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Arnold School of Public Health

Suzanne McDermott receives Disability Section Allen Meyers Award for Research, Teaching and Advocacy from APHA

January 6, 2020 | Erin Bluvas,

The American Public Health Association has selected epidemiology and biostatistics professor Suzanne McDermott as the recipient of the 2019 Disability Section Allen Meyers Award for Research, Teaching and Advocacy. Established to commemorate the efforts of a prominent scholar in disability and public health, this award is designed to honor an individual’s combined excellence across the areas of research, teaching and advocacy to improve health and quality of life for people with disabilities.

McDermott arrived at UofSC in 1985 to serve as a biostatistician and grants coordinator with the School of Medicine after earning a master’s degree in civil engineering with a concentration in public health at Tufts University. By 1991, she had completed a Ph.D. in Public Health (concentrations in Health Services Research and Epidemiology) from the Arnold School and rose to the rank of tenured professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. In 2013, McDermott transitioned to the Arnold School’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Throughout her career, Suzanne has thoughtfully investigated the complex relationships between disability and health through quantitative analyses of population health data.

-Monika Mitra, Nancy Lurie Marks Associate Professor of Disability Policy  at Brandeis University

Over her 35-year career, the disability epidemiologist has become known throughout the world for her expertise related to risk factors for neurodevelopmental disability and health outcomes for people with lifelong disability. Her research program has two aims, the first of which involves identifying risk factors such as infections, chemicals and disease processes that increase the risk for fetuses to develop a neurodevelopmental disability. McDermott’s other goal is to understand the intersection of health and disability to help those with lifelong disabilities maintain or regain optimal health. This work also involves developing and evaluating protective health promotion strategies.

Currently, McDermott conducts this work as principal or co-principal investigator of three programs. Since 1991, she has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded South Carolina Disability and Health Project. For the past seven years, she has co-led the CDC-funded Disability and Research and Dissemination Center, which is part of the National Center for Birth Defects and Development Disabilities. This Center received a second five-year award of $14.8 million in 2017 to support projects such as a randomized intervention trial to improve hypertension medication filling among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a secondary analysis of national MEPS data about the prescription and filling of opioids among adults with physical disabilities, and the administrative responsibility to support prevention and intervention studies related to disability at universities and health organizations throughout the U.S. She also leads the South Carolina MD STARnet program, which has conducted surveillance and research related to muscular dystrophy since 2014.

During this time, McDermott has published more than 130 peer-reviewed papers and been awarded over $50 million in competitive funding. She is also the co-editor of Elsevier Press’ Disability and Health Journal.

“The breadth and depth of Suzanne’s research is immense,” says Monika Mitra, Nancy Lurie Marks Associate Professor of Disability Policy and Director of the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University. “Throughout her career, Suzanne has thoughtfully investigated the complex relationships between disability and health through quantitative analyses of population health data. Beyond her research, she is an outstanding mentor to students and junior faculty and a role model for the next generation of disability and health researchers.” 


Suzanne McDermott to lead expansion of Disability Research and Dissemination Center with $14.8 million grant from Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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