SRPH graduate student secures national public health poster presentation

June 2, 2009
Michelle Steck

Michelle Steck

(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Michelle Steck, a recent master’s degree graduate in epidemiology at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, was selected as one of 19 people nationwide for the Delta Omega National Honorary Society in Public Health portion of the research poster presentations at the American Public Health Association annual meeting Nov. 9-13 in Philadelphia. Steck also received the Dean’s Research Award during graduation ceremonies May 17.

“I am very happy to represent the School of Rural Public Health at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting,” Steck said. “I am very thankful for the school’s nomination and for the excellent educational foundation they have provided me.”

Steck presented her poster, which evaluates the association between pregnant women consuming fish with various birth defects in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), during the school’s National Public Health Week activities April 6-9.

Utilizing NBDPS data, Steck assessed the relationship between pregnant women consuming fish and the occurrence of birth defects. After adjusting for socio-demographic, dietary and health status indicators, she found that compared with mothers who ate fish less than once a month, mothers who ate 3 to 5 ounces of fish one to three times per month were significantly protected from various birth defects.

However, high levels of fish consumption increased the risk for a heart defect called perimembranous ventricular septal defect as well as a birth defect called amniotic band syndrome, which involves entanglement of the developing fetus in string-like fibrous bands. These findings suggest that women who are planning to become pregnant should be eating 3 to 5 ounces of fish one to three times a month to protect against birth defects, but it may confer risk to consume higher amounts.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell