The UCSF EaRTH Center Environmental Scholars Program

A Funded, Community-Based Clinical and Research Program in Environmental Health


NIEHS spotlighted two of our scholars and the Environmental Scholars Program. Read it here!

The application cycle for the 2-year 2023-2025 Environmental Scholar's Program has closed. The next call for applications for the 2024 program will be in Spring 2024.


Check out our previous classes of ESP scholars here.


2-Year 2023-2025 Program Description:

The Environmental Scholars Program (ESP) is a 2-year community-based clinical, research and advocacy program designed to build the next generation of environmental health leaders. Each year, the ESP will provide two medical or nursing students with a summer internship experience to learn about factors in the environment that determine health outcomes. Students will be placed with an environmental organization, community clinic or community health organization to work with underserved communities with multiple potential environmental chemical exposures. With substantive guidance from EaRTH members, students will also help support and co-implement an environmental health elective for their peers.


ESP Students will gain an understanding of:

  • The complexity of environmental exposures from healthcare provider, patient and community member perspectives;
  • The chemical, physical, and organizational (e.g., community, workplace) factors that play a role in environmental health;
  • The importance of designing environmental interventions to meet the needs of specific and diverse groups of people; and
  • The role of environmental health and safety professionals in improving patient and community health.


ESP students will be mentored by an EaRTH Center member as well as an onsite supervisor. At the end of the summer project, students will have completed a “give back” deliverable to their host organization, such as data analyses, environmental health education, survey tool, and/or outreach materials, policy reports, or publications related to the students’ research at their host organizations. Students will also give a presentation about their summer internship experience at the annual EaRTH Center Research Forum, attended by EaRTH Center members, the Stakeholder Advisor Board, representatives of host organizations, and the larger community.


ESP students will also design and conduct a more complex project. Students are strongly encouraged to link this project to summer internship activities, to further serve community-voiced needs. As needed, EaRTH Center clinical and research mentors and the Pilot Project Program will link students to the Center’s research activities, faculty mentors, and the network of stakeholders in the healthcare professional community. The project can be qualitative or quantitative but must be achievable by the end of the 2nd year of the program. Students will write an accompanying blog post (or equivalent) on the project for communications with the broader community and present at the annual EaRTH Center Research Forum.  ESP students will receive a total stipend of $7.5K for participating in the 2-year program.


Summer 2022 Internship Placements:  Past internship placements have included PSE Healthy Energy, a science and policy research institute focused on the intersection of public health, climate and the natural environment, and energy production; the Bayview Hunter’s Point Community Advocates, a grassroots organization led by long-term members of the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco that combines community organizing with education, advocacy, and direct services, taking an active role in mobilizing the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood on issues of environmental and economic justice; the Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, which focuses on healthcare worker pediatric environmental health trainings and curriculum development; and working on community-based research projects such as the health impacts of wildfire smoke exposure, among other placements.


Summer assignments in 2023 – which generally run from June through mid-August (8 weeks) - may include working on a range of different projects, such as assessing exposures in vulnerable communities, assisting with environmental health assessments, and compiling data for health equity projects. Placements and projects for Summer 2023 will be determined with the ESP students, site supervisors, and EARTH Center faculty based on the students’ interests and emerging research and project opportunities.


2023 Environmental Scholars Program

2-Year Program



Sorvena Yoyo

Medical student

Bayview Hunter's Point Community Advocates

Sorvena is a second-year medical student at UCSF. She is originally from Boston, Massachusetts. She obtained her BS in Public Health from University of Massachusetts Amherst where she first became interested in addressing the social determinants of health and their impacts on the health and wellness of Black communities. Her interest was driven by her service trip to Haiti where her family is from, to which she learned of the numerous environmental pollutants poisoning her community. She hopes to continue to work on eradicating health disparities of Black individuals locally and eventually globally. What she is most excited about ESP is connecting and collaborating with community members. 

2022 Environmental Scholars Program

3-Year Program

Read about their projects here


Hannah El-Sabrout

Medical student

Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Unit

Hannah is a medical student at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program and a UCSF PRIME-US scholar. She grew up in San Diego, California and graduated from UCLA with a degree in Human Biology and Society, and a concentration in Medicine and Public Health. Her research interests include how climate change affects cardiovascular disease, water-/vector-borne illnesses, and nutrition as well as exploring if and how microplastics affect health. Hannah is excited to be a part of the ESP to gain more experience working on environmental health initiatives as well as working with community leaders to help eliminate the vast health disparities that exist within our society. In her free time, Hannah enjoys dancing, hiking, baking, crocheting, and doing yoga!

Valerie Kahkejian

Medical student

Bayview Hunter's Point Community Advocates

Valerie is a first-year medical student at UCSF. Her undergraduate studies in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology inspired a love for the natural world and sparked an interest in environmental issues. After graduation, she spent several years doing conservation work on public lands in Utah and doing research on coral bleaching in Hawai'i. These experiences helped to elucidate the intimate connections between human health/society and the environment. Through the ESP, she seeks to combine her interests in protecting the health of marginalized communities along with advocating for rapid decarbonization and environmental protection. Her interests include investigating the health impacts of climate change in poor and vulnerable communities and climate change fueled food insecurity. In her free time, she loves reading, photography, trail running, surfing, and backpacking.


2021 Environmental Scholars Program

3-Year Program

Read about their projects here


Lizbeth Cabrera

Nursing student

Bayview Hunter's Point Community Advocates

Lizbeth is a Family Health Nurse Practitioner candidate at UCSF’s School of Nursing. She received a B.S in Nutritional Science: Physiology and Metabolism from UC Berkeley. Liz has over six years of experience in reproductive health, community outreach and education. Her interests include learning more about how environmental exposures disproportionately impact unstably housed families in San Francisco and how to build effective screening tools for clinical application in identifying these exposures.

Anna Claire Fernández

Medical student

Wildfire Smoke  Exposure Community  Research 

AC is a first-year medical student at the UC Berkeley/UCSF Joint Medical Program. A native New Yorker, she graduated from Cornell University in 2017 and subsequently worked as a case manager and Spanish language interpreter at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Immigrant Health & Cancer Disparities Service. Her research interests lie in the community health benefits associated with federal and local renewable energy transitions. She plans to focus her time with the Environmental Scholars Program examining the impact of fossil fuel extraction on reproductive health in rural communities. She will be working with faculty in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology this summer to investigate the relationship between wildfire smoke exposure and adverse birth outcomes. In her free time, she loves playing basketball and the ukulele, DJing, and fantasizing about adopting a dog.

Olivia Leventhal

Medical student

PSE Healthy Energy

Olivia is a first-year medical student who grew up in Venice, California and went to Swarthmore College where she studied neuroscience. She initially got interested in environmental health and climate change through her work in Tanzania as the founder of a nonprofit organization raising money for a public primary school. There she learned how poor water quality was negatively impacting the communities’ health and that the mitigation strategy of rainwater harvesting to provide clean water was negatively impacted by climate change as the community experienced increasing drought. She's excited to cultivate skills to address environmental determinants of health that are exacerbated by climate change.

Madeline Matthys

Medical student

PSE Healthy Energy

Project Description

Madeline is a first-year medical student at UCSF. She's from Santa Barbara, CA but traveled to North Carolina to attend Duke University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Bachelor of Arts in French, and a minor in Chemistry. She (promptly) returned to California to work for 2 years as a patient advocate and clinical researcher at the UCSF Breast Care Center, where she studied personalized breast cancer screening regimens. Madeline's love of all things outdoors is what sparked her interest in environmental health, sustainability, and climate health research. When she's not bothering her friends about reducing their plastic usage, you can probably find her cycling up Mt. Tam, backpacking in Pt Reyes, or swimming in the bay!