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Arnold School of Public Health

Doctoral graduate advances maternal and child health field as epidemiologist

August 12, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

Amanda Elmore officially completes her doctoral degree this month, but she’s been making an impact for years. The Ph.D. in Epidemiology graduate researches how social determinants of health, adverse childhood experiences and trauma influence health outcomes in each stage of the mother-infant dyad.

Elmore’s passion for epidemiology took off after she graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in medical lab sciences. She spent the next three years working in a clinical laboratory at a hospital while completing a Master of Public Health degree from Florida State University.

“I developed my understanding of disease  prevention and healthcare policy during this time,” she says. “Then I began my public health career as an epidemiologist with the Florida Birth Defects Registry.”

The next five years saw Elmore conducting primary data collection/analysis, applying for grants and disseminating research. In parallel, she enrolled in her doctoral program with the Arnold School’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

In addition to her work with the registry and her own coursework, Elmore taught epidemiology classes and participated in UofSC’s Behavioral Biomedical  Interface Program – a National Institutes of Health-funded predoctoral fellowship that offers interdisciplinary training in epidemiology, exercise science and psychology to better prepare the next generation of behavioral scientists. She also held multiple roles in various service/professional organizations related to epidemiology and maternal/child health, including as founding board member and treasurer of UofSC’s Maternal and Child Health Student Association and board member for the National Birth Defects Prevention Network.

As one of the inaugural Graduate Scholars with the Arnold School’s Maternal and Child Health Catalyst Program, Elmore received funding to support her dissertation research into the association between maternal opioid use disorder and hospital readmission over time for both mother and infant. She found that mothers and infants affected by prenatal opioid use have an increased risk of hospital utilization over the subsequent five-year period and substantial long-term health risks (e.g., overdose, mental health conditions, injury/abuse).

“By examining the risk of postpartum and postnatal hospital encounter for the mother and infant separately, we were able to further understand the collective impact of prenatal opioid use on the mother-infant dyad, the family unit and healthcare systems,” Elmore says. “This study highlights the importance of long-term social and clinical support for mothers with opioid use and infants with prenatal opioid exposure to reduce hospital encounters and improve health outcomes.”

Now that she has completed her degree, Elmore will continue to conduct maternal and child health research and teach public health courses at Florida State University. Her goals include obtaining a position in academia so she can continue her research and mentoring the next generation of public health professionals and scientists – something she learned from her own mentors.

“My dissertation chair, Dr. Nansi Boghossian, guided me through four years of research and service initiatives and supported me when I welcomed my daughter halfway through the program,” Elmore says. “Dr. Jihong Liu showed me how to critically review and provide feedback on student work as her graduate teaching assistant and worked closely with me to develop the Maternal and Child Health Student Association in connection with her MCH Catalyst Program.”

Elmore’s successful efforts and collaborations are reflected in her seven peer-reviewed publications (with another eight under review/in preparation) and multiple awards. She is the recipient of her department’s 2022 Outstanding Epidemiology Doctoral Student Award, the CSTE Foundation Jeffrey P.D Davis Student Scholarship Award (2022), the Maternal and Child Health Catalyst Abstract Award (2021) and I-Post Graduate Student Award (2021).

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