firefox My research explores how ambient environmental exposures, including heat waves and air pollution, affect human health, particularly risks of death and morbidity from common causes like cardiorespiratory outcomes.

I conduct multi-city studies that combine methods from time series analysis and episode analysis to investigate these risks across the United States. By jointly investigating impacts across many communities and pooling results with hierarchical modeling, these studies can identify important health impacts while accounting for variability in baseline health risk.

In current research, I am investigating the impacts of hurricanes and other tropical storms on cardiorespiratory mortality risk in over 30 US cities. As part of this research, I am collaborating with environmental engineers to determine how infrastructure damages, like power outages and road closures, modify the health impacts of climatological natural disasters.

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Outdoor Temperature

heat index Heat waves can have catastrophic public health impacts. For example, all-cause mortality approximately doubled during severe heat waves in Chicago in 1995 and in parts of France in 2003. With climate change, heat waves are expected to become more frequent and severe.

For my dissertation, I investigated the impacts of hot and cold temperatures, as well as heat waves, on cardiorespiratory mortality risk across the United States. My research identified substantial mortality risk following extreme temperatures, especially in places where these extremes are unusual (for example, the Northeast and Midwest for heat impacts, the South for cold impacts). I also examined how heat wave characteristics- including heat wave length, average temperature, and timing in the summer- modify health risks.

In current research, I am quantifying the impacts of extreme temperatures on emergency hospitalization rates across the United States. I am also reviewing the use of heat index (the "feels like" temperature) as a metric of heat exposure and have written software to calculate the heat index in the R statistical package using the US National Weather Service's algorithm.


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Ambient Air Pollution

ozone Ambient air pollution, including tropospheric ozone pollution and particulate matter pollution, has been found to increase risk of human mortality and morbidity. I have collaborated with researchers at Yale University, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Harvard School of Public Health to investigate the impacts of ozone and particulate matter pollution on cardiorespiratory mortality.

In particular, I led one project that determined that the association between ozone pollution and cardiorespiratory mortality is not confounded by seven key chemical components of particulate matter, and I am collaborating on another project that investigates the direct impacts of particulate matter components on human mortality across the United States. In addition to this health research, I have also investigated the standard ratios used to convert between ozone exposure metrics and used national ozone concentration data to determine appropriate ratios for these conversions.


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2003 Northeastern Blackout

firefox Power outages are common and are likely to become more common as climate change increases the severity of heat waves and other climatological natural disasters. However, little is known about how power outages impact health risks from common causes, like heart attacks and respiratory events.

I conducted a study that investigated all-cause mortality risk during the 2003 Northeastern blackout in New York, NY, the first citywide blackout of New York since the 1970s. This study identified approximately 90 excess deaths during the blackout compared to expected mortality rates had the blackout not occured. Most of these deaths were from non-accidental causes, rather than from accidental causes like carbon monoxide poisoning more commonly considered important health threats during power outages.


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Current and Future Research

Currently, I am investigating how hurricanes and other tropical storms affected all-cause mortality risk in 38 US cities over 19 years. As part of this research, I will work with environmental engineers to determine how infrastructure damage during these storms, including power outages and road closures, modify health risks. I am also continuing to study the health impacts of extreme outdoor temperatures by quantifying temperature's effect on emergency hospitalization rates throughout the US.

In the future, I plan to use the health risk estimates developed in my current projects to predict future health risks from climatological natural disasters, like heat waves and hurricanes, under climate change scenarios. I also plan to continue my current focus on the interplay of climatological disasters, infrastructure damage, and human health impacts through continued collaborations with researchers in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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