BIOS

JESSICA THOMAS

Jessica Thomas (she/her) is the Managing Director of SciCAN. Jessica has been working towards justice-centered science and policy advocacy for over 10 years, principally at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Jessica has been learning from, strategizing, and challenging systems with many EJ leaders, communities, and organizations across the country who are shaping and using scientific and technical information to advance and win their campaigns, and with issue area experts who are committed to principled partnerships with EJ communities. 

Jessica’s work as a campaign manager and organizer at UCS was centered on facilitating and developing processes for deeper partnerships between issue area experts and grassroots EJ community in order to serve justice-centered goals and bring about tangible change in overburdened neighborhoods. This work was internally and externally facing, and alongside numerous colleagues both in and outside of UCS. Some fundamental processes Jessica was a part of developing include: fair compensation for grassroots participants; standardizing and socializing memoranda of agreements/understanding (MOA/MOU); application of Environmental Justice and Jemez Principles in campaign, program, and organizational work; capacity building and leadership development as well as redistribution of power and resources with grassroots partners via joint policy advocacy, media work, events, and other activities. Jessica led and facilitated several science advocacy workshops and trainings, all with a strong focus on justice.    

During her time at UCS, Jessica contributed to three major grassroots EJ community-focused and serving projects, publications, and policy advocacy including: in Kansas City with RISE4EJ (Environmental Racism in the Heartland); in Wilmington, Delaware with Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice (Environmental Justice for Delaware); and in Houston, Texas with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (Double Jeopardy in Houston). Jessica also led and contributed to several justice-focused convenings around the topics of Science, Democracy, and Environmental Justice, Scientist-Community Partnerships, and Food Justice. Toxics were her main areas of focus, including ethylene oxide (EtO), PFAS, chemical facilities covered under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Program, and cumulative impacts.

Other works Jessica has contributed to include: Scientist-Community Partnerships: A Scientist’s Guide to Successful Collaboration; Invisible Threat, Inequitable Impacts: Communities Impacted by Cancer-Causing Ethylene Oxide Pollution; Abandoned Science, Broken Promises: How the Trump Administration’s Neglect of Science is Leaving Marginalized Communities Further Behind.   

Jessica has been an active member of the American Public Health Association (APHA) Environment Section. In 2019, she led a group of public health experts and worked with grassroots EJ leaders, academics, and policy folks to develop the policy statement “Addressing Environmental Justice to Achieve Health Equity.“ Jessica has presented on scientist-community partnerships in multiple venues, including at the Ecological Society of America annual conference and an American Geophysical Union’s webinar.  

Before UCS, Jessica worked at the University of Massachusetts Boston in the Biology Department – managing a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant program that supported underrepresented students to go directly from undergraduate to PhD/MD-PhD programs in biomedical sciences. She also supported research, teaching, and administration via purchasing and managing supplies, equipment & chemicals. Jessica pursued an undergraduate degree in Biology with a focus on environmental science, and conducted research on acid rain, vernal pool biodiversity, and trophic interactions in freshwater.   

ELIZABETH FRIEDMAN

Dr. Elizabeth Friedman is currently the medical director of an environmental health program at an academic institution and children’s hospital. She is a co-PI of one of ten Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units in the nation, and she works with patients in a primary care clinic. With her academic time, Dr. Friedman partners with several community groups to develop community driven environmental health research and/or interventions to address environmental health exposures. 

Dr. Friedman began her academic career with an undergraduate focus in ecology and environment. She then obtained her Master’s in Public Health in epidemiology, with a focus on the environment. Prior to her medical training, she did health education and outreach work with sex workers in D.C. Her first residency was in internal medicine and pediatrics. During her residency, she connected with local community members facing a local massive tarsands oil spill and this re-connected her work with environment and health. In order to further connect her medical training with environment, she took a longer course of study. She completed programs in preventive medicine and occupational and environmental medicine, and did a fellowship in reproductive and pediatric environmental health. 

Abbreviated Curriculum Vitae

CURRENT POSITIONS (2019 – Present)

General Pediatrician; Medical Director of Environmental Health, Children’s Mercy, Kansas City, MO

Director of Region 7 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU)

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine (2023)

Co-founder & Academic Advisor of Science and Community Action Network (SciCAN) (2021 – Present)

Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Study Scientific Oversight Committee (SOC) member. (June 2023 – Present)

Co-founder of Missouri Clinicians for Climate Action (MOCCA) (2022 – Present)

Stakeholder Advisory Board Member, EHSRC Community Engagement Core, University of Iowa (2021 – Present)

See prior positions for additional academic service roles.

EDUCATION 

Doctor of Medicine

University of Missouri School of Medicine, Columbia, MO

2010

Master’s in Public Health –epidemiology

George Washington University, Washington, DC

2005

Bachelor of Science in Biology (focus in Ecology)

University of Miami, Miami, Florida

1999

Postgraduate training includes: Internal medicine and Pediatrics, Preventive medicine and public health, reproductive and pediatric environmental health, and occupational and environmental medicine. 

CERTIFICATION AND LICENSURE

Board Certification in Pediatrics 2016 

Board Certification in Preventive Medicine 2016

Board Certificate in Occupational & Environmental Medicine 2019 

Board Eligibility in Internal Medicine (2014 – 2021)

MEDICAL LICENSE

Missouri 2020 – Present

Kansas 2020 – Present 

Washington 2017 – Present 

California 2014 – 2018 

Michigan (partial license) 2010 – 2014

SELECT PUBLICATIONS

Gilbertson R, Friedman E, Nguyen V, Stahl S, Ireland R. The Role of Physician Advocacy in Supporting Policy Change That Reduces Leaded Aviation Gasoline Emissions. Journal of Community Health. 2023 Jan 7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-023-01186-9. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36609625.   

Friedman E, Lee B, Wilson N, Kalman C. Historic Racism Affects Today’s Pediatric Asthma Burden. Health and Place. Nov 2022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2022.102927  

Wilson N, Friedman E, Kennedy K, Manolakos P, Reierson L, Roberts A, Simon S. “Using Exterior Housing Conditions and Age of Housing to Identify Housing Based Lead Exposure.” Environmental Research. Feb 2023. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2022.114944

Patel L, Friedman E, Johannes SA, Lee SS, O’Brien HG, Schear S. Air Pollution as a Social and Structural Determinant of Health. The Journal of Climate Change and Health. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joclim.2021.100035

Select Academic Presentations and Workshops

Martinez B, Lam Y, Sheets N, Harden M, Friedman E. “From Combating Climate Denialism to Fighting False Solutions: The Continuing Absence of Justice in Climate Policies and the Urgent Need for Change.” Panel facilitator and co-organizer. American Public Health Association Annual Conference, Creating the Healthiest Nation – Climate and Health Equity Session. Atlanta, GA. November, 2023. 

Martinez B, Mena A, Shabaka D, Drix J, Capper G, Mesesan K, Friedman E. “Building trust-based community partnerships for public health professionals.” Panel facilitator and co-organizer. American Public Health Association Annual Conference, Creating the Healthiest Nation – Climate and Health Equity Session. Atlanta, GA. November, 2023. 

Friedman E, Amico A, Hampton B, Nordell A, Ferrara K. “PFAS Contamination: Community Perspectives,” Panel facilitator, planner, co-presenter. American Public Health Association Annual Conference, Creating the Healthiest Nation – Environmental Health Session.  Atlanta, GA. November, 2023. 

Friedman E, Martinez B. Science & Community Action Network (SciCAN): Connecting subject matter experts with communities for action. Co-presenter. Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) & Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS). Biennial Conference, Reclaiming the Commons. Portland, OR. July, 2023. 

“Air Pollution and Respiratory Health.” Pulmonology Didactics. Children’s Mercy Hospital. Kansas City, MO. 2020. 

“Building an Open-Source, Information and Action Network:  A Needs Assessment Among (fossil fuel) Activists.” Remember the Kalamazoo – A Community Review of the Toxic Spill. Battle Creek, MI. July 2015. 

“Doe Run Transnational Smelter Company: The current and ideal roles of healthcare community, commercial, and local participants in the development of international markets.” Keynote Speaker, George Washington University Research Day, Washington DC – 2004.

SELECT ABSTRACTS 

Friedman E, Homan S, Buchanan S, Newman N. Accessibility and Engagement on Environmental Health Physician Education. International Society of Exposure Science (ISES) Annual Meeting. July 2023. Portland, WA. 

Friedman E, Homan S, Amico A. Proceedings from a PFAS Conference Workshop. International Society of Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) American Chapter Annual Meeting. June 2023. Corvallis, OR.

Carignan C, Powers M, Brown P, Ducatman A, Friedman E, DeWitt J, Amico A, Fitzstevens M, Kasper S, Osimo C, Schaider L. Translating Research to Action with Improved Medical Screening Guidance for PFAS. International Society of Exposure Science Annual Meeting. August 2021.

Proma, R.A., Sumpter, M., Lugo, H., Friedman, E., Huq, K.T. and Rosen, P. CleanAirNowKC: Building Community Power by Improving Data Accessibility. In 2021 IEEE Workshop on Visualization for Social Good (VIS4Good). Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Annual Conference. 2021. Full manuscript: https://cspaul.com/wordpress/cleanairnowkc-building-community-power-by-improving-data-accessibility/ 

Friedman E, Ward H. “HIV Risk Factors of London Sex Workers and Nationality.” 

Michigan State University & Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies Annual Research Day. 2011. 

SELECT PRESENTATIONS, MEDIA INTERVIEWS AND OTHER SPEAKER EVENTS

“Indoor Air Quality and Asthma.” Guest Speaker. Breathe Up ECHO. University of Missouri. Virtual Event. November, 2023.  

“Climate Change and Health in Missouri.” Guest Speaker.  Medical Students for a Sustainable Future (MS4SF) Symposium. University of Missouri. Virtual Event. October 2023. 

“A Brief Overview of the Health Effects of PFAS.”  Guest Speaker. Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Commission meeting. Jefferson City, MO & virtual event. December 2022. 

“Environmental Justice Movement in the Midwest.” Guest Speaker. CleanAirNow’s annual community teach-back. Virtual Event. November 2022.  

“Solidarity for Climate Justice – CleanAirNow. Kansas City, MO.” CleanAirNow and Partners. Guest Speaker. Kansas City, MO. August 2022. 

“Anatomy of a Crisis: Impact of Racism on Public Health in America.” Episode 4: Confronting Environmental Racism. Guest Speaker. Kansas City Public Library Podcast. January 2022. Website:  https://kclibrary.org/podcasts/aoac.  

Environmental Racism in the Heartland – Launching an Environmental Justice publication from CleanAirNow and Union of Concerned Scientists. Guest Speaker. Virtual Event. November 2021.  

BETO:

Beto is a grassroots environmental justice organizer and executive director of Rise4EJ. Beto serves to raise community voices in the fight against environmental racism, and to overcome systemic exclusion of frontline communities from decision-making processes. His lived experience, growing up fenceline to a petrochemical facility, continues to drive his work at the intersection of climate, environmental justice, and public health. 

Beto is a founding member of the California Environmental Justice Coalition and the Science and Community Action Network, and a member of multiple national climate & environmental justice networks, including the Moving Forward Network and Midwest EJ Network amongst others. Beto’s contributions to the movement include bottom-up organizing, research, legislation that prioritizes environmental justice, and community-led research to inform policy action, among many other community-engaged initiatives that directly inform state, local, and federal policy with a deep understanding of the environmental rulemaking and advocacy to hold the agencies accountable to environment and public health protection.

Beto has co-authored multiple academic publications on community-based participatory research, air pollution, data accessibility, and community engagement. He also serves in advisory board roles of professional associations and academic institutions, such as the American Public Health Association’s Center for Climate, Health, and Equity; the University of Southern California (USC) Center for Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Translational Research; and the Advisory Board for the Community Engagement Core of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center at USC. Beto currently serves on the United States Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, to provide frontline grassroots perspectives and environmental justice priorities. He is committed to finding ways to improve environmental health literacy and centering fenceline community expertise and solutions.

Selected Publications: