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Graduating senior Nimisha Srikanth ‘23 co-authored a peer-reviewed paper on the relationship between father’s alcohol consumption and fetal alcohol syndrome
Nimisha Srikanth ’23, a graduating senior at Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health, co-authored a paper that adds to the growing evidence about the relationship of the father’s alcohol consumption in the development of fetal alcohol syndrome. The study, which was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation on April 11, 2023, is the Aggie’s latest college achievement before she graduates in May with a bachelor’s degree in public health.
Srikanth co-authored the paper with lead author Kara Thomas, Sanat Bhadsavle, Kelly Thomas, Katherine Zimmel, Alison Basel, Alexis Roach, Nicole Mehta, Yudhishtar Bedi, and Michael Golding, PhD, all of whom are from the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology in the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
This study extends the groundbreaking work that Golding’s lab and others have had in researching fetal alcohol syndrome. In this study, Srikanth and the research team showed clear evidence that the father’s consumption of alcohol prior to conception can affect the fetus’s facial development.
“We found that the eyes, nose, other facial areas and head size can adjust based on alcohol consumption by either or both parents,” Srikanth explained. “It shows that fetal alcohol syndrome is not only due to maternal alcohol usage; paternal alcohol usage plays into it as well.”
This study also highlights the ties between veterinary science and human health.
“This study and others have a huge public health implication in that we now need to find the clinical significance and create public health messaging, education and communication,” Srikanth said. “It changes the entire health field in relation to sexual and reproductive health.”
Researching the possibilities
This study is the latest publication on sexual and reproductive health that lists Srikanth as a co-author. She also has been published as a result of a research internship with the University of Texas School of Public Health that she has held since her freshman year.
Research opportunities were high on Srikanth’s list when she was making her college decision. Also on the list: strong academics and a variety of extracurricular activities. “Texas A&M checked all three,” she said.
Her decision also was strongly influenced by her father, who earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M in 1994.
“Ever since I was nine months old, every year he would bring me to A&M to meet with his advisor and we would drive around campus,” said Srikanth, who grew up in Flower Mound, Texas. “I just really fell in love. It felt like a second home to me.”
Entering college, Srikanth knew that she wanted to study some aspect of science and help people but wasn’t sure of the exact path. “I came in as a genetics major, thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll be an epidemiologist,’” she said. “That’s how I found the public health minor and started taking those courses.”
Her genetics major also led to Srikanth’s involvement in Golding’s lab as a freshman—and she stayed on after she switched her major to public health. “As part of the genetics degree plan, you needed to be part of a research project and do a thesis,” she said. “But even after I switched, I really loved the work they did because it was so topical.”
Working in Golding’s lab also encouraged her to question conventional wisdom. “I love Dr. Golding’s perspective questioning why we’re blaming the female all the time [in reproduction]. We need to look at the male and what he’s contributing and blame him, if he’s part of the issue,” she said.
Golding and his team also gave Srikanth projects and assignments that helped her learn skills that she will use in her master’s degree studies at Yale University this fall as well as her future doctoral studies.
Taking a stand
Srikanth has used her time at Texas A&M and the School of Public Health to also sharpen her advocacy skills. “By taking these classes, getting involved on campus and COVID hitting, I realized how important and prominent public health is,” she said. “I also really realized sexual and reproductive health was my passion and calling.”
She’s maintaining a strong advocacy presence for sexual and reproductive health by being active at conferences, on social media and through media interviews. One of her pinnacle advocacy experiences involved being one of 10 college students invited to present on the current state of reproductive health and rights to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and 80 to 90 college activists.
Ultimately, Srikanth hopes to take what she’s learning and researching and find ways to help more individuals make healthy choices. “I see my friends trying to navigate the world and figure out their own bodies and themselves in this very rapidly changing society,” she said. “I want to make some positive impact—some good change—to help not only my generation but future generations get more health literacy when it comes to sexual and reproductive health.”
Media contact: Dee Dee Grays, firstname.lastname@example.org, 979.436.0611