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Center for Human Nutrition

Recent Student Profile

Jane Schmitz, PhD Graduate
Understanding Chronic Undernutrition

Jane Schmitz entered the Department of International Health's Human Nutrition program with an interest in the long-term impact of chronic undernutrition, and that focus has remained unabated in this, her fifth and final academic year towards her doctoral degree. Schmitz's thesis, "The Effects of Preschool Vitamin A Supplementation on Adolescent Hearing Loss," will focus on the lasting effects of childhood vitamin A supplementation and undernutrition on health and functional performance in young adulthood.

Unique Follow-Up Study

For her thesis, Schmitz joined the NNIPS Cohort Follow-Up (NCFU) study, which is a follow-up to the Nepal Nutrition Intervention Project Sarlahi-1 (NNIPS-1) trial. Begun in the late 1980s by Department faculty member Keith West, DrPH, MPH, and colleagues, NNIPS-1 generated evidence on the role of vitamin A in reducing child mortality through the results of a supplementation trial in 30,000 preschool age Nepali children.

The follow-up study is the first time the researchers are attempting to return to the original population of Nepali children, now 15-22 years of age, for long-term follow-up. Schmitz's role is to lead a team to conduct ear exams, test how well the children hear, and test non-verbal cognition skills. Schmitz says, "There is no other research study like NNIPS in the world that presents the opportunity for this kind of follow-up. Our aim is to collect 4,500 hearing tests and ear exams, and currently we're two-thirds of the way through."

Positive Energy

After returning from Nepal this summer, Schmitz will spend the next few months analyzing and summarizing the data for her dissertation. She plans to graduate in spring 2008. Schmitz says, "After graduation, I want to continue to apply my research skills and translate results from nutrition field research into policy and programs. Eventually, I want to get involved in advocacy work and lobby for increased attention to nutrition programs and the fight against global poverty."

The most exciting parts of Schmitz's academic career in Human Nutrition and the Department have been the acquisition of her research skills, the ability to implement those techniques in the field, and the opportunity to work alongside the faculty. "Obtaining a PhD is a long road, but my advisor, Keith West, maintains an enthusiasm for the research and a positive energy that is sustaining. It has been really valuable for me to learn from people who have had long careers in the field, such as Keith, Parul Christian, Joanne Katz, and Jim Tielsch," says Schmitz. She also appreciates her interaction with fellow doctoral students in the program: "Many of the students already have had impressive careers, and we often toss ideas around and have great discussions."

(June 2007)

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