Mary Townsend, ScD

2011 DICP Faculty Fellowship Alumni

MARY TOWNSEND, ScD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate Epidemiologist, Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Mentor: Francine Grodstein, Sc.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Department Chair: Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Project Title: "Mid-Life Diet and Successful Aging"

Project Description:

The overall goals of this project are to expand expertise in epidemiologic methods relevant to aging research and to develop expertise in successful aging, a multi-dimensional outcome encompassing survival, chronic diseases, mental health, and physical and cognitive function. The project will address two research aims, taking advantage of existing data from 14,321 women, age 70 years and older, enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. First, it will consider several epidemiologic definitions of successful aging and evaluate their relations with self-rated health. Second, although diet impacts many individual aspects of health, almost nothing is known regarding diet in relation to successful aging. Thus, the study will investigate the association between fruit and vegetable intake at mid-life, since it is most likely that lifestyle modification is more important at earlier than later stages of chronic conditions, and the definitions of successful aging.

Biography:

Mary Townsend, Sc.D. is an associate epidemiologist in the Channing Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. She received her B.A. in English from Amherst College in 2001 and her Sc.D. in Epidemiology from Harvard School of Public Health in 2007.  She was a Yerby Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health from 2007 to 2010. Her research is focused on women’s health and healthy aging. In particular, she investigates lifestyle risk factors for urinary incontinence and cognitive decline, as well as racial differences in these outcomes. She is also actively involved in developing epidemiologic definitions of successful aging – a phenotype summarizing survival, chronic diseases, mental health, and physical and cognitive function – and examining relations between these definitions and dietary and lifestyle factors. In addition to research, Dr. Townsend coordinates biomarker assay pilot studies for the Channing-Harvard Cohorts Biorepository.