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Arnold School of Public Health


New epidemiology and biostatistics assistant professor Matthew Lohman aims to improve health outcomes for older adults

October 30, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Throughout his academic career, Matthew Lohman has been interested in psychology and cognitive development, particularly how different cognitive abilities grow and develop at early ages and how they may then decline later in life. The epidemiology and biostatistics assistant professor initially became interested in epidemiology and public health when he began thinking about the impact of dementia and cognitive decline, not only on individuals but on their families, communities, healthcare systems, and populations.

“As I learned more about the substantial role that mental health can play in successful aging and the expected growth of the older adult population in the U.S., I realized that epidemiology would provide a valuable perspective for studying age-related mental health issues,” he says.

Originally from Michigan, Lohman earned bachelor’s (psychology) and master’s (public health) degrees from Johns Hopkins University before completing a Ph.D. in epidemiology at Virginia Commonwealth University. He continued his training with a multi-site National Institute of Mental Health-supported postdoctoral fellowship in geriatric mental health services—first at Cornell University and then at Dartmouth College.

Now in his first academic year at the Arnold School, Lohman already has 29 peer-reviewed publications and multiple awards, including the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging’s Innovative Research on Aging Award and the Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute on Aging, on his resume. There’s clearly a theme in the research interests of the Office for the Study of Aging faculty affiliate.

Lohman focuses on the relationships between mental health disorders and physical health outcomes among older adults. His research aims to better understand the risk factors and determinants, particularly the role of mental health, for adverse health outcomes (e.g., falls, hospitalizations, disability, need for long-term health care services) in this population.

“These outcomes are especially costly for older adults, both in terms of reduced quality of life and need for greater healthcare expenses,” says Lohman, whose ultimate goal is to inform and develop effective strategies for preventing such outcomes. “So, given the expected growth in the proportion of older adults in the U.S., preventing adverse health events and related health declines are becoming increasingly important.”

With aging experts researching a variety of topics for the older adult population, the Arnold School provided an ideal context for Lohman to continue his research. The Gerry Sue and Norman J. Arnold Institute on Aging, Office for the Study of Aging, South Carolina Healthy Brain Research Network, Center for the Study of Aphasia Recovery, and other collaborative entities throughout the School and across the university are working together to improve health and wellbeing among older adults and their caregivers.

“I was initially drawn to the Arnold School because of its reputation as a leading and rapidly growing public health research institution,” Lohman says. “The diversity and range of faculty and research expertise at the Arnold School are appealing to someone looking to build an interdisciplinary research agenda.”

Lohman is also looking forward to his teaching role. He will teach a course on intermediate epidemiologic methods and possibly develop courses focused on psychiatric epidemiology or the epidemiology of aging.

“I was pleased to find that there is a focus on student development and education not found at other research-intensive institutions,” he says. “I’m looking forward to helping shape the careers of future public health professionals and hopefully to sparking student interest in research on aging and mental health.”

Anthony Alberg, the chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics is overjoyed with Dr. Lohman’s arrival. “We are extremely excited to welcome a new faculty member with the exceptional training, talent, energy and interests that Dr. Lohman brings,” Alberg says. “His innovative approach to aging research will add a fresh new perspective and synergize with the aging research already taking place on campus. Dr. Lohman’s emphasis on mental health builds on a rich tradition of this department being a trailblazer in the field of psychiatric epidemiology.”