Faculty and Staff Update – December 2021


Message from the Chair

Robert Wright, MD, MPH

Happy New Year, Everyone!

During this season we often reflect upon our accomplishments from the prior year and our plans for the future. Despite the pandemic, despite social distancing, and now, despite Omicron, we have found ways to adapt, and our department is thriving. Our clinical, research, and community programs continue to grow. There is still much more work to be done within our department and with the communities we serve. This pandemic can sometimes seem endless, and we can lose patience, or even worse—lose hope. These next few weeks and months will be difficult, but I am certain we will adapt to the situations that arise and find ways forward, just as we have since March 2020. I know we will meet these challenges because we are in this together. We have a mission of service, discovery, and justice, and we recognize and value all. We will listen, we will plan, and we will adapt—because we believe in each other and we believe in the work that we do.

I hope you are able to spend some time with your family and to rest this holiday season.

And I hope to see you all in 2022!


Robert O. Wright, MD, MPH
Ethel H. Wise Professor and Chair
Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health
Co-Director, Institute for Exposomic Research


Stay Informed

Stay Informed

Director’s Blog

The relationship between art and science by Robert Wright, MD, MPH

Is it possible that your risk for disease was set when you were a baby? Evidence shows that our earliest years of life are perhaps the most important for understanding the origins of many health outcomes. Read the Blog

Science and Art

Mount Sinai Spin-Off Company, Linus Biotechnology Inc., Receives FDA Breakthrough Device Designation for it’s ASD Diagnostic Product: StrandDx™- ASD Exposome Sequencing Diagnostic is based on technology developed by Drs. Manish Arora, Christine Austin and Paul Curtin. The FDA Breakthrough Device designation aims to expedite the review of innovative technologies. Read more

Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH, will lead the Health and Safety Workgroup of a multi-year study, New York State Climate Impacts Assessment: Understanding and Preparing for Our Changing Climate. The study was announced by Governor Hochul in November. Read more

A new book, Environmental Biodynamics: A New Science of How the Environment Interacts with Human Health, is now available by Manish Arora, PhD and Paul Curtin, PhD (with Austen Curtin, PhD; Christine Austin, PhD; and Alessandro Giuliani, PhD). Published by Oxford University Press, it’s meant for people who enjoy science, not just scientists. It explains the theory that has made so many of the breakthroughs in exposomics at Mount Sinai possible.

COVID Vaccination Education

Kristin Oliver, MD, MHS, has been busy giving talks on pediatric COVID vaccination to school PTA groups, community groups, and providers as well as serving as a pediatric COVID-19 subject matter expert for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, supporting provider and community vaccinator training and education. 

Recent features with Dr. Oliver:

 “Covid Vaccine Prompts Strong Immune Response in Younger Children, Pfizer Says.” New York Times, September 22, 2021.

 “COVID-19 Vaccine Update: Jabs in Children and Boosters.” WHCR 90.3 FM. Health in Harlem Podcast, September 23, 2021

Covid 19 Vaccine and Kids/Teens With Physician and Public Health Expert Kristin Oliver.” Raising Good Humans Podcast, July 16, 2021.

Ismail Nabeel, MD, MPH, is a host of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s OccPod, a podcast with two themed series: COVID Conversations, candid conversations about COVID-19 that are grounded in science with an occupational health focus, and Climate Conversations, addressing a variety of issues facing workers and workplaces that are caused by the changing climate. Listen today

Latest Episode: The Omicron Variant

Shanna Swan, PhD, has had hundreds of media spots from the New York Times to Instagram Live interviews since the launch of her 2021 book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race, co-authored with Stacey Colino. 

Catch her on Marie Claire’s Start Somewhere Podcast with Sara Vaughan (November 25, 2021): How to live without harmful plastics and stop the countdown

Institute for Exposomic for Research Laboratories: The renovation of the South Wing of Atran-3 is now complete, and three new major instruments have been installed: two mass spectrometers to undertake exposomic analysis in blood, urine, and other biological samples and a CryoXtract x50 robot to micro sample teeth for exposomic analysis.

Barrio Fridge 10 minute Documentary

As an Urban Environmental Health Fellow for the Urban Environmental Health Lab with the Human Impacts Institute, Luz Guel collaborated with artist Nikki Dodd to create a short documentary about the Barrio Fridge, a mutual aid initiative to combat health food disparity in East Harlem. Volunteers stock the fridge several times a day with end of day farm fresh produce and rescued prepared meals from restaurants, bakeries, brands, and even a museum partner. Watch the short: https://barriofridgefilm.com/

20th Anniversary of September 11

Several activities were organized to commemorate the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001.

Special Consortium-wide Symposium: A two-day program brought together health professionals, legal experts, and journalists, as well as responders and survivors of September 11, 2001. Watch the presentations

Video Presentation about the WTC Health Program at Mount Sinai

Road to Resilience Podcast: Psychiatrist Sandra Lowe, MD, talks about what we’ve learned about trauma and resilience from treating 9/11 responders. Her answers have implications for COVID-19 and beyond. Dr. Lowe is Medical Director at the World Trade Center Mental Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai.



John Meyer, MD, MPH, Professor and Interim Director of the Occupational Medicine Division, was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Board of Preventive Medicine. Read the announcement

Winston Kwa, MD, MPH, Associate Professor and Medical Director of the Selikoff Centers for Occupational Health in the Mid-Hudson Valley was awarded the Cullman Family Award for Excellence in Physician Communication for the second year in a row. Read the announcement

Watch this video to learn more about occupational health care in the Mid-Hudson Valley.



COVID-19 Research Pilot Projects

Leveraging New Technologies to Assess Noise Exposure and Mobility Patterns During COVID-19: A Pilot Study in NYC Women

Principal Investigators: Laura McGuinn, PhD; Itai Kloog, PhD; Homero Harari, ScD; Co-Investigators: Robert Wright MD, MPH; Rosalind J. Wright, MD, MPH; Nicholas DeFelice, PhD

Untargeted Analysis of Personal Environmental Exposures and Respiratory Outcomes in Children

Principal Investigators: Douglas I. Walker, PhD; Co-Investigators: Robert Wright, MD, MPH; Rosalind J. Wright, MD, MPH

Spatial Exploration of Inter-Relationships of COVID-19 Infection, Metal Exposure, Transcriptome and Immune Response in Human Placentas

Principal Investigators: Corina Lesseur, MD, PhD; Megan Niedzwiecki , PhD; Christine Austin, PhD; Kristin G. Beaumont, PhD; Co-Investigators: Jia Chen, ScD; Rachel Brody, MD, PhD; Fumiko Dekio, MD

Technology Transfer to Enhance Health Literacy on COVID-19 and Environmental Justice

Principal Investigator: Luz Claudio, PhD; Co-Investigators: Maya Korin, PhD, MS; Muhammed Y. Idris, PhD

Principal Investigators: Nicholas DeFelice, PhD; Erin Thanik, MD, MPH; Co-Investigators: Douglas Bush, MD; Lauren Zajac, MD; Elizabeth Garland MD

Research Roundup

Lauren Petrick, PhD, is using newborn bloodspots (heel prick blood spots collected on paper discs at birth) to identify risk factors for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Dr. Petrick has developed a method to take a small section of this blood spot and detect thousands of metabolomic signatures. Using big data science methods, she has uncovered a subset of chemical markers that can detect acute lymphoblastic leukemia earlier than other tests can.

Paul Curtin, PhD, Christine Austin, PhD, and Manish Arora, PhD, have developed a new technology for early and rapid detection of children at risk of autism spectrum disorder. The technology combines sophisticated laser-based analysis of a single strand of hair. A multi-national study in the US, Sweden, and Japan is underway.

Corina Lesseur, PhD; Jia Chen, PhD, Lauren Petrick, PhD, and Shanna Swan, PhD published three new studies on the health effects of glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp and one of the most heavily applied pesticides in the world. These studies found associations between glyphosate and increased risk of preterm birth, changes in male reproductive development indicative of hormone disruption, and changes in the microbiome and molecular makeup of rodents treated with glyphosate.

Research Training with Scientists in Costa Rica

Nine junior scientists from Costa Rica have been selected to conduct collaborative pilot projects.  Each scientist is being supported by $10,000 awards, hands-on training, and mentoring to complete research projects in their country.  The projects are varied, including an Assessment of children exposures to lead and the effects of malnutrition, genomics of Clostridium and its toxins, and pesticide exposure and depression in farmworkers. For more information, contact Luz Claudio, PhD.  

New Hires

New Hires

Rabeea F. Khan, MD, MPH, joins the department as Assistant Professor. Dr. Khan’s expertise is in occupational medicine, and her recent research has focused on lead exposure in at-risk worker populations. Dr. Khan practices at the Mount Sinai Selikoff Centers for Occupational Health, where she evaluates and treats work-related injuries and illnesses and cares for patients enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program.  Read full bio

Julio A. Landero, PhD, joins the department as Associate Professor. He leads the Trace Metal group at the Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Environmental Health Sciences Laboratory. Prior to joining Mount Sinai, Dr. Landero was Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati and the director of the Agilent Metallomics Center as well as Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Systems Physiology at the University of Cincinnati. Read full bio

Aliya Tejani, MD, joins the department as Assistant Professor. Dr. Tejani has worked as an occupational medicine physician in New York City for 20 years and previously held positions in Massachusetts and in Pakistan where she received her medical training.  She completed a residency and externship in internal medicine at Long Island College Hospital. She currently practices at the Mount Sinai Selikoff Centers for Occupational Health, where she evaluates and treats work-related injuries and illnesses and cares for patients enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program.

Other new faculy: Dr. Karen Li’s bio forthcoming

Environmental Epidemiology

Whitney Collado joined the Developmental Impact of NICU Exposures (DINE) – Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) study group as a Research Coordinator in November 2021. Prior to joining Mount Sinai, she worked at the NYU Student Health Center assisting in operations such as University-wide immunizations and COVID vaccine information. She received a Master’s in Public Health in Environmental Public Health Science from NYU. Whitney has a strong interest in infectious disease and pandemics. Outside interests include trying new foods, Greek mythology, and traveling.

Caitlyn Evans joined the DINE-ECHO study group as a Research Coordinator in November 2021. Prior to joining Mount Sinai, she worked at Marymount School of New York as a Third Grade Assistant Teacher. She received a Master’s in Public Health in Community Health Science and Practice from NYU. Caitlyn has strong interests in racial/ethnic health disparities, community engagement, and the role of policy in health. Her outside interests include reading Rick Riordan novels, cooking, and hosting people on her podcast Candidly, Caitlyn.

International Health

Walter Ramos is Program Coordinator for the Division of International Health, appointed in January 2021.  He is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico with two master’s degrees in Medical Science and Public Health. Prior to joining Mount Sinai, he was a trainee in Dr. Luz Claudio’s Short-term Training Program for Minority Students.  These programs and his experience leading a team in the Department of General Internal Medicine, have prepared him for his new role, and he looks forward to working to expand the reach and impact of the Division of International Health. 

Resident Spotlight

Resident Spotlight

Olawunmi Deborah Akinsilo, MD – Occupational Medicine

Dr. Olawunmi Deborah Akinsilo received her undergraduate degree in History from UCLA, Master of Science in Global Medicine from USC, and Medical Degree from St. George’s University. She completed a surgical internship at York Hospital in York, PA. While training in Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Mount Sinai, she’s concurrently working on her MPH, and her academic interests lie in healthcare management and global health. During her time at Mount Sinai she hopes to augment her training with leadership development programs and become involved with the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 

Hannah Thompson, MD – Occupational Medicine

Dr. Hannah Thompson spent four years in general surgery (two in residency and two in a clinical research fellowship in colorectal cancer) prior to becoming an occupational medicine resident. She is interested in academic medicine and pursuing research into occupational diseases and environmental exposures related to cancer. Outside of medicine, she loves discovering New York City and its delicious food with her daughter and husband.

Pakhi Goel, MBBS – Preventive Medicine

Dr. Pakhi Goel completed her medical degree at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India. Prior to joining Mount Sinai, she completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center (Wakefield Division), New York, NY. She is interested in working in oncology and addressing disparities in cancer care. She enjoys indoor gardening, restoration of furniture and antiques, and spending time with family and friends. 

Chelsea McCabe, MD – Preventive Medicine

Dr. Chelsea McCabe recently completed her family medicine residency at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore before moving to New York to start her preventive medicine training. She is passionate about health disparities, chronic disease outcomes, and increasing access to high quality primary care. She is currently working on a quality improvement project to improve hypertension metrics at the JJP Bronx VA Hospital and on a focus group study examining vaccine hesitancy and trust in home health aides in New York City. In her free time, Chelsea enjoys spending time with her husband Phil and their mini schnauzer puppy Blaze. They are also very excited to be welcoming their first child this February! 

Additional Preventive Resident is Mohamad Sebai, MBBS. Bio forthcoming.

Post-doctoral Fellows

Post-doctoral Fellows

New Postdocs in 2021:

Cecilia Alcala, PhD, MPH – Global Environmental Health Sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Faculty Mentor: Maria Rosa (Jan 2021 start)

Anna Robuck, PhD, MS – Oceanography, URI Graduate School of Oceanography. Faculty Mentor: Doug Walker (April 2021 start)

Joanna Ellis, PhD – Analytical Chemistry, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Faculty Mentor: Manish Arora (May 2021 start)

Azzurra Invernizzi, PhD – Biomedical Engineering, University of Groningen, Netherlands. Faculty Mentor: Megan Horton (July 2021 start)

Jamil Lane, PhD, MPH – Human Development, University of Rochester. Faculty Mentor: Robert Wright (Sept 2021 start)

Pablo Knobel, PhD, MS – Environmental Science and Technology, ICTA – UAB, Barcelona. Faculty Mentor: Maayan Yitshak-Sade (Oct 2021 start)

Anti-Racism, Intersectionality, Diversity & Equity (AIDE) Committee

Anti-Racism, Intersectionality, Diversity & Equity (AIDE) Committee

All faculty, staff, and trainees are invited to join the AIDE committee that meets monthly to review, evaluate, and advance the department’s work in anti-racism. Please contact Maida Galvez, MD, MPH or Luz Guel to learn more about the committee.

AIDE News: The department has hired Attemla Consulting, LLC Founder Almetta Pitts, MSW, LSWAIC, to support the department’s anti-racism work. This winter, Almetta has been training Committee members on how to set up and implement affinity spaces. Affinity groups are designed to help individuals better understand their own identity and explore mindfully intersectional racial conditioning, implicit biases, aversion, and characteristics of white supremacy culture. We plan to launch monthly affinity spaces in early 2022. To learn more: White Accountability Group & Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People

AIDE Outreach Project: Thank you so much to all who participated in the EMPH Coat & Book Drive (and special thanks to Lisa Cole and Terry Thompson for organizing)! The department is donating the following to our friends at the New York City Housing Authority Carver Houses:

  • 38 winter coats and jackets
  • 34 clothing accessories
  • 36 toys, instruments, and games
  • 112 books for kids of all ages



Connect with EMPH colleagues on the first Wednesday of each month at 12pm for a wellness activity. If you would like to join the wellness committee or suggest activities, please contact Drs. Megan Horton or Elizabeth Garland.



View all EMPH Publications on PlumX.

Chronic Exposure to Air Pollution May Increase Risks for ICU Admission or Death Among COVID-19 Patients, Study Finds. Drs. Nicholas DeFelice, Elena Colicino, and Laura McGuinn contributed to the study. Read the press release.

A supplement to Science Magazine features an article by Drs. Robert Wright, Rosalind Wright and Kecia Carroll explaining how exposomics can be integrated into precision medicine and public health.

A highlight of Dr. Luz Claudio and her collaborators’ research was the publication of the paper titled: “Machine learning-drive identification of early-life air toxic combinations associated with childhood asthma outcomes” in the Journal of Clinical InvestigationLearn more.

A study by Dr. Erik de Water and collaborators examining metal exposures during pregnancy published in NeuroToxicology found that higher prenatal metal mixture concentrations were associated with increased reward motivation in children, which may reflect a tendency to perseverate or hypersensitivity to rewards.

A consensus statement by Dr. Shanna Swan and collaborators published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology calls to prioritize research initiatives and to provide evidence-based medical guidance for the use of paracetamol in pregnancy. Studies suggest that exposure during pregnancy can alter fetal development and might increase the risk of certain neurodevelopmental, reproductive and urogenital disorders.

Dr. Maayan Yitshak-Sade and collaborators published a study in Environment International showing that exposure to heat and air pollution was associated with lower birth weight, an indicator for lifetime development. Learn more.

Published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, “Telehealth for COVID-19 in World Trade Center Responders: Meeting the Needs of This Unique Population” shares the WTC Health Program response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the numerous support systems that were put in place to provide crucial care to WTC patients start of the pandemic. The authors are Dr. Emily Senay, Dawn Byrne, Christina Mattson, Gauri Shukla, and Dr. Laura Crowley

The European Respiratory Society 2021 Congress featured a study by Dr. Rafael de la Hoz showing that 9/11 responders who arrived on the site soon after the Twin Towers collapsed face the greatest risk of COPD. Learn more.

Please send updates for the next newsletter to Carla Azar.

Visit the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health website.

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