Center for Precision Environmental Health

Maternal and Infant Environmental Health Riskscape Research Center

Master
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About the Center

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The National Institutes of Health – through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute of Child Health and Health Human Development funded the Maternal and Infant Environmental Health Riskscape Research Center in summer 2020. The center, a joint initiative of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Southern University, is a Center of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research, one of only three sites in the country selected for funding. The MIEHR Center is led by director Elaine Symanski at Baylor and co-director Robert Bullard at TSU. 

The goal of the MIEHR center is to identify key drivers of racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes, such a preterm birth and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.

The center studies study chemical and non-chemical exposures at the individual and neighborhood level from the biological, physical and social environments – collectively referred to as the riskscape – that affect maternal and infant health.

MIEHR Center Research

The Environmental Riskscape, Disasters and Obstetric Outcomes: 

Goal: Assess race-specific associations between individual chemical (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals) and place-based chemical and non-chemical stressors in the environmental riskscape and adverse maternal and child health outcomes. 

Disparities-Aware Classifiers for Maternal and Infant Health:

Goal: Use an “omics” approach to develop and validate disparity aware classifiers for preterm birth for non-Hispanic black and white women. 

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Community and Engagement Dissemination Core

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Aim 1: Translate and disseminate center science to increase awareness about environmental health disparities and enhance the capacity of individuals and organizations to make informed environmental health and health policy decisions.

Aim 2: Pioneer multi-directional communication strategies to engage community partners and other stakeholders to guide center activities, identify environmental health disparity concerns, become involved in community-engaged research and establish new avenues for disseminating center activities and research findings.

Aim 3: Evaluate the effectiveness of CEDC activities on enhanced community literacy, numeracy and capacity and their impact on achieving the overall goals of the center.

CEDC Community Advisory Board

The CEDC Community Advisory Board consists of five engaged community leaders and environmental health partners that reside in Houston, Texas. CAB members are public health representatives that remain active in the city’s communities that experience a disproportionate burden of environmental health threats. 

Investigator Development Core

Aim 1: Support multidisciplinary Pilot Projects in environmental health disparities research relevant to the overall goal of the MIEHR Research Center to elucidate the contributions of the environmental riskscape to health disparities in pregnant women and their children.

Aim 2: Enhance the potential for junior investigators from health disparity populations to obtain external funding for environmental health disparities research through training, Pilot project research support and mentoring.

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New MIEHR Center Funding Opportunity for Environmental Health Disparities Research

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Addressing Maternal and Child Health Inequities: The Role of Racism, COVID-19 and Other Disasters 

The Maternal and Infant Environmental Health Research Center (MIEHR) is launching a new initiative to support pilot projects that focus on:

  • Structural racism as a driver of maternal, infant and child health disparities.
  • The complex relationships between maternal and child health, the environment, and pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, which is responsible for the current global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted communities of color.  
  • The effects of disasters, like flooding, fires, and rising temperatures, on maternal and child health.

Eligibility Criteria: Post-doctoral Fellows, Clinical Fellows, Assistant Professors, or NIH-designated early-stage investigators

Projects should be developed within a 12-month timeframe, with a start date of April 1, 2022, and a budget not to exceed $50,000/project in direct costs.

We especially welcome applications from individuals from health disparity populations. If you are not from a health disparity population, the application must include mention of the diversity of your research team. 

Applications can use qualitative and/or quantitative methodology. Successful applicants will be required to participate in MIEHR Center-sponsored activities and disseminate results to the Center's Community Advisory Board and Executive Committee.      

A Letter of Intent (LOI) is encouraged. Please submit by Friday, Sept. 3 to allow for planning of the review.

Application Deadline:  Monday, Oct. 4

The LOI will only be reviewed administratively for knowledge of upcoming application submissions. Specify the following:

  • The title, research objectives, and the environmental health disparity of the proposed investigation, along with your name, institution, department, position, contact information and, if applicable, how you self-identify as a member of a health disparity population.
  • All applicants should specify a mentor.

The application must include the major components of an NIH R03 application. 
Abstract: Do not exceed 30 lines.
Aims:  Do not exceed one page.
Research Strategy: Do not exceed six pages. Include these sections:

  • Significance
    • Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress in the field that the proposed project addresses.
    • Explain how the proposed project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more broad fields.
    • Describe how the field will be changed if the proposed aims are achieved.
  •  Innovation
    • Explain how the application challenges and seeks to shift current paradigms.
    • Describe any novel concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or intervention(s) to be developed, modified, or used, and their advantages.    
  • Approach
    • Put preliminary data, if you have it, in this section.
    • Describe the strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the specific aims. Include how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted.
    • Discuss potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success anticipated to achieve the aims.

Other Required Components:

  • References
  • Timeline
  • Resources and Environment
  • Human Subjects
  • Budget and Budget Justification (Also submit budget as an Excel spreadsheet)
  • Biosketches and Other Support Pages for Key Personnel
  • Letter of Support from Primary Mentor
  • Project Narrative (brief paragraph)
  • PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information PDF
  • Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Individuals; Inclusion Across the Lifespan; and Retention and Recruitment Plan (brief paragraphs of each)
  • IRB approval letter or IRB letter with meeting date of review

LOIs and applications should be sent electronically to MIEHRCenter@bcm.edu in a single PDF.

For More Information:  Contact Nesh Aqrawi, MIEHR Center Administrator (nesh.aqrawi@bcm.edu).

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Faculty

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Elaine Symanski, Ph.D., MIEHR Center Director
Professor
Center for Precision Environmental Health
Section of Epidemiology and Population Sciences
Department of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile    

Robert Bullard, Ph.D., MIEHR Center Co-Director
Professor
Department of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy
Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs
Texas Southern University
Facuty Profile

Kjersti Aagaard, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Vice Chair of Research
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile

Cristian Coarfa, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile

Toi Harris, M.D.
Associate Provost of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and Student Services
Professor
Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Department of Pediatrics
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile

Denae King, Ph.D.
Research Program Manager
Department of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy
Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs
Texas Southern University
Faculty Profile

Bhagavatula Moorthy, Ph.D.
Professor and Director
Neonatology Research Program
Department of Pediatrics
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile

Hamisu Salihu, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Community and Family Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile

Melissa A. Suter, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile

Cheryl L. Walker, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Center for Precision Environmental Health and Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile

Kristina W. Whitworth, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Section of Epidemiology and Population Sciences
Department of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Faculty Profile

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Resources