Dr. Veronica Barcelona de Mendoza is a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale School of Nursing and a nationally certified Advanced Public Health Nurse. She will begin her appointment as Assistant Professor on the tenure track at Yale School of Nursing beginning July 2017. As a public health nurse and epidemiologist, Dr. Barcelona de Mendoza has a strong clinical and research background in perinatal and reproductive health and health disparities. The candidate proposes to expand her knowledge base to include genetic epidemiology and cardiovascular genomics through participation in courses and training programs in genetic data analysis and quantitative genetics. Long-term goals include (a) examination of health disparities in maternal/child health from a life course perspective, (b) utilization of an epigenomic approach in the reduction of reproductive health disparities, and (c) investigation of the associations between cardiovascular health, genomics and reproductive health, with a life course focus. In order to achieve these long-term goals, Dr. Barcelona de Mendoza proposes to study the associations of DNA methylation, obesity and preterm birth on blood pressure in African American children. The proposed project will recruit participants from an ongoing R01 cohort study examining the interaction between genomic and environmental stressors on blood pressure in African American mothers and children. The project's specific aims are to: (1) Examine how DNAm of candidate genes mediates the association between preterm birth and blood pressure among 3-5 year old African American children (2) Investigate how DNAm of candidate genes mediates the association between BMI and blood pressure in African American children, and (3) repeat epigenetic analyses to examine the association between DNAm, PTB and BMI on BP over time (approximately two years) (exploratory aim). Yale University provides a rich and supportive research environment for the candidate to conduct this study. Under the excellent mentorship of Drs. Jackie Taylor (genomics), Yan Sun (statistical genetics), Andrew DeWan (genetic epidemiology) and Ann Kurth (reproductive health), the candidate will receive the necessary support to complete this project. This project is in line with the NINR's key theme of ?Wellness: Promoting Health and Preventing Illness?, and the cross-cutting area of ?Promoting Innovation? through personalized medicine and genomics. These strategic themes are addressed in this project by investigating the physical and environmental causes of health disparities in preterm birth and cardiovascular disease as major contributors of morbidity and mortality within a high risk racial/ethnic minority group. The candidate will build upon previous work in perinatal health disparities by adding advanced training in molecular genetics, genetic epidemiology and quantitative genetics, expanding the lens through which to study the public health problem of preterm birth. By receiving the additional training and excellent mentorship outlined in this proposal, Dr. Barcelona de Mendoza will be well-prepared as a successful independent investigator to reduce maternal/child health disparities.
PROJECT RELEVANCE African Americans bear the highest burden of preterm birth, obesity and high blood pressure among all racial/ethnic groups in the United States, putting them at increased risk for heart disease and premature death. Increasing attention is now being paid to stressors experienced before birth, and how these environmental exposures result in changes to the epigenome of children born preterm, leading to disease, and widening health disparities. The proposed study addresses a key theme of the NINR's strategic plan (promoting health and preventing illness) by examining how epigenomic changes (such as DNA methylation), obesity and preterm birth status underlie susceptibility for developing high blood pressure over time.