February 2022

Dear EHS Family,

Classes resumed earlier in January, and it has been so nice to see old and new faces back on campus! The start of the new year has been marked by personal and professional growth, and I am inspired by all that has been accomplished so early on in the year.  As you will see below, in January we announced that Dr. Ami Zota, an incredibly impressive individual, will be joining our faculty this summer.  Also, several members of our EHS family have grown and developed professionally. I am so thrilled to celebrate all of your achievements.

Thank you everyone for your amazing efforts so far in 2022.  I am so proud of this department and the resiliency you all have demonstrated these last few years. I can't wait to see the amazing work that is yet to come in this new year!


Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD, MPH Leon Hess Professor and Chair Department of Environmental Health Sciences

Welcome to our new EHS Faculty







Please join us in celebrating the exciting news that Dr. Ami Zota, a worldwide leader in environmental reproductive health and environmental justice, will join our department as an Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in June 2022. Our School's Communication Office has announced this news in their profile story for Dr. Zota, which highlights several of her professional accomplishments. Prominently, Dr. Zota is the founder and director of Agents of Change in Environmental Justice, a leadership training program for early-career environmental health scientists from systematically marginalized backgrounds. Dr. Zota's vision is to "advance environmental justice and health equity through science, training the next generation, communication, and advocacy." 

We are so thrilled for Dr. Zota to continue to carry out her vision as part of the EHS family!
View Dr. Zota's full profile story on our website

EHS Highlights





Climate and Health Responder Course for Health Professionals

The Climate and Health Responder Course for Health Professionals, co-facilitated by Dr. Cecilia Sorensen, the director of the Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education, will launch this month on February 8th. This free certificate-based online program, taught by world experts, is designed to equip health professionals, health educators, and climate leaders with the knowledge needed for transformative action. Participants will receive up to 16, no-cost, continuing education hours through this program. The Climate and Health Responder Course was developed through a partnership between Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education (GCCHE), Project ECHO Health Canada, and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition to 8 weekly didactic-style lectures, we will have 8 “skills and practice” sessions and 4 special sessions specifically for students, led by the GCCHE student committee. Students are welcome to attend these sessions as well as the core course.  

For more information, and to register, visit the website






The Career MODE Program is now accepting applications through March 15, 2022! This supplementary training program invites early-career investigators from any institution to apply to join the inaugural cohort that will begin in May 2022. The program provides diverse biomedical investigators with crucial professional research, leadership, and grant writing skills, hand-selected mentors, and networking opportunities to foster their pathways to independence using omics and data sciences. Mailman has spotlighted this new program in a write up here

Congratulations to our recent CRA Certification Recipients! 








Please join me in celebrating Migdalia Colon, Leyri Defrank-Paulino, and Bernice Ramos-Perez for earning their CRA Certificates. Earning the designation of Certified Research Administrator® (CRA®) means that an individual has met the requirements of the Research Administrators Certification Council’s (RACC) eligibility requirements and has demonstrated a level of knowledge necessary for a person to be a professional research or sponsored programs administrator.

Migdalia has been in EHS for three years, but at Columbia University for almost six years. She received her bachelor's in accounting and has been managing grants since she started her position in the department.  

Leyri joined Mailman in 2012 in the Pop Fam Department where she managed grants for a head start program. In 2018 Leyri transferred to the EHS department as an Administrative Coordinator recently received a promotion to Administrative Coordinator II. As part of her role at EHS, she manages research grant portfolios for Drs. Baccarelli, Kioumourtzoglou, Wu, Prada-Ortega, and Kupsco.

Bernice has 20 years of experience in Research and Financial Administration at Columbia University. Her professional career trajectory at Columbia started in the office of Sponsored Project Administration where she was the subcontract specialist. In 2006, Bernice joined EHS as administrative coordinator assisting faculty with grant management. In 2016, Bernice was promoted to Department Administrator. Her responsibilities include managing the Department's operating budget, including grants, contracts, and gifts of approximately $25 million/year.  

At Columbia, there are currently only 6 active certifications, with Migdalia, Bernice, and Leyri as the 3 new members. Congratulations on this impressive achievement! 









Above from top to bottom: Christopher F. Pettiano, MPH EHS 1996, Chris Pitoscia, MPH 2010, certificate in Environmental Healthy Policy, Kathy Somers, MPH EHS 2014, certificate in Toxicology.

Please join me in congratulating our EHS Alum who have recently earned promotions in the Environmental Health & Safety Department. Christopher Pettiano was promoted to Assistant Vice Presiden, Chris Pitoscia was promoted to Director, and Kathy Somers was promoted to Associate Director. 

Congratulations to all on these well-deserved recognitions!

Spotlight Series








Above from left to right, front to back: Hui-Chen Wu, Jalean Dominguez,  Melanie Caria (row 1); Irina Gurvich, Pam Simancek (row 2); Iryna Sirosh, Regina Santella, James Dai, Martin Santos (row 3)

EHS Spotlight: Drs. Regina Santella and Hui-Chen Wu and the Core Facility Team

The Biomarkers Core has two components. A facility supported by the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) directed by Regina Santella processes, aliquots, and inventories biological samples (primarily blood, urine, saliva), isolates DNA and RNA, and performs a number of assays including the ELISAs developed by the Santella lab for measuring carcinogen DNA and protein adducts. This work is supported by Irina Gurvich, facility manager, and Iryina Sirosh, James Dai, and Jalean Dominguez. The second component is a HICCC core directed by Hui-Chen Wu that processes blood and bone marrow for cancer clinical trials. This work is supported by Pam Simancek and Martin Santos.

The combined sample inventory has specimens from over 150 studies. Among the largest sample banks is TACT2, a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of EDTA chelation therapy on the prevention of cardiovascular events. Ana Navas-Acien is the site PI; the collection of four sets of blood and urine samples from ~1000 participants during their 40 weeks of treatment was recently completed. A second large study is the Breast Cancer Family Registry (PI Mary Beth Terry) in which plasma, PBMCs, LCLs, and DNA are available for new research hypotheses. Many other samples are available from patients with cancer, respiratory or neurologic diseases as well as healthy subjects some with known environmental exposures such as smoking.

Hui-Chen and Regina have collaborated for over 17 years on studies of environmental exposures and liver and breast cancer risk. Current research funded by the DOD (PI, Mary beth Terry) is prospectively evaluating the role of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure on breast cancer in young military women by analysis of PAH-albumin adducts. An ongoing U01 (MPI Terry, Wu, Brenner, and Tycko) grant is looking at double-strand break repair and breast cancer risk with a supplement to assay for nucleotide excision repair. The goal is to do better individualized risk assessment to then target more susceptible individuals to prevention or enhanced screening modalities.

Hui-Chen and Regina also are involved in the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition (IBCN) consortium, an international collaboration to study breast cancer epidemiology, and have carried out a pilot study in Ghana. Hui-Chen and Jasmine McDonald obtained pilot funding to examine PAH exposure, biological aging, and breast cancer. Hui-Chen and Regina also published many studies to examine aflatoxin exposure and liver cancer. Two ongoing projects are to study DNA methylation and mutational signature in liver tumor tissues from Black and white liver cancer patients.

Contact Regina if you would like more information on the facility or available samples!

EHS In the News

Every year, the NIEHS, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at NIH, selects a list of papers of the year. I am so excited to share that two of the 2021 Papers of the Year are led by Mailman investigators. Congratulations to all! Please see below to read more about the featured papers.

Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, Ana Navas-Acien, Robbie Parks
Tropical cyclone exposure is associated with increased hospitalization rates in older adults

Researchers observed an average increase in hospitalizations from respiratory diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, and injuries over the week following exposure to tropical cyclones. Their findings in Nature Communications demonstrate the need for targeted preparedness strategies for hospital personnel before, during, and after tropical cyclones.


Diane Re, Markus Hilpert, Norman Kleiman, Ana Navas-Acien, and others 
Exposure to e-cigarette aerosol over two months induces accumulation of neurotoxic metals and alteration of essential metals in mouse brain

Researchers reported in Environmental Research that mice exposed to e-cigarette aerosol had a buildup of toxic metals in the brain. Their findings provide clues about the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, which have been linked to toxic metal exposure and the dysregulation of essential metals.

Papers of the Month

Take a minute to read one of the many fantastic publications by our faculty, students, and staff. Faculty names are bolded:

A perspective on persistent toxicants in veterans and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: identifying exposures determining higher ALS risk.
Re DB, Yan B, Calderón-Garcidueñas L, Andrew AS, Tischbein M, Stommel EW. J Neurol. 2022 Jan 1. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34973105 

Associations of Childhood and Perinatal Blood Metals with Children's Gut Microbiomes in a Canadian Gestation Cohort.
Shen Y, Laue HE, Shrubsole MJ, Wu H, Bloomquist TR, Larouche A, Zhao K, Gao F, Boivin A, Prada D, Hunting DJ, Gillet V, Takser L, Baccarelli AA. Environ Health Perspect. 2022 Jan;130(1):17007. Epub 2022 Jan 17. PMID: 35037767 

Hyper-localized measures of air pollution and risk of preterm birth in Oakland and San Jose, California.
Riddell CA, Goin DE, Morello-Frosch R, Apte JS, Glymour MM, Torres JM, Casey JA. Int J Epidemiol. 2022 Jan 6;50(6):1875-1885. PMID: 34999861

Environmental exposure and clinical correlates of hepatocellular carcinoma in New York City: a case only study.
Wu HC, Shen J, Siegel A, Santella RM. Cancer Causes Control. 2022 Jan;33(1):153-159.  Epub 2021 Sep 8. PMID: 34498221 

The association of arsenic exposure and arsenic metabolism with all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality in the Strong Heart Study.
Kuo CC, Balakrishnan P, Gribble MO, Best LG, Goessler W, Umans JG, Navas-Acien A. Environ Int. 2022 Jan 15;159:107029. Epub 2021 Dec 7. PMID: 34890900

The association between early country-level COVID-19 testing capacity and later COVID-19 mortality outcomes.
Kannoth S, Kandula S, Shaman J. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2022 Jan;16(1):56-62. Epub 2021 Oct 14. PMID: 34647421 

Prenatal PM2.5 Exposure in Relation to Maternal and Newborn Telomere Length at Delivery.
Durham T, Guo J, Cowell W, Riley KW, Wang S, Tang D, Perera F, Herbstman JB. Toxics. 2022 Jan 3;10(1):13. PMID: 35051055 

Marine pollutant exposures and human milk extracellular vesicle-microRNAs in a mother-infant cohort from the Faroe Islands.
Kupsco A, Lee JJ, Prada D, Valvi D, Hu L, Petersen MS, Coull BA, Weihe P, Grandjean P, Baccarelli AA. Environ Int. 2022 Jan;158:106986. Epub 2021 Nov 20.PMID: 34991248

Viral replication dynamics could critically modulate vaccine effectiveness and should be accounted for when assessing new SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Yang W, Shaman J. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2022 Jan 10. PMID: 35014184