Dr. Erica P. Gunderson, PhD, MS, MPH, Senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and a professor of Health Systems Science at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine discusses being named the recipient of the 2022-2023 March of Dimes Agnes Higgins Award in Maternal-Fetal Nutrition. Her work has produced some of the field’s most important and astounding findings on pregnancy and breastfeeding’s links to diabetes and cardiovascular disease in young women. She received the award at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Society (PAS).
Erica P. Gunderson, PhD, MS, MPH, RD, is a senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and a professor of Health Systems Science at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine. She is a reproductive life-course epidemiologist studying the lasting effects of pregnancy outcomes and lactation on future cardiometabolic health outcomes in women and children. Her prospective, longitudinal studies in women across the child-bearing years are among the first to account for antecedent risk factors, such as preconception and gestational cardiometabolic profiles to distinguish the impact of preceding adverse pregnancy outcomes (APOs) and lactation on longer-term health outcomes. Her research studies preserve the temporal sequence of these exposures, thereby strengthening the evidence basis supporting causal inferences for the lasting benefits of lactation to reduce the relative risk of progression to T2D and CVD in women during mid-life. Dr. Gunderson has collaborated on many studies to identify metabolite signatures and biomarkers linked to future development of diabetes after gestational diabetes. She has also evaluated both fetal and early postnatal infant diet, i.e., beverages and breastfeeding, influencing future cardiometabolic health in children exposed to maternal gestational diabetes. Another major research focus involves characterizing early pregnancy blood pressure patterns that more accurately predict hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and longer-term CVD risk in women, and the role of preconception chronic hypertension during pregnancy and racial health disparities.