Smiling woman in red blouse (Navas-Acien) sits on a rock in a park

Ana Navas-Acien Is Named Next Chair of Environmental Health Sciences

March 11, 2024

Ana Navas-Acien will be the next Leon Hess Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, effective July 1, succeeding interim chair Regina Santella. Navas Acien joined the School in 2016 and is currently a professor of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) and vice-chair of Research and Faculty Affairs.

Announcing the appointment, Dean Linda P. Fried said: “During her time at our School, Ana has distinguished herself as an exemplary and internationally renowned scholar and instructor, a champion of environmental justice, and a thoughtful colleague and caring mentor. I am confident that under her leadership EHS will continue to flourish in its work to train the next generation of leaders and to advance groundbreaking research on the most pressing environmental health issues of today and the future.”

Navas-Acien has published more than 350 peer-reviewed publications and leads multiple NIH-funded interdisciplinary research projects and centers. Her research portfolio includes the Strong Heart Study and Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, which includes a focus on environmental health; the Columbia University Northern Plains Superfund Research Program, a center that integrates systems science, technology, and traditional knowledge to protect the Northern Plains water resources and Indigenous communities from hazardous metal exposures, in collaboration with colleagues at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and at Missouri Breaks Industries and Research in the Northern Plains; the VapeScan Study, a cohort of young adults, in collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Medicine; the Chronic Kidney Disease of uncertain origin (CKDu) CURE Consortium, a multi-center study in Central America and India; and the Trace Metals and Biorepository Center for the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy 2 (TACT2), a large clinical trial testing the health impact of chelation therapy in patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

She has served on numerous committees with the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, including several landmark committees that reviewed the public health impact of inorganic arsenic and e-cigarettes, and committees to guide the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey on their broad research missions. Currently, she serves on the EPA Science Advisory Board ad hoc committee to review the inorganic arsenic risk assessment. In 2023, Navas Acien was appointed by President Joseph Biden to the National Cancer Advisory Board to advise the National Cancer Institute’s Director. Internationally, she serves as a scientific advisor to the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College and King’s College in the U.K. and has served as an advisor to the Public Health and Epidemiology Research Network in Spain (CIBERESP). From 2019 to 2023, she served, first as a member, and then as chair of the NIH Kidney, Endocrine, and Digestive Disorders study section. From 2013 through 2023, she was the founding Editor in Chief of Current Environmental Health Reports, now a top journal in Environmental Health Sciences.

Navas-Acien has received multiple mentoring awards both at Johns Hopkins University and now at Columbia University, including the 2019 Dean’s Excellence in Mentoring Award at Mailman, and the 2023 Senior Mentor of the Year from the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research and the Columbia University Irving Medical Center Office of Academic Affairs.

She is also a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and an associate member of the Earth Institute. She serves as faculty director of the Program to Inspire Undergraduate Students in Environmental Health Sciences (PrIMER), co-chairs the Columbia Climate School post-doctoral program, and is senior leader of the Trace Metals Core Laboratory at Columbia University (METALab).

Navas-Acien earned her MD from the University of Granada, Spain, where she was an intern in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She completed her residency training in Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the Hospital La Paz, Madrid, and her PhD in Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she also served as an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences.