to Environmental Stress—focuses on the molecular pathways of adaptive responses to these environmental stressors. The SWEHSC promotes interdisciplinary, collaborative research initiatives within and across the RFGs.


Our Center members have made significant contributions to the health and well-being of the people in the southwest, and across the world. The recent success and growth of SWEHSC has been remarkable:

  • The annual total cost of NIEHS-sponsored research to SWEHSC members increased from approximately $2.3M in 2017 to approximately $10.5M in 2022 ($8.3M direct).
  • The annual total cost of other NIH awards (non-NIEHS) to Center members increased from $13.6M in 2017 to $36.4M in 2022 ($25.5M direct).
  • Total federal-sponsored research (NIH, NSF, CDC, etc.) to SWEHSC investigators increased from $17.4M in 2017 to $60.9M in 2022.
  • In the past 10 years, the Pilot Project Program (PPP) has invested $1,467,358 in pilot awards, which has resulted in $58,366,588 in total NIH awards (including 11 R01, 6 R21, 2 R35, 2 P01, and 1 each of U54, P42, P50, R03, R56, and K99/R00 awards) for a return on investment of 40:1.


We welcome your feedback and ideas that help our Center reach the lofty goal of improving the health and wellbeing of all our community partners in the desert Southwest.