NIH-Funded Researcher Focuses on Health Disparities

NOVEMBER 18, 2014 – An epidemiologist with grant funding from the National Institutes of Health has recently joined the faculty of the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

Debbie S. Barrington, PhD, MPH, who began as an assistant professor in the Department of Human Science this fall, is principal investigator of a three-year $625,000 K22 award from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

The award (1K22MD006133-01) is entitled, “Dynamic Interplay of Socioeconomic Position, Perinatal Outcomes, and Cardiovascular Health Across the Life Course.”

Epidemiology

“I am a life course social epidemiologist,” says Barrington. “I look at what occurs during the life course that could impact one’s health in later life, specifically focusing on cardiovascular diseases and reproductive health outcomes.”

Barrington came to Georgetown from her position as a senior research fellow in the Division of Intramural Research at NIMHD. She previously served as an assistant professor of epidemiology and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Hypertension Research

“My research project is focused on the social environment of early life and how that impacts mid-life cardiovascular health, such as hypertension,” she says.

For example, Barrington served as lead author of the study “Childhood Family Living Arrangements and Blood Pressure in Black Men,” which appeared in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension in December 2013.

“Those men who had lived with both parents in their childhood, between 1-12 years of life, had lower hypertension and lower systolic blood pressure compared with those who had not,” she says. “That suggests there might be some epigenetic forces involved in what is occurring. That is the work I will continue to examine here.”

Mission and Values

Barrington says she was attracted to Georgetown because of its interdisciplinary nature, which will help support her research interests in epidemiology, sociology, and biology.

“I really was intrigued by the Department of Human Science and the fact that it is an interdisciplinary department,” she says. “I love the mission and values of the school and that people really believe in them and try their best to practice them. I think Georgetown is the perfect place for me to explore my research interests that are at the intersection of science and social justice.”

She says she has been very impressed by the student body.

“The students are just inspiring,” says Barrington. “It’s wonderful to see so many students on campus who are determined to save our world.”

By Bill Cessato