2022-2023 NIH Climate and Health Scholars Program

In early 2023, NIH 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 became 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 in February 2023. Each scholar is currently employed at a major university or with a research-based organization but is hosted by an NIH Institute or Center. They work with staff across NIH to share knowledge and help build capacity for conducting climate-related and health research. 

Luis Fernando Chaves, Ph.D.

Department of Environmental and Occupational Health
School of Public Health-Bloomington, Indiana University

Host: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Luis Chaves, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the School of Public Health-Bloomington, Indiana University, and was previously an associate scientist at the Instituto Gorgas in Panama. His research agenda has been focused on understanding the impacts of environmental change on the ecology of insect vectors and the diseases they transmit. Over the last 20 years, he has combined field studies and modeling approaches, both statistical and mathematical, to address how insect vectors respond to changes in the environment and how these responses modify transmission patterns, to more generally quantitatively assess the factors that drive heterogeneities in disease transmission, and to measure the impact of interventions to control both vectors and infection levels. Recent research efforts have concentrated on malaria and dengue vectors as well as the development of statistical and mathematical tools to analyze serological data, with previous work including West Nile Virus among other infectious agents. Chaves holds his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan. His master’s and Ph.D. were focused on the ecological dynamics of vector-borne disease in changing environments with efforts spanning several zoonotic, vector-borne, and environmentally sensitive infectious diseases.

Lauren Clay, Ph.D., MPH

Lauren Clay, Ph.D., MPH

Associate Professor and Department Chair, Department of Emergency Health Services
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Host: National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities

Lauren Clay, Ph.D., is a disaster scientist, public health researcher, and an associate professor and Chair of the Department of Emergency Health Services at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her research focuses on individual, household, and community health impacts of climate disasters. She has studied Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, and Florence, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the 2013 Moore, OK tornadoes, and the Camp Fire among other disasters. Her expertise is in disaster disruption to the local food environment and food and nutrition insecurity. From 2018 – 2020, she was an Early Career Research Fellow with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program to study the post-disaster food environment. In 2021, she was awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER and NSF Convergence Accelerator awards focused on bolstering food system resilience to disasters. She co-chairs the national COVID-19 Food and Nutrition Security Working Group supported by Healthy Eating Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Nutrition and Obesity Prevention Research and Evaluation Network, a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She holds a Ph.D. in disaster science and management from the University of Delaware and a Master of Public Health from Drexel University.

Ferdouz Cochran, Ph.D.

Climate-Health Science Lead |Health Innovation Center at MITRE Labs
Host: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Ferdouz Cochran, Ph.D., is a climate-health science lead at MITRE. She started working in climate change at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets in 2006. She has since focused on climate change and environmental health through projects funded by federal agencies including an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) postdoc at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a climate-health outreach position in the Carolinas funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Program Office, and a brief time with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) program for Michigan. She enjoys working with decision-makers across sectors, Indigenous experts, and local to national level research and implementation teams for a holistic approach to reduce adverse and disproportionate health impacts from climate change. Ferdouz holds her Ph.D. in geography from the University of Kansas, where she was an NSF Fellow in the Climate Change, Humans, and Nature in the Global Environment program.

Zhen Cong, Ph.D.

Zhen Cong, Ph.D.

Professor, Environmental Health Science
Host: National Institute on Aging

Zhen Cong, Ph.D., is a professor and director of Climate Change and Human Health in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences of the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and serves as associate editor for several journals. Her career goal is to contribute to building a climate and aging resilient society. Her research examines intergenerational relationships and older adults’ health and mental health against the backdrop of social changes. Her current research focuses on vulnerability and resilience to disasters, especially social and health disparities concerning older adults and racial and ethnic minority groups in the disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery processes with a multilevel layered vulnerability perspective. She served on the faculty in the Department of Human Development of Family Studies at Texas Tech University. She later moved to the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she served as associate dean for Research and Faculty Affairs and as the Ph.D. program director. She holds her Ph.D. in gerontology from the School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California.

Carina Gronlund, Ph.D., MPH

Carina Gronlund, Ph.D., MPH

Research Assistant Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research 
School of Public Health | University of Michigan 
Host: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Carina Gronlund, Ph.D., is a research assistant professor in the Social Environment and Health Program at the University of Michigan. She is an environmental epidemiologist with experience in clinical research, survey design and analysis, quantitative health impact assessment, and community-based participatory research. She. Prior to starting her graduate studies, she was a certified clinical research associate and worked on clinical trials at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, MI. As a doctoral and postdoctoral trainee, she worked on heatwave preparedness, attitudes, and behaviors projects, and she has worked on predicting heat-health responses to power-grid failures in Phoenix, Atlanta, and Detroit. Gronlund also collaborates with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on studying weatherization health benefits among Medicaid beneficiaries. She is a founding member of the Climate Hazards, Housing, and Health Steering Committee, and has also co-led a community partner-initiated project performing a health impact assessment on energy justice. Finally, she is a principal investigator on an NIEHS-funded R01 that integrates climate change adaptation, mitigation, and health dimensions. Gronlund holds a BA in biology, with a specialization in ecology and evolution, a master’s in public health, and a Ph.D. in the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences.

Praveen Kumar, Ph.D.

Praveen Kumar, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Boston College School of Social Work
Host: Fogarty International Center

Praveen Kumar, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the Boston College School of Social Work. His research lies at the intersections of climate change, environmental justice, and global health. His research is also framed by the theories of Implementation Science, which provides a solid grounding to examine sustained adoption of evidence-based health interventions in the face of climate and environmental risks. His overall research objective is to characterize interventions that address climate and environmental vulnerability to improve the health and well-being of marginalized communities. His research focuses on low and middle-income countries, particularly on climate-vulnerable populations. Kumar leverages large-scale data from field studies and secondary sources to inform his research questions. He primarily uses quantitative data analytics and the System Science approach of social network analysis (SNA) in his research. His studies have been funded by numerous reputed agencies, including the Fogarty International Center, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the Government of India. Kumar holds a Ph.D. in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, a master’s from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in India, and a Bachelor of Technology in Engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) at the University of Mumbai.

Patrice K. Nicholas, DNSc, DHL (Hon.), MPH, MS, RN, NP-C, FAAN

Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Health
MGH Institute of Health Professions
Host: National Institute of Nursing Research

Patrice Nicholas, DNSc., is a teaching professor and director of the MGH Institute of Health Profession’s Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Health and co-director for Policy and Advocacy at the MGH Center for the Environment and Health. Nicholas' scholarship and research efforts have focused on global health issues, HIV/AIDS care, research, and symptom management, quality of life in chronic illness, and climate change, climate justice, and health. She has published research and policy papers in these areas and has been funded as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in South Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Nata for a research and teaching award, focusing on adherence to HIV and TB medications. Nicholas has also received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree Honoris Causa from her alma mater, Fitchburg State University, and has been inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. Nicholas has also served as director of Global Health and Academic Partnerships at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she also co-led the efforts in their successful American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet journey. She has received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at Fitchburg State University, a Master of Science in Nursing degree, and a Doctor of Nursing Science degree at Boston University. 

Leticia Nogueira, Ph.D., MPH

Leticia Nogueira, Ph.D., MPH

Senior Principal Scientist at the American Cancer Society
Host IC: National Cancer Institute

Leticia Nogueira, Ph.D., is a senior principal scientist at the American Cancer Society and an adjunct professor at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health. Nogueira’s research focuses on cancer disparities that can be addressed by policy changes, with a special focus on climate change and structural racism. She is a member of the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer, the Society of Behavioral Medicine Presidential Workgroup on Climate Change and Health, and the National Academies of Science Climate Collaborative. She received the Woman in Cancer Research Award, the Minority Scholar in Cancer Research Award, and the Fellows Award for Research Excellence from the National Institutes of Health. In 2018, Nogueira was inducted into the University of Texas College of Natural Sciences Hall of Honors and in 2020, she received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the University of Texas at Austin. Nogueira holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

This page last reviewed on October 24, 2023