The Southeast Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit


We are a team of experts in the prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment of health issues that arise from environmental exposures from preconception through adolescence. We provide the following services to reduce risk of environmental exposures to children and families and mitigate potential health effects before they happen:

  • Education
  • Consultation
  • Outreach
  • Referral for both health professionals and communities

Our team has expertise in pediatrics, toxicology, occupational and environmental health, nursing, obstetrics, and education. We regularly consult and collaborate with 9 other PEHSUs around the country. We work together to address any reproductive and children’s environmental health issue that affects families and communities, including safer disinfectant use (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic), wildfire smoke, PFAS, lead, pesticides, mold, and more.

Beliefs & Mission

Core Beliefs

  • We believe all children have the right to live in a healthy environment.
  • We recognize the influence of environmental health disparities and environmental racism on all aspects of our work.
  • As children’s environmental health professionals, we will uphold ethical, evidence-based standards to guide our work.


Improve the environmental health of children by providing evidence-based education and consultative services to the Southeastern United States.


Abby Mutic - PEHSU
Abby Mutic - PEHSU

Abby Mutic, PhD, CNM, is an Assistant Professor from Emory University School of Nursing, a Certified Nurse Midwife, and the Director of the Southeast Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit(SE PEHSU). Her expertise is in environmental exposures and respiratory health among women and children. She oversees multiple community outreach projects in the Southeast and consults with exposed communities and healthcare providers experiencing large and small environmental hazards. Dr. Mutic is a mindful researcher, employing continuous community guidance for research development, interpretation, and educational report-back.

Melissa Halliday Gittinger - PEHSU
Halliday Gittinger
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Medical Toxicology, Emory University School of Medicine
Melissa Halliday Gittinger - PEHSU

Dr. Gittinger completed her residency in emergency medicine at Indiana University and her fellowship in medical toxicology at Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She works clinically in the Emergency Department at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA and at the Georgia Poison Center. She currently serves as an assistant professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicology at Emory University’s School of Medicine. Her professional interests include medical education, acute toxicologic exposures, environmental toxicology, and reduction of pediatric and maternal exposures to environmental toxins. When she is not working clinically, Dr. Gittinger enjoys spending time and traveling with her husband and two toddler girls.

Rebecca Philipsborn - PEHSU
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine
Rebecca Philipsborn - PEHSU

Dr. Philipsborn is a general pediatrician at Emory University School of Medicine and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, practicing at Hughes Spalding Primary Care Center. Core PEHSU faculty, she serves as the Scholars Director for the Pediatric and Reproductive Health Scholars – Southeast Exposures and Disparities (PREHS-SEED) K12 program.  At Emory, she Directs the Pediatric Clerkship as well as the Climate Change and Environmental Health “thread” for medical students.  Her scholarly work focuses on understanding the influence of climate change on child health and educating our learners about climate change and environmental health.  She serves on the executive committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change US Working Group.  She completed medical school and residency training at Emory University, holds an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and an AB in English from Princeton University

Victoria L. Green - PEHSU
Victoria L.
Professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Emory University School of Medicine | Associate Chief Medical Officer and Associate Chief Quality Officer for Emory Decatur, Emory Long Acute Care, and Emory Hillandale Hospitals
Victoria L. Green - PEHSU

Dr. Green is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and a Fellow of both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Legal Medicine. She currently serves as director of the Gynecology Comprehensive Breast Clinic, a division of the Avon Breast Clinic in the Georgia Cancer Center of Excellence, Winship Cancer Institute, where she has direct responsibility for residency and medical student training. She has published several times and is both previously and currently very active in a number of research projects focusing on the Alliance for Innovation in Maternal Health (AIM) patient safety bundles, breastfeeding rates in underserved populations, risk assessment and BRCA testing in the breast clinic population, applicability and clinical relevance of current risk assessment models and educational tools for patients at high risk for breast cancer, domestic violence issues in the minority population, barriers to HPV vaccination among minority women and the impact of the Medicaid revisions on pregnancy outcomes. She lectures regionally and nationally for both physicians and attorneys at leading conferences.  In addition, Dr. Green has functioned as a consultant for the Emory Regional Training Center, the LIFE Residency Wellness Curriculum Board and the State of Georgia, Department of Human Resources/ Women’s Health Division.

I. Leslie Rubin - PEHSU
I. Leslie
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine
I. Leslie Rubin - PEHSU

Dr. Rubin is a Developmental Pediatrician who is clinically active in caring for children with developmental disabilities and their families in his private practice, as well directing interdisciplinary clinics for children with Autism and Cerebral Palsy at CHOA Hughes Spalding, and consulting to the Emory Neurodevelopmental Exposure Clinic. He is the primary editor of Health Care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan, Springer 2016. In 2004, he founded the non-profit Break the Cycle of Health Disparities, Inc. and started the annual Break the Cycle of Children’s Environmental Health Disparities program in partnership with the Southeast PEHSU to raise awareness among university students about children’s environmental health disparities and to cultivate future leaders to address these challenges. He currently serves on the National Advisory Council for Children and Disasters. Dr. Rubin’s personal mission is to work in collaboration with others on reducing children’s health disparities and promote health equity for all children, locally, nationally, and globally in the context of environmental and social justice and in the face climate change. 

Henry Falk - PEHSU
Adjunct Professor, Environmental Health at Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
Henry Falk - PEHSU

Dr Henry Falk served in multiple capacities at CDC, including Assistant Administrator of ATSDR, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health, member of the Executive Leadership Board, and Director of the Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention.  He retired from the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps after 30 years of service as Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General, and from the CDC in December, 2010, although he continued there as a part-time consultant to the Deputy Director, ONDIEH/CDC on global aspects of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury and Environmental Health until 2018.  Currently, he is at Emory Rollins School of Public Health as an Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health, and also consults in global environmental health, particularly in India and Israel.  At CDC, he helped start the environmental health, injury, disaster epidemiology, lead poisoning prevention, asthma, radiation studies, hazardous waste investigations, and a variety of other programs; he began his career at CDC as an EIS Officer and worked on the initial

Wayne Garfinkel - PEHSU
Wayne Garfinkel - PEHSU

Before retiring 3 years ago, Wayne Garfinkel was responsible for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Southeast Children’s Environmental Health Programs. This responsibility included liaison activities between the SE PEHSU and EPA, and implementing projects, programs and supporting research activities to reduce children’s exposures to radon, contaminated water, poor air quality, lead-based paint, pesticides, asbestos, mercury and other environmental hazards.

He received a Civil Engineering degree from the University of Florida and attended graduate school at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University.  He worked 40 years with the EPA and three years as an Engineering Consultant. Consulting engineering experience includes planning and managing construction of municipal waste pollution control facilities.  EPA work experience includes Pollution Prevention, Toxic Substances, Pesticides, Municipal Wastewater Facilities Design, Construction and Grant Management, Water Quality, Hazardous Waste and Remediation Engineering.

In addition to serving as a consultant for the SE PEHSU, he is the leader of the Roswell Marietta Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and volunteers for the Chattahoochee River Keepers, Environmental Voters Project and Backpack Buddies.

Nathan Mutic - PEHSU
Associate Director of Research Projects
Nathan Mutic - PEHSU

Nathan Mutic is an Associate Director of Research Projects at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing where he oversees daily operations of the Emory University Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. He is passionate about improving children’s environmental health through impactful partnerships.

Jahmisha Octalien - PEHSU
Project Coordinator
Jahmisha Octalien - PEHSU

Jahmisha Octalien is a Project Coordinator for Emory University’s Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) at the Nell Hodgson School of Nursing.

In 5 years, she sees herself being fulfilled in her work by being a source of knowledge and bridging the gap in environmental justice for underserved communities.

When not working with PEHSU, Jahmisha enjoys creating DIY projects, listening to music, and traveling to new places.

Maya Bliss - PEHSU
Maya Bliss - PEHSU

Maya is currently pursuing her Masters in Environmental Health at Rollins School of Public Health.

In five years, Maya sees herself doing impactful work that she loves, surrounded by community and continuing to explore.

“This work matters to me because I believe that all people with an environmental health concern should feel empowered to seek help or resources to address these issues in their communities.”

 When Maya is not working with the PEHSU, she enjoys being outside! Her hobbies include hiking, swimming, cooking, eating, experiencing live music, and exploring with her dog.

Adrienne Parks - PEHSU
Adrienne Parks - PEHSU

Adrienne is currently a Master of Public Health Candidate at Rollins School of Public Health; Behavioral Social and Health Education Sciences.

In 5 years, she sees herself working hard with the community to solve problems and move towards a more just society.

“This work matters to me because I believe that it takes passion, dedication, and effort to right injustices.” 

When not working with PEHSU, Adrienne enjoys cooking new vegan recipes, exploring Atlanta’s hidden gems, and being in nature.

Octavia Vogel - PEHSU
Octavia Vogel - PEHSU

Octavia is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Philosophy in Nursing. She works with the PEHSU, Center for Black Women's Wellness, and Emory Center for Digital Scholarship on an augmented reality project focused on integrating technology with the PEHSU's existing Prescriptions for Prevention. Prescriptions for Prevention is currently used to engage community members with information to increase awareness about a variety of environmental exposures. In 5 years she sees herself bridging the gap between research and practice through research translation and implementation. 

“This work matters to me because I believe that disparities can be eliminated by ensuring that healthcare is equitable.”

When Octavia is not working with the PEHSU, she enjoys gardening and reading.

PEHSU Projects

Break the Cycle

Children who grow up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage are at greater risk for exposure to adverse environmental factors and are more likely to suffer adverse health and developmental consequences. Break the Cycle supports an interdisciplinary set of student-driven research projects that explore the environmental, economic and social factors that adversely affect children’s health and creatively develop strategies to promote the health of children and, thereby, Break the Cycle of Children’s Environmental Health Disparities. 

Cleaning and Disinfecting in Schools

While it is important to clean and disinfect to prevent the spread of germs, it is also important to do it in a way that does not put children at risk of exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals. We developed a short online course designed to communicate the importance of and best practices for safe cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting in schools and early learning centers. This course is for anyone who works in a school or early learning center that cares about the health of kids.

Explore Project

Hurricane Resiliency

In collaboration with PEHSU Region 2 and 6, and in response to anticipated natural and man-made emergency events in the United States, PEHSU Region 4 strives to provide resources to families and build community readiness and resilience in areas affected by hurricanes. Medical and toxicology experts in reproductive and children’s environmental health are utilized to consult and educate clinicians and child-care facilities to enhance their ability to manage, resolve, and/or respond to environmental threats and health risks to children and pregnant women. These resources also help to prepare for and understand what effects may be encountered in a disaster. 

Explore Project


The goal of the PFAS supplemental grant is to increase awareness among health professionals in practice and in training of potential health impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as well as increase healthcare providers’ capacity to provide risk mitigation guidance to patients and improved clinical care to environmentally exposed individuals. 

Prescription for Prevention

<a href="">Image by wirestock</a> on Freepik

The environment starts impacting the health of children before they are born. Children are more at risk of negative health impacts of environmental exposures than adults for a number of reasons. The eat and breathe more pound for pound than adults. They also have unique behaviors such as crawling and putting their hands in their mouth. Additionally, their mind and body are still developing. We created a series of short informational documents called, “Prescriptions for Prevention,” which are designed to provide information and resources about a host of environmental exposures from lead, to second hand smoke, to beauty products. Click on the document links below to see the full prescription. You can also take our environmental health screener to see which prescriptions are right for you.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Storytelling with virtual reality (VR) has shown promise as a tool for medical education to convey complex environmental health concepts in ways that connect users back to real-world experiences.

Our PEHSU collaborates with Dr. Sun-Joo Ahn from University of Georgia to create  VR experiences to convey complex environmental health concepts to school nurses, administrators, and parent advocates. The focus will be on exposures associated with the use of cleaning and disinfecting products in school settings.

A five-minute VR experience will be disseminated to region 4 schools to help school nurses, administrators, and parent advocates understand how environmental triggers can provoke or exacerbate respiratory illness in children while also allowing them to have up to date information on how to safely and properly use cleaning and disinfecting products to mitigate environmental triggers (including viruses) to effectively reduce the spread of disease in the school setting.

We anticipate this VR experience will have a direct positive impact on students resulting from fewer indoor environmental asthma triggers, and plan to share this module with other PEHSUs and encourage the adoption of this innovative technology for environmental health risk communication


Emory University
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
1520 Clifton Road, 2nd Floor
Atlanta, GA 30322, USA



Center for Children’s Health Assessment, Research Translation, and Combating Environmental Racism (CHARTER). Working to develop effective strategies to translate research findings of importance to children’s environmental health to relevant stakeholders in the community, academia, and healthcare.

View Site


A five-year, multimillion-dollar grant awarded December 2021 that allows Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine to develop a research training program for clinical faculty to evaluate environmental health exposures and disparities to improve health equity

View Site


HERCULES is an NIEHS-funded Environmental Health Sciences Core Center at Emory and Georgia Tech. HERCULES serves as an intellectual hub in the advancement and translation of exposome research to improve human health.

View Site


The Games and Virtual Environments Lab (GAVEL) serves as University of Georgia’s premier facility for conducting interdisciplinary research on the experience and effects of immersion in virtual- and mixed-reality environments. Adopting a theoretically-driven, social scientific approach, we examine how new technologies create novel contexts that influence user attitudes and perceptions. In pursuit of this, we study the extent to which virtual experiences shape the ways that people think, feel, and behave in the physical world.

View Site

Center for Black Women's Wellness

Empowering women to become whole, healed and well.

View Site

Break the Cycle

Break the Cycle of Children's environmental health disparities focuses on raising awareness of children's health disparities and on cultivating future leaders among university students nationally and internationally.

View Site


TruePani is an engineering and communications firm intersecting environmental science and public health for safer drinking water and cleaner air. TruePani's main area of expertise is lead in drinking water; the firm also works on zero-emission public transportation vehicle projects nationwide.

View Site

Mother to Baby

Expert, confidential & no-cost information about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding by phone, text, email and chat.

View Site

Georgia Poison Center

Since 1970, the Georgia Poison Center (GPC) has operated the 24-hour poison emergency treatment information service, providing assistance and expertise in the medical diagnosis and management of human and animal poisonings. The Center provides free, timely advice and information to parents, child care providers, pharmacists, nurses, and doctors and plays a significant role in reducing the cost of treatment and the severity of poisonings where time is of the essence.

View Site

Florida’s Poison Control Centers

Florida’s Poison Control Centers provide residents with immediate assistance with managing poisonings of all kinds via the national Poison Help® line (1-800-222-1222). The centers, located in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa, also provide support to clinicians managing poisoned patients and work closely with local and state public health authorities. In addition to the 24/7 hotline services, the centers also provide prevention education and outreach on various environmental health topics including child safety, lead, food contamination and post-storm hazards.

View Site

Science for Georgia

Science for Georgia is a non-profit that works to ensure Georgia understands, values, and engages with science. We are dedicated to bridging the gap between scientists and the public through training, outreach, and advocating for the responsible use of science in public policy.

View Site