EOH and Epi-Bio Alumni and Staff Present Posters at ACE

The American College of Epidemiology’s (ACE) annual meeting, held in nearby Silver Spring, Md., drew nearly 220 attendees working in government, industry, and academia from as far away as Tanzania to discuss how to make epidemiology more consequential.  In addition to EOH Professor and Department Chair Melissa Perry, who currently serves as ACE’s president and chaired the meeting’s Program Planning Committee, more than a dozen Milken Institute School of Public Health faculty, staff, and alumni attended the meeting. Five people associated with the EOH and Epidemiology-Biostatistics departments presented posters.

“It was the best poster session I ever attended,” says Tiffany Stallings, a postdoctoral scientist working for Assistant Professor Kate Applebaum.  The session was well-attended, and many conference-goers stayed for the entire two hours that the posters were up, she says.  She suspects that the event’s convivial nature played a role in inspiring the high level of participation, which she attributes to good planning on the part of the conference’s organizers.  Drinks were served, a 3-piece jazz band played, and waiters bearing trays of hors d'oeuvres ensured that attendees were able to refresh themselves throughout the event, recalls Stallings, who presented work she conducted while earning her PhD. 

Recent Environmental Health Science and Policy MPH alumna Alexandra “Ali” Goldstone traveled to Silver Spring to exhibit a poster describing her work investigating links between men’s exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and the quality of their sperm.  BPA can be used in polycarbonate plastics such as food and beverage containers, including water bottles, as well as in the epoxy resins used to coat the inside of metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply lines.  Together with a group of researchers including her advisor, Dr. Perry, Goldstone used linear regression models and other statistical tools to evaluate associations between BPA levels in urine and 35 characteristics of semen quality among a group of 418 men.  The work fails to corroborate previous findings of adverse impacts.  Goldstone and colleagues identified a protective effect between BPA and sperm DNA fragmentation, but did not find associations with any of the other measures of semen quality.

Goldstone says she appreciates that the annual meeting’s focus on making epidemiology more consequential. “The EOH faculty emphasizes translating their research into practice and policy-making and, as students and graduates, we understand that this step is crucial in ensuring the health and safety of our country’s population. I was pleased to see that this is a priority for the ACE, as well,” says Goldstone, who is currently working as an epidemiologist in the Environmental and Health Sciences team at ICF International in Fairfax, VA. “I have been using all of my MPH-related knowledge gained at GW to conduct various literature reviews and quantitative data analyses, to perform the problem formulation for an exposure assessment, to synthesize data from epidemiology and toxicology studies, and to evaluate epidemiological studies for risks of bias to support several different offices at the Environmental Protection Agency,” she says.

Occupational Injuries and Discrimination

EOH Professorial Lecturer Seung-Sup Kim, who received his DrPH from our department, presented two posters on occupational topics.  He collaborated with Dr. Perry and Lina Lander, Associate Professor at University of Nebraska Medical Center, on “A Comparison of Case-Crossover, Case-Control, and Narrative Text Analysis to Study Occupational Injuries.”  The study compared the findings of the three methods to examine risk factors for laceration injuries among meatpacking workers.  The team identified discrepancies in risk associations with the three methods. The suitability of the two analytical methods relates to the temporality of the exposure, they found, whereas text analyses showed that analyzing open ended reports from workers can glean new information.

Dr. Kim’s second poster is about work conducted with a colleague at Korea University.  “Association Between Work-Related Discrimination and Low Back Pain Among Korean Employees:  Role of Labor Union Status as an Effect Modifier,” describes their analysis of work-related discrimination reports among nearly 30,000 Korean workers who responded to a survey about working conditions.  They found work-related discrimination in response to reports of low-back pain only among those respondents employed by workplaces without labor unions. 

Epi-Bio Research

In addition to Dr. Perry, who holds a secondary appointment in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics department, four faculty and alumni from the department attended the ACE meeting.  The faculty were Professor Richard Reigelman, who also holds appointments in Medicine and in Health Policy and is the Founding Dean of The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health, and Associate Professor Heather Young, co-director of the program’s epidemiology track.  Two recent alumni from the department, Pierre Cartier and Nana Ama K. Afari-Dwamena, presented posters. 

Cartier is a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) who recently earned his MPH in Epidemiology and is currently pursuing a Health Policy certificate.  He is currently a Supervisory Dental Officer for the District of Columbia Department of Health.  Dr. Cartier’s poster describes his culminating experience project investigating the correlations between the levels of metabolites of two phthalate plasticizers in human urine and the presence of moderate to advanced periodontitis, or severe gum disease.  He conducted this research together with his advisor, Dr. Perry, and Bruce Dye, an oral health expert who is a dental officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. 

Cartier and his fellow researchers used data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is designed to be statistically representative of the U.S. population.  Their research findings suggest that two plasticizers used in consumer products and building materials, di-n-octyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, may be associated with advanced periodontitis among adults.

Current MPH student Hamid Ferdosi and Afari-Dwamena, who received her MPH in 2013, took turns presenting a paper they coauthored with researchers from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health titled “Risk Factors for Small for Gestational Age (SGA) in Central Appalachia Counties with Mountain-Top Mining (MTM).” 

Stallings presented a poster describing work she conducted while earning her PhD at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. She and a group of colleagues used data collected via the prospective longitudinal Infant Feeding Practices Study II (IFPS II) conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC in collaboration with other federal agencies. The study recruited pregnant women and followed them through their infants’ first birthday, collecting data through mailed questionnaires.

Based on their responses, Stallings’ group evaluated the women’s fruit and vegetable intake during their pregnancies and postpartum by poverty status and participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The researchers' findings suggest the value of informing women whose family incomes qualify them for WIC about their financial eligibility for the program.