Pitt Public Health Professor A Role Model

By Allison Hydzik

A drive to make sure women are as healthy as they can be when they give birth led Lisa M. Bodnar to become a leader in her field before the age of 40.

Dr. Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology, has been awarded the Young Professional Achievement Award, given by the National Coalition for Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology. 

“I am driven to discover the healthiest weight, nutrition and behavioral practices to support optimal health for pregnant women and their children,” Dr. Bodnar said.  “With the high prevalence of obesity in U.S. women and so many families in our country lacking the resources and education needed to make healthy food choices, understanding the impact of poor nutrition on birth outcomes is critical for promoting public health.”

In the 10 years since Dr. Bodnar completed her degree and became a nutritional epidemiologist concentrating on reproductive health, she has made extraordinary contributions to understanding how maternal nutritional health – particularly while pregnant – impacts the health of the mother and her baby.

One of her more surprising findings was a high prevalence of anemia among women receiving supplemental foods through the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

“I am especially hopeful that the emphasis of my work on understanding and addressing intractable racial-ethnic and economic inequalities in vitamin D, obesity and perinatal health will yield answers that can be applied to eliminate excess morbidity and mortality suffered by minority and low-income populations,” said Dr. Bodnar.

At just 36, she's also among the world’s experts in the study of weight gain while pregnant – she was the youngest member of the Institute of Medicine’s committee to re-examine weight gain during pregnancy.