News Releases

News Releases

For Immediate Release

Environmental Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Recruits Clinical Director To Study Region’s Asthma Problem

Grant from Heinz Endowments helped establish center and recruit Fernando Holguin, MD, MPH

The Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has recruited a nationally renowned asthma researcher to lead its efforts to identify how environmental risk factors impact asthma in this region and develop new education, prevention and treatment strategies.

Fernando Holguin, MD, MPH, will serve as the clinical director of the Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center. The center is funded through a five-year, $5 million grant Children’s Hospital received from The Heinz Endowments in 2007.

Dr. Holguin and his team will identify communities in the region where asthma is most prevalent and begin studying environmental risk factors that might impact asthma in those regions. They will utilize Children’s Hospital’s Ronald McDonald Care Mobile to conduct these studies, and the communities to be studied are currently being identified. Patient recruitment is expected to begin in 2009.

“The opening of the Pediatric Environmental Center and the recruitment of a scientist as talented as Dr. Holguin to direct clinical operations is a wonderful achievement,” Heinz Endowments Chairman Teresa Heinz said. “This moves our region one step further toward the Endowments’ ultimate goal, which is to see every health care system incorporating environmental medicine as a routine part of comprehensive health care.”    

In those communities, Dr. Holguin’s team will identify children already diagnosed with asthma and also screen children to identify previously undiagnosed cases. The researchers will then study what environmental risk factors might play a role in these patients’ asthma severity and their ability to control symptoms.

“Environmental risk factors that may affect asthma include everything from depression and obesity to secondhand smoke and air pollution exposure. We plan to study areas where asthma rates are higher than normal and/or there are suspected risk factors such as air pollution,” said Dr. Holguin. “Once we better identify which of these environmental risk factors are most prevalent, we will evaluate how the stressors are related to the severity and control of the patients’ asthma. Then we can begin to develop education, prevention and treatment strategies that are sustainable in these communities.”

In addition to his new role at Children’s Hospital, Dr. Holguin also will serve as a pulmonologist in the Asthma and Allergic Diseases Research Center at UPMC. He comes to Pittsburgh from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he was a pulmonologist and epidemiologist conducting clinical and epidemiological asthma research. He was the director of Emory’s Asthma Translational Research Program.

The asthma burden in Pennsylvania is especially acute in children and other special populations, such as African Americans, females, people with low income and those with limited education.  In the Pittsburgh region, asthma is diagnosed at about the same rate as the national average. However, use of emergency services by children with asthma in Greater Pittsburgh is 300 percent to 400 percent above the national average, and asthma hospitalization rates for children are two to three times higher than recommended by recent studies.

Dr. Holguin earned a medical degree from La Salle University School of Medicine in Mexico City in 1991. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in 1995 and his fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Emory in 1996. In 2006, he earned a master’s of public health degree with a concentration in epidemiology from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. In addition to his new roles in Pittsburgh, Dr. Holguin is the chair-elect of the American Thoracic Society’s Environmental and Occupational Health Program committee.


Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
January 2, 2014
  • Increase/Decrease Text Size
  • Print This Page
Last Update
January 2, 2014