Lewis received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Manitoba (CA) in 1989 and did a postdoctoral fellowship at the Lovelace Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute (ITRI) before working as a consultant in risk assessment for the Department of Energy Waste Isolation Pilot Project and the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Groundwater program and leading the Canyons Project evaluating the impacts of contaminants from Los Alamos National Laboratory. After starting her own consulting firm, Environmental Health Associates, Inc. in 1996, she also accepted a part-time faculty position at UNM-HSC in 1996 to build the Community Environmental Health Program (CEHP) where she built on her partnerships with Navajo communities and the Accord Pueblos to develop a community-partnered research program addressing impacts of Cold War contaminants in Indigenous communities. Maintaining her basic laboratory science work in parallel to the community research, she has developed CEHP as the home to the NIEHS supported METALS Superfund Research and Training Center which she leads; the NIMHD supported Center for Native Environmental Health Research Equity for which she is MPI; and the NIH-OD Navajo Birth Cohort Study/Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (NBCS/ECHO) for which she also is MPI as part of the national study on child development. All CEHP research remains committed to strong partnerships with communities.

Personal Statement

My adult life has continually been a balance between interests in building strong communities and sustainable environments and a love a science as a tool that can help to achieve that end. After returning to the United States in 1989, working in strong multi-disciplinary research teams at ITRI created a strong foundation from which to help address threats to our environment, as well as an appreciation for team science as an effective approach to answer complex questions faced by communities that no individual perspective can resolve. The opportunity to work closely with indigenous communities created a recognition of not only the complexity of the problems posed by the complex wastes from all levels the development of the atomic bomb and the subsequent Cold War era, but also of the cultural clashes inherent in trying to resolve those problems. Building and maintaining diverse partnerships that include affected communities, a broad range of scientists, regulators, clinicians, and policymakers remains challenging, but likely the strongest path forward to unravel and help to reduce the multigenerational risks that remain as threats to indigenous culture and tradition, and to our environment. Likewise, the opportunity to work in strong and passionate multidisciplinary and multicultural teams provides opportunities for continuous learning, appreciation of and respect for the differences that sustain us all, and the generation of novel solutions. I can imagine no better role for science.

Areas of Specialty

Metal Mixture Toxicology
Community Health
Indigenous Environmental Health
Exposure Assessment
Childrens’ Environmental Health
Community-Partnered Research


PhD, University of Manitoba, 1989 (Pharmacology)


2003-2013. Diplomats, American Board of Toxicology (did not renew certification pending plans to retire)

Achievements & Awards

2020 Society of Toxicology Public Communication of Science Award
2018 Annual Navajo Nation EPA Environmental Excellence Award
2012 Appreciation for Service, Diligence and Dedication to Research on Uranium Health Effects on Navajo Nation from the Citizens of Red Water Pond Road Community
2011 Faculty Research Excellence Award for Population Research, UNM-HSC
2008-2011 Appointment to Blue Ribbon Panel, NIH-OD, to Advise the Director on the Risk Assessment of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory
2008-2009. Appointment to 10-member panel to review and advise on performance and future directions, Superfund Basic Research Program
2004. Griff Salisbury Award for Environmental Protection through Regulatory Change, New Mexico Environmental Law Center
2004-2007 Appointment to Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board, Albuquerque, NM

2017-present Director, METALS Superfund Research and Training Center
2010-present. Director & MPI, Navajo Birth Cohort Study/ECHO
2014-present. Director & MPI, Center for Native Environmental Health Research Equity
1996-present. Founder & Director, Community Environmental Health Program

Research and Scholarship

Lewis, J., Hoover, J., MacKenzie, D. Mining and Environmental Health Disparities in Native American Communities. Invited review for Current Environmental Health Reports, Ethics and Policy, Springer (2017) 4:130-141 PMC5428369

Lewis, J., Gonzales, M., Burnette, C., Benally, M., Seanez, P., Shuey, C., Nez, H., Nez, C., Nez, S. Environmental Exposures to Metals in Native Communities and Implications for Child Development: Basis for the Navajo Birth Cohort Study. Invited review for the Journal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitation. PMID: 26151586

Hund, L., Bedrick, E.J., Miller, C., Huerta, G., Nez, T., Ramone, S., Shuey, C., Cajero, M. And Lewis, J. A Bayesian framework for estimating disease risk due to exposure to uranium mine and mill waste on the Navajo Nation. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics and Society), 01/2015. DOI:10.1111/Rosa.12099.

Malczewska-Toth, B., Myers, O., Shuey, C., and Lewis, JL. Recommendations for a Uranium Health-Based Ground Water Standard. Report to NM Environment Department (Santa Fe, NM). Lewis defended subsequent recommendation to state Water Quality Control Commission which lower the standard by 3 orders of magnitude in case challenged to state Supreme Court, resulting in first codification of use of Precautionary Principle in promulgation of standards in the state.