Linda Birnbaum, Ami Zota, and Host Steve Heilig

What's Next in Environmental Health?

~Co-presented by The New School at Commonweal and the Collaborative for Health and Environment~

The harm to human health from chemical exposures is now recognized as a global crisis on par with climate change and biodiversity loss. Effectively addressing this challenge means adopting new approaches that recognize the complexity of systems with multi-disciplinary approaches, prioritize precaution and prevention, and address disproportionate impacts and environmental injustices. Join Host Steve Heilig for a conversation with Dr. Linda Birnbaum and Dr. Ami Zota, two innovative leaders in efforts to promote environmental health and justice in the United States.

Linda S. Burnbaum, PhD

Linda is the former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. She was granted Scientist Emeritus Status at NIH when she retired and is also a Scholar in Residence at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. As NIEHS director, Dr. Birnbaum oversaw research grants and shared the results of cutting edge environmental health research with the public and policy makers. She also met with communities to better understand environmental health concerns and disparities. Throughout her career, Dr. Birnbaum has been particularly effective at bringing forward the mounting scientific evidence of harm of exposures to certain chemicals that are now ubiquitous in our products and environment. Her discussion of the current science has helped to shift our understanding of exposures to include the dangers of chronic low dose exposures and the long term effects of early lifetime exposures.

Ami Zota, PhD

Ami is a population health scientist with expertise in environmental health, environmental justice, and maternal and reproductive health. Her research focuses on understanding social and structural determinants of environmental exposures and their consequent impacts to women’s health outcomes across the life course. Her long-term goal is to help secure environmental justice and health equity among systematically marginalized populations by advancing scientific inquiry, training next generation leaders, increasing public engagement with science, and supporting community-led solutions for structural change. Dr. Zota is the founding director of the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice program which seeks to foster more diverse, equitable and inclusive leaders in environmental and climate justice, training early career scientists from systematically marginalized backgrounds in science communication, storytelling, community engagement, and policy translation. Dr. Zota received CHE’s “20 Pioneers Under 40 in Environmental Public Health” award in 2018.

Host Steve Heilig

Steve is a longtime senior research associate with Commonweal, a co-founder of the Commonweal Collaborative for Health and Environment, a host of dialogues for the New School, and in other programs originating at or founded at Commonweal. Trained at five University of California campuses in public health, medical ethics, addiction medicine, economics, environmental sciences, and other disciplines, his other work includes positions at the San Francisco Medical Society, California Pacific Medical Center, and as co-editor of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. He has served on many nonprofit boards and appointed commissions, and is a trained hospice worker. He is a widely published essayist and book and music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, and many other publications.