Associate Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine,
Division of Women’s Health, Harvard Medical School
Associate Professor of Epidemiology
Harvard School of Public Health
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Dr. Rich-Edwards is an epidemiologist focused on the intersection of a woman’s health and that of her children, investigating social and biological pathways though which health and disease processes develop. She is the Co-director of the Reproductive, Perinatal, and Pediatric Epidemiology track at Harvard School of Public Health, where she directs an advanced course in reproductive epidemiology.
Dr. Rich-Edwards’ research has highlighted how the physical development of young women presages both their fertility and their risk of metabolic disorders. Her early work revealed that overweight and inactivity contribute more to female infertility than underweight and over activity, overturning the then prevailing paradigm. More recent work has explored how female reproductive fitness, including menstrual function, fertility, fibroids, and pregnancy complications, as well as post-pregnancy behaviors like lactation, predict chronic disease.
Determinants of growth also affect risk of chronic disease. Dr. Rich-Edwards’ research has helped to establish inverse associations of birthweight with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Childhood growth is also associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, but higher risk of breast cancer. Having been breastfed may be associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Her early investigations into the impact of milk on prepubertal plasma vitamin D and somatotropin levels led to a large randomized clinical trial of vitamin D fortified milk and supplements to improve childhood health in Mongolia.
As an epidemiologist, Dr. Rich-Edwards’ analyses draw from large cohorts that are the fruit of collaborative teams. She founded two new cohorts within the Nurses Health II study, and based on her occupational study indicating a correlation between work schedule and pregnancy outcome, a pilot contract for a web-based Nurses Health Study III was created. She also co-founded a subcohort of 68,000 nurses with data on physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, whose size has enabled unique analyses of the impact of childhood abuse on chronic disease outcomes. Current work seeks to detail the pathways through which this occurs, to reduce the lifelong health impact of early abuse. Outside of the Nurses Health Studies, she co-founded Project Viva, a birth cohort of over 2,000 women and children, in which she examined predictors of preterm delivery and maternal depression, interests that grew out of earlier investigations of racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes.
This page was last modified on 3/27/2014