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Friday, September 11, 2020 - 11:15am

Dr. Adrienne Wald, associate professor of nursing in the School of Health and Natural Sciences, recently concluded a year of mentoring a group of nursing fellows who are working to address urgent environmental health threats that affect vulnerable populations.

The national Environmental Health Nurse Fellowship program, the first of its kind, was initiated by the Alliance of Nurses of Healthy Environments (ANHE) with support from the Kresge Foundation. Wald was among the first group of mentors selected to work with 30 ANHE fellows on projects across the country that promote environmental health, equity and justice at the local level. All mentors and fellows attended a two-day kickoff retreat in 2019, which was followed by collaborative meetings, webinars on a range of environmental health issues, and a concluding virtual conference in June 2020.

Over the course of the year-long program, Wald mentored three nursing fellows as they collaborated with local organizations to create environmental health programs in their communities. Fellow Ruth Ruivivar Esa established a project in Queens, New York, focusing on issues such as heat vulnerability, violence as a public health crisis and air quality problems related to local airports. A second fellow, Dr. Lisa Whitfield-Harris, worked with the Camden, New Jersey Collaborative Initiative to assess environmental exposures impacting childhood asthma.

Finally, nursing fellow Félix Javier Román Hernández MSN, RN, MSN, DNP-PHNLs, collaborated with the Puerto Rico Department of Education to implement a program of air quality monitoring and asthma prevention education in high-risk elementary schools in an environmentally vulnerable area impacted by flooding and earthquakes. Hernandez’s poster abstract, with Wald as co-author, has been accepted for presentation at the next annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) taking place October 24 through 28.

ANHE’s mission is to promote healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice and influencing policy. The national fellowship program was launched to focus on environmental health equity and justice, specifically addressing the disproportionate impact of environmental exposures on various vulnerable groups.

“Working with the fellows in the ANHE fellowship program has been an honor,” said Wald. “This was a unique opportunity to support important environmental health projects carried out by nurses who are committed to expanding their expertise in addressing environmental health threats and working with their communities for better health.”

Wald continues to work with ANHE as co-chair of the Climate Change Committee and is active in the ANHE education and research groups. “The Mercy College nursing program recently signed on to the Nurse Climate Challenge School of Nursing Commitment, an initiative supported by ANHE and Health Care Without Harm, to help prepare all nurses to better care for patients and communities in a world with a changing climate by including curricular content that addresses climate and health,” she said. “Mercy nursing students are eager to learn about environmental health impacts affecting their patients and communities.”

Read more about the ANHE fellowship and the Nurses Climate Challenge.