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Carrie McCurdy, PhD

Carrie McCurdy

How did you get into research, why this area?

I’ve always liked science. When I got to college, I struggled in trying to decide whether to pursue a medical career or a research career. One summer, I ended up working in both – doing patient care at the cancer center and also working in a cancer research lab.

I learned how closely linked the treatments were to the research. I also spent a lot of time listening to families who were frustrated because there were limited options for treatment. This pushed me towards research and finding the answers for people who didn’t have them.

My background is in biochemistry and nutrition. I’m passionate about understanding why and how insulin sensitivity has such a profound effect on a person’s risk for developing metabolic disorders like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

My research questions connected to the Center through the BIRCWH Scholars program include: how does maternal obesity and diet impact the development of metabolic systems in the baby, and does this intrauterine experience change the baby’s lifetime susceptibility to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Why is this important?

Over 20% of children in our country are obese, and there is a lot of evidence showing a correlation between maternal obesity and childhood obesity.

Changing health behaviors is hard, but we can use a woman’s pregnancy as a window to be healthy, and that can make a huge difference. We have already learned that encouraging obese mothers to eat a healthy diets just during pregnancy can significantly change the development of the baby and improve the child’s future health outcome.

The idea is the same as with alcohol and tobacco… diet is so important to add to the list. Best soils mean the best plant; the healthiest moms mean healthy babies.

What are your hopes and dreams for your research?

To understand more about the maternal fetal connection, and to have a clear message to give to moms about how they can create a healthy baby and healthy future for their baby. This could also lead to a significant decrease in childhood obesity.

The ultimate goal is to have cause and effect – to be able to understand the maternal fetal connection at a fundamental level, and then explain that connection in a way that motivates moms to be healthy.