Environmental Justice & Health Disparities and Climate Change & Health RIG


Greg Barnes, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Neurology
Co-Director, Epilepsy Surgery Program
Director, University of Louisville Autism Center
University of Louisville School of Medicine
401 E. Chestnut Street, Suite 510
Louisville, KY 40202
Tel: (502) 852-7981; (502) 589-0802

Click here for the Environmental Justice & Health Disparities and Climate Change & Health Research Interest Group members 

Greg Barnes

The Environmental Justice & Health Disparities and Climate Change & Health (EHC) RIG led by Gregory Barnes, M.D., Ph.D., includes Drs. Mikus Abolins-Abols, Becky Antle, Aruni Bhatnagar, Dwayne Compton, Natasha DeJarnett, Lesley Harris, Luz Huntington-Moskos, Andrew Mehring, Kenneth Palmer, Megan Poole, Sanjay Srivastava, Janice Sullivan, Ray Yeager, and Charlie Zhang. Many human health issues show disparities among various population subgroups which impact both developing organs and mature bodies. These disparities are often associated with various exposures to industrial pollution or negative impacts of severe weather events. Climate change exacerbates these disparities and inequities in environmental justice. The overall goal of the EHC RIG is to study and integrate the impacts of climate change and pollution with health disparities including social factors on the development and function of the human body. 

Dr. Gregory Barnes is a pediatric neurologist and the Director of the Autism Center. His main interest is the genetics of guidance cues and other neurodevelopmental genes which influence interneuron circuitry development and as a result impact neurological symptoms in children with developmental disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and epilepsy. His current research investigates environmental contributors to autism including cannabinoids and metals.

Dr. Mikus Abolins-Abols studies the physiological mechanisms that underlie stress response in wild birds. Dr. Abolins-Abols is particularly interested in how urban environment affects the health, stress, and reproductive function of native songbirds, and whether wild species can serve as bioindicators for urban pollution exposure. Other study interests are the cellular and genetic mechanisms that underlie feather color diversity and neural mechanisms that underlie behavioral diversity.

Dr. Becky Antle’s research interests center around implementation science across a broad range of substantive areas, as well as a specific focus on family relationships including child welfare, interpersonal violence, relationship education, and the impact of medical and mental health issues on the family.

The major focus of Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar’s research is to elucidate the mechanisms by which environmental exposures affect cardiovascular health. In particular, his interests are in the role of exposure to air pollution and tobacco smoke affect the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, his recent work relates to the studying the beneficial effects of urban greenspaces on community and individual health.1,2,3

Dr. Dwayne Compton's research interests are establishing, implementing, and assessing community engagement & diversity programs throughout the school and local community. In addition, Dr. Compton is tasked with serving as an advocate and resource for all populations at the School of Medicine with particular focus on issues that impact: women, members of minoritized ethnic/racial groups, members of the LGBT community, and members of underserved populations specific to medicine in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Dr. Natasha DeJarnett (she/her) has research interests including the cardiovascular health burden of extreme heat exposure, air quality, and environmental health disparities. In addition, Dr. DeJarnett is passionate about environmental health research that informs policies, empowering communities through research engagement, and advancing environmental justice.4,5

Dr. Lesley Harris's research aims to create supportive pathways to health and social care access for individuals disproportionally impacted by HIV/AIDS.6,7

Dr. Luz Huntington-Moskos’ program of research is focused on adolescent health and the interplay among health behaviors, environmental exposures, and genomics. Using biobehavioral methods and environmental home testing, my long-term goal is to develop an independent program of research focused on the implementation of report-back strategies with adolescents to prevent asthma exacerbations and support asthma self-management.

Dr. Andrew Mehring’s research interests related to environmental health science include the management of urban heavy metal pollution, and the redesign of urban and peri-urban environments to enhance net carbon storage and improve human health and ecosystem integrity. More specifically, Dr. Mehring studies the impacts of heavy metal pollution on soil invertebrate community structure, how human activity and land use alter the movement and accumulation of heavy metals in urban and non-urban ecosystems, and the roles of animal and plant communities in altering the flux of heavy metals. This includes the use of natural treatment systems (i.e., biofilters and swales, rain gardens, constructed wetlands) to intercept and trap heavy metals. Dr. Mehring’s investigations of carbon sequestration center on the use of trees and wetlands to store atmospheric carbon, which provides numerous co-benefits for the mental and physical wellbeing of human communities.

Dr. Kenneth Palmer’s primary research interests are in infectious disease, and Dr. Palmer has an evolving interest in understanding how environmental pollutants and climate change impact modify the pathogenesis serious infectious disease. Over the past three years, Dr. Palmer has made investments in equipment and infrastructure to facilitate studies of how toxicants such as alcohol and common environmental pollutants affect infectious diseases.

Dr. Megan Poole’s research and teaching interests center on rhetorics of science, feminist science studies, and community-engaged work in technical and environmental health literacy communication. Dr. Poole has a great interest in university-wide collaborations on research on environmental justice, health equity, and the cultural impacts of climate change.8

Dr. Sanjay Srivastava's research interest consists of Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Atherosclerosis; Effects of New and Emerging Tobacco Products on Vascular Toxicity and Inflammation; Cardiometabolic Toxicity of Volatile Organic Compounds.

Dr. Janice Sullivan’s research focuses on various aspects of clinical pharmacology and clinical trials for pediatric patients with the goal of improving care for children with different disease entities. Her other main focus is faculty education in clinical research and mentoring to train the next generation of clinician scientists.9,10

Dr. Ray Yeager is an active collaborator on the Green Heart Louisville project, University of Louisville Superfund Research Center projects, and the Louisville Healthy Heart Study. The overarching goal of his research is to identify and create a better understanding of environmental factors affecting cardiovascular risk, particularly greenness and air pollutants, that enables high-impact and translatable research to further the NIH mission “to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.” Dr. Yeager oversees collection, storage, analysis, and interpretation of all geographically-linked information at the Envirome Institute. This includes geographic data analysis methods of geocoded participant records, assessment of geophysical characteristics, characterization of environmental exposures, and development of visual representations of geographic information. He has over 12 years of professional and academic experience in geographic analysis, data management, and environmental research.11,12

Dr. Charlie Zhang is a population and health geographer with research interests in neighborhood demographics, environmental justice, and health disparities. In particular, Dr. Zhang's expertise is in applying geographic information system (GIS) and spatial statistical methods to the analysis of the linkages between environmental risk factors (i.e., exposure to heavy metals and urban heat) and public health problems.13,14

The RIG will specifically emphasize both impacts and intervention on marginalized populations and those with genetic susceptibilities to chronic disease.

References Cited

  1. Riggs DW, Yeager RA, Bhatnagar A. Defining the Human Envirome: An Omics Approach for Assessing the Environmental Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. Circ Res. 2018 Apr 27;122(9):1259-1275. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.311230. PMID: 29700071; PMCID: PMC6398443.
  2. Yeager R, Riggs DW, DeJarnett N, Tollerud DJ, Wilson J, Conklin DJ, O'Toole TE, McCracken J, Lorkiewicz P, Xie Z, Zafar N, Krishnasamy SS, Srivastava S, Finch J, Keith RJ, DeFilippis A, Rai SN, Liu G, Bhatnagar A. Association Between Residential Greenness and Cardiovascular Disease Risk. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 Dec 18;7(24):e009117. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.118.009117. PMID: 30561265; PMCID: PMC6405613.
  3. Riggs DW, Yeager R, Conklin DJ, DeJarnett N, Keith RJ, DeFilippis AP, Rai SN, Bhatnagar A. Residential proximity to greenness mitigates the hemodynamic effects of ambient air pollution. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2021 Mar 1;320(3):H1102-H1111. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00689.2020. Epub 2021 Jan 8. PMID: 33416460; PMCID: PMC8294702.
  4. N Beyeler* and NK DeJarnett,* PK Lester, JJ Hess, and RN Salas. 2022 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Policy Brief for the United States of America. London, UK: Lancet Countdown. October, 2022. *Signifies co-lead authors in alphabetical order
  5. KE McGraw, SL Konkle, DW Riggs, SN Rai, NK DeJarnett, Z Xie, RJ Keith, A Oshunbade, ME Hall, D Shimbo, and A Bhatnagar. “Exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds Is Associated with Hypertension in Black Adults: The Jackson Heart Study.” Environmental Research. 223, 2023.
  6. Harris, L.M., Kerr, J.C., Skidmore, B.D., Ghare, S., Reyes-Vega, A., Remenik-Zarauz, V., Samanapally, H., Anwar, R.U., Rijal, R., Bryant, K., Hall, M. T., & Barve, S. (2024). A conceptual analysis of SBIRT implementation alongside the continuum of PrEP awareness: domains of fit and feasibility. Frontiers in Public Health, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2023.1310388
  7. Harris, L.M., Marsh, J.C., Khachikian, T., Serret, V., Kong, Y. & Guerrero, E. G. (2023). What Can We Learn from COVID-19 to Improve Opioid Treatment? Expert Providers Respond. Journal of Substance Use & Addiction Treatment. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.josat.2023.209157
  8. Poole, M, Carthens, S, Cochran, E, Koenig, A, Getting the listening in Louisville: Why health literacy requires coalition. Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, forthcoming.
  9. Schwartz DJ, Shalon N, Wardenburg K, DeVeaux A, Wallace MA, Hall-Moore C, Ndao IM, Sullivan JE, Radmacher P, Escobedo M, Burnham CD, Warner BB, Tarr PI, Dantas G. Gut pathogen colonization precedes bloodstream infection in the neonatal intensive care unit. Sci Transl Med. 2023 May 3;15(694):eadg5562. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.adg5562. Epub 2023 May 3. PubMed PMID: 37134153; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10259202.
  10. Lang JE, Ramirez RG, Balevic S, Bickel S, Hornik CP, Majure JM, Venkatachalam S, Snowden J, O'Sullivan B, James L. Pharmacokinetics of Oral Vitamin D in Children with Obesity and Asthma. Clin Pharmacokinet. 2023 Nov;62(11):1567-1579. doi: 10.1007/s40262-023-01285-9. Epub 2023 Aug 30. PubMed PMID: 37646988; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10582143.
  11. Yeager, R., Browning, M., Breyer, E., Ossola, A., Larson, L., Riggs, D., Rigolon, A., Chandler, C., Fleischer, D., Keith, R., Walker, K., Hart, J., Smith, T., Bhatnagar, A. Greenness and equity: complex connections between intra-neighborhood contexts and residential tree planting implementation. Environ. Int. 2023. PMID: 37196566
  12. Browning, M., Locke, D., Konijnendijk, C., Labib, S.M., Rigolon, A., Yeager, R., Bardhan, M., Berland, A., Dadvand, P., Helbich, M., Li, F., Li, H., James, P., Klompmaker, J., Reuben, A., Roman, L.A., Tsai, W-L., Patwary, M., O'Neil-Dunne, M., Ossola, A., Wang, R., Yang, B., Yi, L., Zhang, J., Nieuwenhuijsen, M. Measuring the 3-30-300 rule to help cities meet nature access thresholds. Science of the Total Environment. 2023.
  13. Gilderbloom, J., Kingsbury, I., Squires, G.D., and Zhang, C.H. 2023. The impact of air pollution on public school achievement, Journal of Strategic Energy & Environmental Planning, 5(4): 41-64.
  14. Connors, L, and Zhang, C.H. 2023. A national analysis of the spatial patterns and correlates of evictions in the United States. Appl. Spatial Analysis. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12061-023-09534-x