Lara Cushing, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences whose work focuses on issues of environmental justice, has been appointed the inaugural holder of the Jonathan and Karin Fielding Presidential Chair in Health Equity at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

The endowed chair was established by a gift from Dr. Jonathan Fielding, a national public health leader and distinguished professor-in-residence at the Fielding School, and Karin Fielding, also a longtime public health advocate, to support the work of an early-career faculty member who is developing innovative ways to solve persistent health disparities and strengthen the school’s role as a leader in advancing health equity.

Dr. Jonathan and Karin Fielding in front of ivy-covered wall
Courtesy of the Fieldings
Dr. Jonathan and Karin Fielding

Cushing studies the disproportionate impact of harmful environmental exposures and climate change on low-income populations and communities of color in the U.S. Her research has included investigations into exposures related to oil and gas drilling, the existence of “heat islands” in urban areas and the cumulative health effects of pollution sources in disadvantaged neighborhoods. As chair holder, she hopes to continue to cultivate partnerships with grassroots community organizations to address sustainability and equity challenges and to use her research to help sharpen regulatory decision making around environmental justice.

“I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot in terms of dream jobs,” said Cushing, who is among a growing number of faculty members collaborating with the UCLA Center for Healthy Climate Solutions, which is co-directed by Dr. Fielding. “And with that, I feel I have a responsibility to make sure the resources associated with this endowed chair are put to work making a tangible difference to advance environmental justice and protect the health of communities on the ground.”

“Lara Cushing’s work at the intersection of the environment and social justice is exactly what this endowment was intended to support, and we are pleased that she will set the standard as the first Fielding Presidential Chair in Health Equity,” Jonathan and Karin Fielding wrote in a statement.

Written by Dan Gordon

Read the full press release from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

► Read more on Cushings appointment in the latest edition of UCLA Public Health magazine.