Member Spotlight: Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez

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Member Spotlight: Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez

Precision Health member Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez, MPH, PhD is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and co-Director of the Center for Midlife Science.

She is a women’s health and chronic disease epidemiologist. Dr. Karvonen-Gutierrez approaches women’s health research from a life course perspective and is interested in examining periods of time across the life course that are characterized by important changes in physiology, and thus, may be windows of vulnerability for health.

  • Tell us a bit more about the details of your current research/projects

I am the Principal Investigator of several prospective cohort studies of women’s health and aging – the Michigan site of the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) and the Michigan Bone Health and Metabolism Study (MBHMS). Both of these studies examine women’s health across the midlife period with special focus on the impact of menopause on health outcomes. I am also the (Multiple) Principal Investigator of the PROTECT-MOMS study, which seeks to examine the relationship between environmental exposures and the endocrine and metabolic health profile among postpartum women. Some of my work is also looking to understand the transition from midlife (40-64 years of age) to late adulthood (65+ years of age) and identify midlife health factors that predict future health. I am the Principal Investigator of a study within Michigan SWAN to examine the relationship between microvessel damage in the retina during midlife and cognitive function with age.

  • What is innovative/new/exciting about these projects?

I think epidemiologic studies utilizing cohort designs are very exciting because it allows us to understand the predictive value of exposures on future health outcomes. Scientifically, we now have a greater appreciation of the process of aging across one’s life course, and it is exciting to examine the importance of midlife health factors because the data suggests that this life stage may be the most amenable to interventions.

  •  What is the anticipated outcome of this research?

One of the goals of these projects is to provide better risk stratification for age-related outcomes, incorporating information about midlife health. Further, we hope to identify factors that offer targets for intervention to improve health across the life course.

  • How is Precision Health is supporting this research? 

Because of Precision Health, I have met new colleagues and collaborators. Further, data and resource support from Precision Health has benefitted some of my trainees working on new projects.

  • How does your work apply to the field of precision health?

As a faculty member in epidemiology, I approach my thinking first from a population health point of view. However, across populations, there is substantial heterogeneity in the patterning of exposures and outcomes. As I study the biology of aging,  I am interested in characterizing the subgroups within populations that may have exposures, outcomes, or aging profiles that are different from the population level estimates. By studying these groups, we learn more about the processes and mechanisms that lead to this heterogeneity, but also how to translate our population-level findings into informative results for individuals.

  • What do you like to do when you aren’t doing research?

I enjoy spending time with my family – my husband, son and daughter – and traveling. In the summer, you can usually find us on the west side of Michigan enjoying the beautiful beaches and sunshine.