Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D.

For nearly three decades, Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., has advanced Native American health by combining basic research, population-level studies, clear science communication, and robust partnerships with tribes. Lewis co-directs the Center for Native American Environmental Health Equity Research, along with Joseph Hoover, Ph.D., and Debra Mackenzie, Ph.D.

Lewis spoke with NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D., about her efforts to address tribal health issues, effectively communicate findings, partner with communities in identifying research questions, and reduce exposures.

“Ultimately, our science relies on strong relationships with community partners. And those relationships are built on trust, communication, and humility on the part of scientists,” Lewis said. “By first listening to tribal members and understanding their needs, we can enhance our research and its impact, and empower communities with knowledge they need to improve their health.”

At the center, Lewis and team work closely with three indigenous communities — Navajo, Apsáalooke, and Cheyenne River Sioux — to understand how residents may exposed to metal mixtures from abandoned mine sites and burning of plastic through inhalation, drinking water, and food. Read more in the NIEHS Environmental Factor Newsletter.