New Mexico Cares
Health Disparities Center

MSC09 5040
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

FAX: (505) 272-8045

Environmental Health Core (EHC)

Environmental Health Core Director's Message

On behalf of the EHC team of the NM CARES Health Disparities, I want to welcome you to our new website. We are very excited about the establishment of the Environmental Health Core (EHC), the newest core in the Center. Our team members have a long history of working with policy makers and community groups on environmental health (EH) issues. Our goal for the EHC is to build on and expand the existing relationships between communities, policy makers, UNM researchers and physicians and nurses across NM to develop, implement, and sustain effective intervention strategies. Our vision is to shift from studying environmental health problems to creating effective and sustainable solutions to reduce environmental health disparities in New Mexico.

--Melissa Gonzales, PhD

About us

The main goal of the Environmental Health Core is to establish a research focus in the science of intervention on EH disparities based at UNM, based on sound research practices, informed by community needs, and focused on filling information gaps to inform policy and clinical care.

Environmental Health Core Staff

Melissa Gonzales, PhD, is the Director of the Environmental Health Core of the NM CARES Health Disparities Center at the UNM Health Sciences Center. She is an Associate Professor and the Assistant Director of the Preventive Medicine Residency Program at the UNM School of Medicine. She has active population-based research programs in the epidemiology and prevention of environmental and occupational diseases. Her work includes children’s respiratory health studies in the southwest US (EPA El Paso Children’s Health Study and El Paso ARCH study, Hispanic Moms Survey), controlling work exposures among Native American artisans; stress and smoking among Hispanic women (Hispanic Mothers Social Stressor Scale); sun exposure, DNA repair and melanoma risk among outdoor workers, and risk factors contributing to colorectal cancer disparities in New Mexico. She teaches environmental and occupational health, risk assessment and communication, and cultural competency to graduate and medical students at the UNM Health Sciences Center.

Johnnye Lewis, PhD, a Research Professor in the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, is Co-Director of the Environmental Health Core. She is also the Director of the UNM Community Environmental Health Program. She has active community-based research programs on heavy metal exposures and health on the Navajo Nation and with the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, and more than 25 years experience in laboratory research and translation of laboratory results to community and policy settings. She has been the Principal Investigator for more than a decade on the Diné Network for Environmental Health (DiNEH) Project investigating health impacts in communities exposed to legacy uranium waste on the Navajo Nation. Her current focus is in developing the Navajo Birth Cohort study in collaboration with CDC/ATSDR, Navajo Area IHS and Navajo Nation Division of Health to investigate reproductive and development effects of these exposures

Guiding Framework for Environmental Health Core Research

Goal 1

To expand existing relationships between communities, researchers, health practitioners and policy makers to identify and address gaps in our understanding of EH disparities, and to inform interventions.

  1. Regional meetings with County Community Health Councils, our community research partners, and other interested community members to clarify
    • EH priorities,
    • Concerns over environmental contributions to health disparities in their communities,
    • Where information or policy gaps remain, and
    • Where intervention research is still needed.

    We will also partner with EH policy and decision makers to bring forth community concerns, and help to expand existing databases that can be used to track EH disparities in New Mexico.

  2. Collaborate with the Research Education and Training, Community Engagement and Research Cores to create unique training programs for constituents including clinicians, researchers and communities, to develop multi-directional communication AND research capacity in EH disparities.

Trainings will be conducted in the research community, to health practitioners and trainees, and cross-training with community members.


Framework for addressing environmental health disparities in NM

Goal 2

To initiate two new community partnership-based research projects, focused on interventions to reduce EH disparities

Project 1: Fiestas: Improving food security in an urban Hispanic community.
Project 2: Zinc reversal of uranium toxicity: potential for community-based intervention.

Goal 3

To mentor minority trainees to develop and expand EH disparities research. In all core activities, as well as in research projects associated with the core, we will mentor and involve community EH scholars, and trainees representing our partner communities.

Research Activities

The Environmental Health Core is conducting two community partnership-based research projects, focused on interventions to reduce environmental health disparities.


  • The first project is Fiestas: Improving Food Security in an Urban Hispanic Community. The project team will develop and pilot a collaborative community-based intervention to improve the social and food environment in Santa Barbara Martineztown (SBMT), an urban food desert community with marked health disparities.
    A detailed project description can be found by clicking the link above.
  • The second project is Zinc Reversal of Uranium Toxicity. This project team will test a mechanism-based intervention to reverse the effects of uranium through use of zinc supplements in a prenatal cohort.
    A detailed project description can be found by clicking the link above.

We have an ongoing program in health and safety information for traditional artists. See our Jewelry Makers' and Stone Carvers' Guide to Protecting Your Health While You Work.

For more environmental health information, please visit

Contact EHC Staff

Melissa Gonzales, PhD

EHC Director
Associate Professor

(505) 272-9598

Johnnye Lewis, PhD

EHC Co-Director
Research Professor

(505) 272-4853

Amy Anixter Scott, MD, MPA

EHC Research Project PI
Assist. Prof

(505) 272-6453

Laurie Hudson, PhD

EHC Research Project PI
Assoc. Prof