Harvard Scholars Explore Environmental Public Health at UM

June 13, 2019

Fellows with the JPB Environmental Health Fellowship Program, along with their children and many of their UM hosts, pose for a picture outside UM’s Davidson Honors College. MISSOULA – A prestigious group of scholars visited the University of Montana this week as part of a Harvard program to address social and environmental health disparities that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities.  

Fourteen junior faculty and research scientists from universities and federal agencies across the United States are here as part of the JPB Environmental Health Fellowship Program.

The program supports a new generation of environmental health scholars committed to developing solutions and supporting policy changes that address environmental, social and economic health disparities in the United States. They engage in rigorous interdisciplinary research on the social and physical determinants of environmental health disparities in vulnerable communities.

Dr. Annie Belcourt is a UM associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and School of Public and Community Health Sciences. Her doctoral training is in clinical psychology, and she studies health disparities in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Belcourt was a member of the Harvard program’s first cohort, an honor that included $350,000 to support research here in Montana.

“It’s a really unique opportunity for UM to host a diverse group of Fellows who are really working to transform the lives and health of people throughout the nation,” said Belcourt, who has Blackfeet, Chippewa, Mandan and Hidatsa tribal affiliations. “They came to UM because I’m a former Fellow, and they rotate the workshops to different locations that have unique health challenges.”

In Montana, those challenges include wildfire smoke and health issues that disproportionately impact Native communities. Belcourt said the Fellows attended presentations by UM researchers, including Erica Woodahl, who studies precision medicine for tribal communities, and Chris Migliaccio, who studies the effects of wildfire smoke on human health in the Seeley-Swan area.

The Fellows also were hosted by tribal council members at the Flathead Indian Reservation.

“We had an amazing picture-book Montana day yesterday, with bear, elk, bison, eagles and a crane all making an appearance,” Belcourt said. “Bringing a group like this to UM and Montana offers a lot of advantages in terms of collaboration, learning from one another and becoming inspired by what others are doing.”

To learn more about the JPB Environmental Health Fellowship Program, visit https://ehfellows.sph.harvard.edu/.

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Contact: Shane Sangrey, diversity specialist, UM College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, 406-243-2783, shane.sangrey@mso.umt.edu; Dr. Annie Belcourt, associate professor, UM Department of Pharmacy Practice and School of Public and Community Health Sciences, 406-243-5454, annie.belcourt@umontana.edu.