News and Announcements
Read the latest news from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine. The links below take you to articles where you can learn more about our faculty’s latest achievements, awards and honors.
- 09.15.2021Epigenetic aging could serve as a promising biomarker for measuring long-term cardiovascular health and disease risk, according to a recent Northwestern Medicine study.
- 07.19.2021Thirty-five years since it was started, the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, or CARDIA, has become a premier source for the determinants, mechanism and outcomes of cardiovascular disease and manifestations of aging.
- 05.25.2021A mental health smartphone app developed by a team of Northwestern Medicine investigators helped improve depressive symptoms in patients with diabetes and hypertension, according to a recent clinical trial published in JAMA.
- 04.28.2021Northwestern Medicine scientists and clinicians have continued to investigate methods to combat the disease, including strategies to conduct clinical trials during a pandemic, studying neurologic symptoms in children and reflecting on the importance of professional medical organizations during a public health crisis.
A mismatch between airway size and lung capacity, called dysanapsis, is a strong risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to a study published in JAMA.
Much of what contributes to risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is still unknown, but taking dysanapsis into account could improve diagnosis and treatment, according to Norrina Allen, PhD, ’11 GME, associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology and a co-author of the study.
At Northwestern Medicine, various antibody testing efforts have been underway since the beginning of the pandemic. These efforts include the development of a more sensitive, at-home test to detect SAR-CoV-2 antibodies and using this test and commercially available antibody tests to determine previous infections of COVID-19 and potential immunity to the virus, both in the Northwestern Medicine community and in the greater Chicagoland area.
Other antibody testing efforts currently ongoing at Northwestern Medicine are being led by John Wilkins, MD, ‘11 MSCI, ‘12 GME, associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology and of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, and Charlesnika Evans, PhD, MPH, associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology. The duo is currently leading a study that will give every Northwestern Medicine employee — roughly 38,000 individuals — the opportunity to have SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing.
“There are so many fundamental questions about SARS CoV2 serology that we don’t yet understand, and this pandemic is really highlighting why epidemiology is so vital to medical research. To understand the prevalence, incidence and prognosis associated with SARS CoV-2 serologic status and their determinants, we need studies like this.” Wilkins said.
Deaths due to heart failure and hypertensive heart disease are increasing in the U.S. — particularly in Black women and men — despite medical and surgical advances in heart disease management, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study published in The British Medical Journal.
“These findings are alarming,” said senior study author Sadiya Khan, ’09 MD, ’14 MS, ’10, ’12 GME, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology and a Northwestern Medicine physician. “Despite medical and surgical advances in heart disease management and public policy initiatives around blood pressure awareness, we are losing ground in the battle against heart failure and hypertension; the disparities in heart disease are clear.”
Northwestern co-authors include Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, the Eileen M. Foell Professor and chair of Preventive Medicine, and Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, the Mary Harris Thompson Professor and vice chair of Preventive Medicine.
Northwestern epidemiologist Mercedes Carnethon testified virtually before the U.S. Senate July 21 at the hearing on “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Seniors: A Look at Racial Health Disparities.”
The focus of the hearing was on COVID-19’s disproportionate health impacts on Black and Latino seniors, as well as seniors from other racial and ethnic minority communities.
Cancer patients with other co-morbidities have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19, according to a recent study published in the journal The Lancet.
Firas Wehbe, MD, PhD, associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Health and Biomedical Informatics, associate professor of Pathology and chief research informatics officer, was a co-author of the study published in The Lancet.
As COVID-19 began to sweep the globe, oncologists and scientists connected on social media, concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer. Within one month, they formed the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19), a combined patient data registry with more than 100 participating institutions.
Investigators analyzed 30 days of clinical data from more than 900 patients receiving cancer treatment, finding that 13 percent of patients died. This is more than twice the current observed case fatality rate of 4.8 percent reported by Johns Hopkins University.
“We leveraged the informatics infrastructure at Feinberg and our experience with large data-sharing research networks to participate in this blazing-fast self-organizing multi-institutional effort,” said Wehbe, who is also an associate professor of Pathology. “The ability of multi-disciplinary teams to nimbly assemble is key to tackling this epidemic and future emerging threats.”
A new Northwestern Medicine study with 20 participants validated the technology and was recently published in the Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.
The technology currently includes wearing a tiny camera pendant to validate what the necklace is sensing. Eventually the camera will be removed. The next step will be a National Institutes of Health-funded trial to test NeckSense along with several other wearable devices with 60 participants who have obesity and validate the device against standard 24-hour recall.
Lead study author Nabil Alshurafa, Assistant professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said “The arsenal of the dietician has been upgraded. The ability to easily record dietary intake patterns allows dieticians – or even laypeople making use of our tech – to deliver timely digital interventions that occur as eating is happening to prevent overeating.”
NeckSense is part of a broader study called SenseWhy, which will assess if wearing sensors will help us understand people’s problematic eating behaviors in real time.
Since it was founded in 2015, Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) has become a leader in sexual and gender minority (SGM) health research and intervention programs.
Recently, ISGMH faculty member Michelle Birkett, PhD, assistant professor of Medical Social Sciences, Preventive Medicine, and director of the ISGMH’s CONNECT Complex Systems and Health Disparities Research Program, was awarded an RO1 grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Her project will use simulation modeling to understand HIV disparities among racial and sexual minorities in Chicago, and also aims to understand how systemic racism and homophobia contribute to the disproportionate burden of the disease within these populations.
Another ISGMH led initiative that is helping to understand the impact of COVID-19 on SGM individuals is the Evaluation, Data Integration, and Technical Assistance (EDIT) program, which is dedicated to furthering health equity for marginalized populations, particularly SGM populations and individuals who identify as black, indigenous or people of color.
The program is overseen by ISGMH faculty members Gregory Phillips II, PhD, assistant professor of Medical Social Sciences and of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, and Lauren Beach, PhD, research assistant professor of Medical Social Sciences.
The Institute for Public Health and Medicine (IPHAM) recently hosted a webinar regarding the use of data modeling to evaluate COVID-19 transmission rates and containment efforts in the state of Illinois. The webinar featured Jaline Gerardin, PhD, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, and an international expert in measuring the effects of infectious disease containment efforts.
Because COVID-19 testing requirements in Illinois have been constantly revised over the past few months, Gerardin noted that it’s been difficult to determine if the state is successfully containing the virus. Nonetheless, analyzing trends in COVID-19 related deaths and hospitalizations has helped better determine the effectiveness of containment efforts.
“Hopefully, one day in our journey of COVID-19, we will have plentiful testing and have a consistent case definition so that we will be able to understand much more rigorously what is going on in areas with less transmission,” Gerardin said.
Additional COVID-19 resources and tools for scientists and the public can be found on IPHAM’s COVID-19 Resources page.
Coronary artery calcium levels may help clinicians better identify patients with a higher risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease who would benefit from taking aspirin to prevent heart attack, according to recent findings published in the journal Circulation.
Philip Greenland, MD, the Harry W. Dingman Professor of Cardiology and professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, was a co-author of the study published in Circulation.
“This study demonstrates very nicely why long-term research studies are so important because there’s no way you can get this information just from examining medical records,” Greenland said.
Higher cumulative blood pressure among African American patients is a major contributor to their higher risk of dementia, according to a new study published in JAMA Neurology.
These findings underscore the importance of preventing and treating high blood pressure, especially in African American patients, according to Norrina Allen, PhD, ’11 GME, associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology and a co-author of the study.
Northwestern has launched the new Center for Arrhythmia Research, where teams of interdisciplinary clinicians and scientists will work together to discover both the underlying molecular causes of arrhythmias and new standards of care for treatment.
“Northwestern is uniquely positioned to be a worldwide leader in this field,” said Rod Passman, MD, professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology and of Preventive Medicine, and a cardiac electrophysiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who will direct the new center. “My goal is to change the way we manage these diseases to improve the lifespan and life experiences of our patients.”
Northwestern University scientists received top honors from the Clinical Research Forum as part of its 2020 Top Ten Clinical Research Achievement Awards program, taking home the association’s highest honor and capturing more finalist nominations than any other institution.
Norrina Bai Allen, PhD, Director for Public Health and Medicine (IPHAM)- Center for Epidemiology and Population Health - Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine (Epidemiology) and Pediatrics was named to the list of top 20 finalists.
Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption with Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality (Norrina Allen, PhD), published in JAMA.
The results of this large study found that adults who ate more eggs and dietary cholesterol had a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death from any cause.
The study suggested that current U.S. dietary guideline recommendations for dietary cholesterol and eggs, one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol among all commonly consumed foods, may need to be re-evaluated.
Nicholas Soulakis, PhD, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine in the Divisions of Health and Biomedical Informatics and Epidemiology, is taking a leave of absence from the medical school to work as an epidemiologist in the Illinois Department of Public Health's (IDPH) Office of Policy, Planning and Statistics.
Soulakis, who specializes in epidemiological surveillance, will help the IDPH understand the number of Illinoisans infected with COVID-19 and predict how long the outbreak will last.
- Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, PhD, MPH, FAHA was named Chief of the Division of Epidemiology for the Department of Preventive Medicine11.20.2019
We are delighted to announce that as of November 1, 2019, Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, PhD, MPH, FAHA was named Chief of the Division of Epidemiology for the Department of Preventive Medicine. In her new role, she will oversee administrative, research, and outreach activities of the Epidemiology Division.
Dr. Rasmussen-Torvik joined the Department as an Assistant Professor in 2010. She earned an AB degree from Dartmouth in Biogenetics and MPH and PhD degrees in Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology also at the University of Minnesota. In 2014 she was appointed a Fellow of the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention.
Dr. Rasmussen-Torvik is a collaborative epidemiologist whose research primarily focuses on three areas: (1) the implementation of common genetic variants into clinical care; (2) the genetic epidemiology of diabetes-related traits, obesity, and heart failure; and (3) the use of electronic health records in genetic and epidemiologic research. Her current work is funded by NHLBI, NHGRI, NICHD, NCATS, NINDS and CDC and she has held leadership roles in many multi-site cohort studies and consortia; she is currently the leader of the pharmacogenomics workgroup for the eMERGE consortium. She has published over 100 original research manuscripts, reviews and editorials in in leading peer reviewed medical and public health journals. Additionally, her research has been disseminated by the lay press in outlets including ABC News, CBS News, and NPR.