Message from the Interim Director, Nathan J. Cherrington, Ph.D.

Dr. Serrine S. lau, PhDThe Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center (SWEHSC) was so named because it reflects the regional location of the center, underscores the focus on environmental health sciences, and recognizes that the SWEHSC works closely with National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to solve complex and ever-changing issues in environmental health.  As in other parts of the United States, citizens of the Southwest are exposed to environmental chemicals, including organic solvents, metals, airborne particular matter, and natural toxins. Citizens are concerned about how these exposures may affect their health.

Over the past fifteen years, the State of Arizona has presented the SWEHSC with a wide and challenging array of environmental problems that have utilized the talents of the SWEHSC members and the Center’s resources. These include the health effects of the trichloroethylene-contaminated water in South Tucson, the effects of arsenic exposure from the dust of mine tailings and the presence of arsenic in various ground waters, the effect of high UV-light exposure to the many nationalities and ethnic groups drawn to the Southwest and the potential genetic susceptibilities of these many ethnic groups to a multitude of environmental pollutants.

Investigators of the SWEHSC are conducting research to determine how these environmental factors are related to such diseases as chronic pulmonary disease and other types of lung problems, skin cancer, reproductive problems, and liver and kidney disorders, among others.

As seen in the image below, the mission-oriented responsibility of the SWEHSC is to provide a supportive environment for the integration, coordination, and expansion of interdisciplinary interactions between groups of established investigators conducting high quality research in environmental health sciences. 

  • The organizational design of SWEHSC centers on state of the art facility cores that provide analysis for investigators who collaborate within themed Research Focus Groups. 
  • SWEHSC focuses on Career Development and Pilot Projects to support early research. 
  • Integrating all this is the Integrative Health Sciences Facility Core, designed to connect investigators to analytical resources, human studies logistics, experimental models, and biostatistics. 
  • Our philosophy dictates that deliverables (depicted at lower portion) are not dead-ends, but form the basis for new research questions.


Organizational flow of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center

SWEHSC leverages career development and pilot projects in generating new scientific leads that benefit from the expertise in the research focus groups to conduct studies that capitalize on the core facilities in a process that maintains integration through the Integrative Health Science Facility Core (IHS). The work product is a better mechanistic and translational understanding of environmental impacts on human health, distributed to stakeholders through the Community Outreach and Education Core (COEC). These scientific advances then reiterate into new leads and more refined hypotheses, stimulating new studies.