Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

About Us

The threats to health and well-being posed by occupational and environmental factors are complex and require transdisciplinary and innovative approaches to improve the health, safety, and well-being of workers and communities. In addition to utilizing the best available research practices and interventions, solutions must also consider geographic, economic, behavioral, cultural and political dimensions. The SWCOEH addresses these threats by providing graduate-level education in environmental and occupational health, conducting research into the causes, prevention, and control of disease and injury, engaging in research to practice activities, and providing continuing education and outreach to key interest groups and populations at risk. An external advisory board comprised of members from industry, labor, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academia provide guidance to the SWCOEH on current and future directions.


Our Work



Our faculty conduct research to understand the causes and conditions of occupational and environmental hazards and risks to human health and well-being. We develop and translate research findings and interventions that bring research to practice, and research to policy to improve health, safety, and well-being. Transdisciplinary research that supports the development of innovative and effective interventions to improve worker well-being are at the heart of our research portfolio and include priority areas of climate change, environmental risk assessment, global occupational health, contingent workers, violence prevention, and worker health, safety, and well-being.



The SWCOEH provides graduate-level training to prepare the next generation of occupational and environmental health professionals through our interdisciplinary programs in industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, occupational epidemiology, and Total Worker Health®. The Pilot Projects Research Training Program supports early career scientists develop research skills and fosters inter-institutional ties in occupational health research within Public Health Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas).


Continuing Education and Outreach

The Continuing Education (CE) Program develops and delivers specialized courses in response to training needs of occupational and environmental health professionals. Our CE staff work with key interest groups to respond to training needs around o emerging issues in occupational and environmental health. The Outreach program engages partners and stakeholders in activities that promote well-being among at-risk workers and communities. Our outreach program has a unique focus on the health, safety, and well-being of the contingent workforce.

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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is required to provide an adequate supply of qualified personnel to carry out the purposes of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Public Law 91-596). The NIOSH-funded Education and Research Centers (ERCs) are one of the principal means for meeting this mandate.

The SWCOEH was one of the original nine ERCs first funded in 1977, and has been continuously funded since. Today, there are 18 ERCs. These university-based Centers carry out multidisciplinary education and research training activities and offer graduate and postgraduate training in the core and allied fields of occupational safety and health.

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P2R Consortium

The Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (P2R) Consortium, a large multi-site, multi-program training project funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Worker Training Program (WTP) that develops and delivers preparedness training to workers and volunteers across the nation. The mission of the P2R Consortium is to reduce work-related harm and improve disaster preparedness and response. The P2R serves as a resource for workers, responders, and communities across the country with a targeted focus on the population of United States Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Regions 5, 6, and 8.

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Total Worker Health® Affiliate

NIOSH established the Total Worker Health® Affiliates program to advance worker well-being through non-funded collaborations with public and private organizations and to expand their commitment to Total Worker Health approaches. The SWCOEH joined the TWH Affiliates program in 2019, and the TWH doctoral program was established in 2018 as the first and only graduate-level program in TWH in the world.


The SWCOEH was established in 1977 as one of the first nine National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-funded Education and Research Centers (ERC), and is now one of only 18 ERCs in the nation. Marcus M. Key, MD, MIH, founding director of NIOSH, was also the first director of the SWCOEH ERC.  In 1985, the SWCOEH became a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health.  Having grown considerably since we were established, we also conduct research on how environmental and occupational exposures affect health and on how to mitigate health risks associated with these exposures. As of 2019, the SWCOEH has been officially approved as an affiliate of the NIOSH Total Worker Health program, strengthening a partnership spanning more than 40 years.


2024 to Present
Sarah A. Felknor, DrPH
David Gimeno Ruiz de Porras, PhD
Elaine Symanski, PhD
Sarah A. Felknor, DrPH
George L. Delclos, MD, MPH, PhD
Lawrence W. Whitehead, PhD
Patricia Buffler, RN, PhD
Edward J. Fairchild II, PhD
Marcus M. Key, MD, MIH