Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health


Shreela and Vibhu Sharma expand community nutrition and health endowment to include climate health and sustainability

Published: May 21, 2024

mr. and mrs. sharma
Dr. and Mr. Sharma update their endowment, now named Shreela and Vibhu Sharma Endowment for Excellence in Community Nutrition, Climate Health, and Sustainability, which expands the intention of the endowment to incorporate environmental matters.

Designed to support pre-doctoral fellows and educational opportunities at UTHealth Houston, the Shreela and Vibhu Sharma Endowment for Excellence in Community Nutrition, Climate Health, and Sustainability, one of many celebrated endowments at the university, has expanded to incorporate environmental matters. Established in 2017 by long-standing university supporters Shreela Sharma, PhD, RDN, LD and Vibhu Sharma, the endowment recognizes the significance and implications of the environment of community health.

"Climate health is critical to maintaining public health, and we are currently experiencing a global climate crisis. This warrants immediate attention, which inspired us to amend the endowment," said Shreela, professor and vice-chair of the Department of Epidemiology at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health.  

Many endowment beneficiaries have dedicated their academic careers and utilized the endowment to identify actionable changes to improve community health and wellness, particularly in vulnerable populations. Pre-doctoral fellows collaborate closely with school research centers and local non-profits. "Climate health solutions naturally lend themselves to cross-sector collaborations between for-profit, research, and non-profit entities to develop solutions that are community-driven, impactful, scalable, and sustainable," said Shreela, who also serves as the director for the Center for Health Equity.

Close collaborators for the endowment include the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, the Center for Health Equity, and non-profit organizations such as Brighter Bites. The recent revision to the endowment continues the core intentions of improving community wellness and now extends a targeted focus toward climate health and sustainability. Through this expansion, fellows and students can partner with research centers such as the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health to address the impact of climate change on public health.

"Climate health has a monumental impact on our food system. Extreme climate events and increased emissions and landfill waste adversely affect our health and the air we breathe," said Vibhu. "Climate disasters can immediately impact the food supply chain, increasing food insecurity in our communities. Improving climate health can greatly stabilize our food systems locally and globally."

The primary and direct outcome of the endowment is to support students in their learning while consequentially developing actionable solutions to improve community and climate health. "We look forward to furthering conversations, collaborations, and research to promote advocacy and catalyze solutions that improve climate health," said Shreela.

Shreela Sharma co-founded Brighter Bites alongside Lisa Helfman, senior director of public affairs for H-E-B's Houston Region. Brighter Bites delivers fresh fruits and vegetables directly to families and teaches them how to prepare the food. Since its inception in 2012, Brighter Bites has delivered millions of pounds of fresh produce and nutrition education to children and families in multiple cities across the U.S..

Vibhu Sharma is the CEO of InnoVent Renewables, a renewable energy company that converts waste tires into valuable fuels and chemicals, and CEO of InnoVent Technology, a technology company that provides engineering and technological solutions to oil and gas, and chemical industries.