Germaine M. Buck
Louis, Ph.D., M.S.
As the Director of the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research, I have the distinct privilege of working with esteemed public health scientists who are committed to improving the health and well being of populations. The Division’s research spans from the earliest stages of human reproduction and development through adulthood, and focuses on healthy outcomes to help define normal human variation, disease etiology and prevention research. Collectively, this avenue of research facilitates our understanding of disease occurrence and accompanying attributable risks that may be amenable to population-level interventions aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles and behaviors that maximize well being. Our research is also designed to include vulnerable population subgroups, such as pregnant women, fetuses, children, adolescents, and individuals affected by chronic diseases. Examples of key research findings published in 2012 for these various population subgroups include the following, though further details and other discoveries are reported in the individual reports for Division scientists:
- First evidence suggesting that labor is longer for contemporary cohorts of pregnant women
- Identification of genes associated with birth defects
- Development of first successful clinic-linked behavioral intervention promoting healthful lifestyles demonstrating improved glycemic outcomes among children with type 1 diabetes
- First evidence that teenagers drive in a more risky manner on their own compared with when observed by their parents
- New information about the high rate of teenagers driving after drinking or riding with a drinking driver
- First evidence from a prospective cohort study that chemicals at environmentally relevant concentrations and nutrition affect both male and female fecundity, as measured by reproductive hormonal profiles and time-to-pregnancy
A particularly unique aspect of the Division’s research is its commitment to the development of novel methods for improving study design and the analysis of complex population health data. Examples of our methodological discoveries include:
- Development of joint models for assessing menstrual cycles and time-to-pregnancy
- Development of novel methods for pooling biospecimens and combining biomarkers for risk prediction
- Development of risk models for predicting car crashes based upon adolescents’ prior g-force event data
- New methods for predicting binary pregnancy outcomes from multivariate longitudinal fetal growth data
As a Division, we explore the feasibility and utility of new research paradigms that might transform our understanding of the dynamic forces underlying population health. For example, scientists are actively conducting research focusing on the early origins of health and disease hypothesis, including potential trans-generational effects of environmental exposures. Recently, the Division implemented a proof-of-concept study focusing on the newly developed exposome paradigm, whose aim is to assess the totality of environmental exposures during sensitive windows of human reproduction and development. Our research continues to explore the impact of genes and environment from preconception through pregnancy and childhood in recognition of the interrelated nature of health and disease across the lifespan. In 2012, the Division successfully completed enrollment for two large population studies: 1) the Upstate KIDS Study, which is an observational prospective birth cohort study; and 2) the Effects of Aspirin in Gestation and Reproduction (EAGeR) Study, which is a randomized trial assessing the efficacy of low dose aspirin for the prevention of miscarriage. Investigators are actively analyzing data from these studies and hope to have answers about the effect(s) of infertility and its treatment on children’s growth and development through three years of age, and in determining the potential effect of low dose aspirin in preventing miscarriage, respectively. During this past year, Division scientists gave numerous scientific presentations to varied audiences and published over 100 scientific papers. Of note is the utilization of the Division’s research findings for public dissemination such as in the trademarking of the Checkpoint Young Drivers™, a body of research aimed at reducing car crashes amongst teen drivers. Division scientists remain committed to the translation of our findings to ensure that populations have up-to-date information for maximizing their well-being.
Our mission also includes mentoring and professional service. In 2012, the Division mentored 11 postdoctoral fellows, 3 predoctoral fellows, 7 postbaccalaureate fellows, 1 technical fellow, 7 visiting fellows, and 9 summer interns representing 28 academic institutions. In addition, the Division hosted three clinical fellows to further develop their research skills. All fellows are integral members of our research teams and also help to co-mentor summer interns. Our postdoctoral fellows are regularly recruitment targets for tenure track positions across academe and government, as well as for other research positions. Division scientists have been committed to the highly successful NICHD-CIHR Summer Institute in Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology, which recently completed its eighth year after having mentored and trained 157 graduate students representing 14 countries and 73 academic institutions.
Division scientists are active members of their professions serving on editorial boards and as elected officers of professional societies, as well as serving as experts for numerous scientific advisory boards and panels. Such service includes The National Academies, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Transportation Research Board, and other private and public institutions and foundations.
Without exception, the Division remains committed to improving the health and well being of populations. We remain good stewards of the resources offered by the NIH intramural community, as we seek novel ways to conduct research and translate important findings to populations across the globe. Our research benefits from our collaborations with other intramural and extramural NIH scientists, as well as our colleagues at the 17 academic institutions with whom we have had research and development contracts in 2012. We are appreciative of the support we receive from our Institute’s Director, Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, and Scientific Director, Dr. Constantine A. Stratakis. The Division welcomes comments and opportunities for collaborations (comments: email@example.com).
Germaine M. Buck Louis, Ph.D., M.S.