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Yale Public Health Magazine, Focus: Spring 2022


Improving maternal and child health has long been a cornerstone of the Yale School of Public Health’s mission—from the pioneering poliomyelitis research of Drs. John Rodman Paul and Dorothy Horstmann to the groundbreaking indoor air quality studies of Brian Leaderer and community alliances for better health established by Jeannette Ickovics. YSPH's innovative research and practice initiatives, along with its many interdisciplinary collaborations addressing maternal and child health, span decades and extend around the world. It is impossible for us to fully represent all of the individuals involved in this important effort. Rather, we present to you here a sampling of just some of the Yale public health pioneers, trailblazers and current investigators working to address existing inequities and improve maternal and child health.


JOHN RODMAN PAUL, M.D. (1893–1971)

Dr. John Rodman Paul made significant contributions to the study of rheumatic fever, infectious mononucleosis and hepatitis. But he is especially noted for his work on poliomyelitis. He was named to the Polio Hall of Fame in 1958.


Dr. Dorothy Horstmann demonstrated that the poliovirus reached the nervous system via the blood, a discovery that made later polio vaccines possible. She also studied maternal rubella and the rubella syndrome in infants. She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

IRA V. HISCOCK, M.P.H. ’21 (1892–1986)

Ira Hiscock was passionate about the control of communicable diseases such as typhus, tuberculosis, and measles; the improvement of maternity and child health care; and the promotion of health education for children and adults. He served as president of the National Health Council and the American Public Health Association.

COLIN WHITE, M.D. (1913–2011)

Dr. Colin White’s research focused on the development and application of biostatistical methods in epidemiology. He was known for his research on inheritance in fraternal twins, as well as early studies of whether there was an association between oral contraceptives and cancer risk in women.

FRANCIS L. BLACK, PH.D. (1926–2007)

Frank Black pioneered the in vitro cultivation of the measles virus and tested the efficacy of measles vaccines in susceptible populations in both the United States and abroad. His research also helped determine factors that influence the age at which a child can be effectively vaccinated against measles.



Susan Dwight Bliss Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology, and formerly Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Science and Neurology.

Professor Emeritus Michael Bracken is former head of the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at Yale and former vice chairman (deputy dean) of the Yale School of Public Health. He is considered a founder of the evidence–based medicine paradigm. His textbook, Perinatal Epidemiology (1984), defined the field of perinatal epidemiology, predicting the role of fetal and early childhood illness on later chronic disease. A second textbook, Effective Care of the Newborn Infant (with John C. Sinclair, 1992), introduced the concepts of meta-analysis into neonatology and was named one of the most influential books in evidence-based medicine by the British Medical Journal. His most recent award-winning book is Risk, Chance and Causation: Investigating the Origins and Treatment of Disease published in 2013. Bracken is the founding director of the Yale Perinatal Epidemiology Unit and director emeritus of its successor, the Yale Center for Perinatal, Pediatric and Environmental Epidemiology.


Samuel and Liselotte Herman Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Psychology; former Dean of Faculty, Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Professor Jeannette Ickovics’ research investigates the interplay of complex biomedical, behavioral, social, and psychological factors that influence individual and community health. Ickovics served as principal investigator for two multisite randomized controlled trials involving an innovative model of group prenatal care, demonstrating a 33% reduction in preterm birth and other positive health outcomes for mothers and babies. Ickovics also was principal investigator of a group prenatal care study funded by UnitedHealth Foundation, a public-private evaluation with Merck for Mothers (evaluating the use of community health workers for pregnant women with chronic disease), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, and an NIH-funded randomized controlled obesity prevention trial at 12 middle schools in collaboration with the Rudd Center and the New Haven Public Schools. She was founding director of the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) at YSPH in 2007.


Susan Dwight Bliss Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology (Environmental Health Sciences); Affiliated Faculty, Yale Institute for Global Health; Senior Research Scientist, Yale Center for Perinatal, Pediatric and Environmental Epidemiology, Environmental Health Sciences

Professor Emeritus Brian Leaderer is former co-director of the Yale Center for Perinatal, Pediatric and Environmental Epidemiology (CPPEE). Leaderer led several large epidemiologic studies that looked into the role of environmental and genetic factors on the respiratory health of children, particularly as it pertains to the development of asthma and asthma severity. His collaborations with colleagues at the Yale CPPEE included an examination of the impact of pollutants on perinatal and pediatric outcomes. He also investigated the relationship between exposures to indoor levels of nitrogen dioxide, traffic contaminants and the exacerbation of asthma in 1,401 children in what was known as the STAR Study.


Bruce A. and Davi-Ellen Chabner Professor of Anthropology, Health and Global Affairs and Professor of Public Health; Affiliated Faculty, Yale Institute for Global Health

Professor Catherine Panter-Brick’s research consists of critical analyses of health and well-being across key stages of human development, giving special attention to the impact of poverty, disease, malnutrition, armed conflict and social marginalization. Her focus on children in global adversity has included biocultural research with street children, refugees and war-affected adolescents. Professor Panter-Brick has published widely on child and adolescent health, including articles on violence and mental health in Afghanistan, household decision-making and infant survival in famine-stricken Niger.


Professor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences); Director, Office of Public Health Practice; Director, Global Health Concentration; Director, Maternal and Child Health Promotion Program; Principal Investigator, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center; Affiliated Faculty, Yale Institute for Global Health

Professor Rafael Pérez-Escamilla’s public health nutrition program has contributed to improvements in maternal, infant, and young child feeding and health and health outcomes across the globe. His work has had a positive impact on breastfeeding, iron deficiency anemia among infants, household food security, childhood obesity prevention and nurturing care policies and programs. His domestic community health workers program has led to improvements in health outcomes among people of color with Type 2 diabetes. He has published over 300 research articles, three books, and numerous journal supplements, book chapters, and technical reports. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, co-editor-in-chief of the prestigious Maternal & Child Nutrition journal and deputy editor of Advances in Nutrition. He has been a senior adviser to many public health nutrition and integrated early childhood development initiatives including those led by the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Current Investigators


Assistant Professor of Epidemiology (Environmental Health Sciences)

Assistant Professor Caroline Johnson’s research uses mass spectrometry-based metabolomics to understand the role of metabolites in human health. Her primary research interest is to investigate relationships between genetic and environmental influences (diet, hormones and microbiome) in colon cancer. She is also examining the metabolome during conception and pregnancy to assess the relationship between environmental exposures, reproductive function and health. This research has allowed for the development of a metabolomic epidemiology approach that combines epidemiologic data, environmental exposure measurements and biomarkers of biological effect to identify causal links between exposures and outcomes. She has collaborations within YSPH to use this approach in birth cohorts, relating early-life exposures to disease development in children and adults.


Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences); Affiliated Faculty, Yale Institute for Global Health; Director, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA).

Professor Trace Kershaw conducts research into HIV/STD prevention and reproductive and maternal-child health. Specifically, he is interested in the role of interpersonal relationships (e.g., romantic, social network, family) on sexual health, reproductive health, mental health and substance use of adolescents and emerging adults; the development of behavioral inter-ventions to improve sexual, reproductive and mental health of adolescents and emerging adults; and the use of technology and social networking to assess and intervene on risk behavior of adolescents and emerging adults. Currently, he is involved in several research projects assessing the influence of behavioral interventions aimed to reduce the occurrence of HIV/STD and negative perinatal and postnatal outcomes for adolescents and emerging adults in the United States and abroad.


Assistant Professor of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases)

As an assistant professor of perinatal epidemiology Dr. Tormod Rogne studies genetic epidemiology in the perinatal setting. To tackle clinically relevant questions, he applies modern methods ranging from instrumental variable analyses and inverse-probability weighting to mediation and genome-wide association analyses. His research includes the study of the maternal and offspring genetic effect of birth outcomes and implementing genetic variants in an instrumental variable analysis framework (often referred to as Mendelian randomization) as a technique to come closer to the causal effect of an exposure on an outcome. The nationwide Nordic registries and the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study are currently his primary sources of data, but he aims to include data from the U.S. in the future. Rogne’s current research includes evaluating the genetic susceptibility to sepsis, the causal effect of vitamin B12 supplementation during pregnancy on offspring outcomes, and how being born preterm affects the risk of cardiovascular and infectious diseases in adulthood.

YASMMYN SALINAS, B.S.’10, M.P.H.’14, PH.D.’19

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases)

Assistant Professor Yasmmyn Salinas’ research is focused on the inter-generational transmission of obesity and its comorbidities. To date, she has approached this issue from a genetics lens. Her current work searches for genetic variants that display pleiotropy for obesity-related metabolic disorders and examines the interactions between maternal genetic factors and early-life modifiable risk factors in relation to metabolic outcomes in children. As part of her research, she has conducted genetic epidemiologic studies to examine cross-ethnic differences in the genetic determinants of body mass index and to elucidate the shared genetic determinants of asthma and body mass index. Salinas joined the YSPH faculty in 2019. In 2021, she received the YSPH Distinguished Teaching Award, the school’s highest honor.

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