As a nursing student at Boston College, Erin Clements, BSN, R.N. MPH’19 fell in love with her labor/delivery and pediatric rotations. After earning her B.S. in nursing in 2016, Clements entered the MPH program at Brown to do research in public health. There, she connected with Dr. Patrick Vivier, director of the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute, who is also the director of Interdisciplinary Education Programs at the School of Public Health.
“I tried to meet with Dr. Vivier right away to discuss my thesis and how I could focus on maternal and child health research. Those are the two areas where I want to make a difference,” Clements said.
The Hassenfeld Summer Scholars program seemed like the perfect opportunity for Clements to support her research while receiving mentorship from experts in the field, including Dr. Vivier.
As a summer scholar, Clements also worked closely with Dr. Ailis Clyne, the medical director in the Division of Community Health and Equity at the Rhode Island Department of Health. Dr. Clyne was a great fit since her focus is on health equity in maternal/child health.
With help from Drs. Clyne and Vivier, Clements conducted a statewide assessment of infant mortality using data from 2005 to 2016. They focused on neighborhood factors that influence infant mortality, ultimately creating a snapshot of what infant mortality in Rhode Island looked like over those 12 years.
“We found that prematurity was a huge driver of infant mortality in Rhode Island. Nationally, it’s the second highest cause, but in Rhode Island, prematurity is number one,” Clements said.
This finding is important for future research on infant mortality in the state, Clements said.
“We found that focusing on prenatal health and reducing known risk factors and disparities in prematurity could potentially help reduce infant mortality,” Clements said.
The Summer Scholars program helped Clements stay focused on her thesis; in fact, Dr. Vivier became her thesis advisor, while Dr. Clyne was her reader. Clements also worked closely with Lauren Schlichting, Ph.D., in the Hassenfeld Institute’s Data Core. Clements credits them for helping her to get her research on infant mortality published for the first time, in the Rhode Island Medical Journal.
Clements now works as a research nurse coordinator at the Center for the Developing Brain at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. There, Clements and her colleagues conduct research focused on the developing brain, both in utero and in the newborn stages of life. Using MRIs to examine babies’ brain development can help to identify impaired brain growth as soon as possible. Specifically, Clements does a lot of studies looking at maternal stress and how that impacts brain development.
“I definitely think Brown helped set me up for this job and for this type of infant and fetal research,” Clements said.
Overall, Clements said the biggest benefit of the Summer Scholars program was the mentorship she received, especially from Dr. Vivier.
“Dr. Vivier was so great during my time at Brown, and I jumped at any opportunity to help him because he did so much for me,” Clements said.