ECHO Researcher Yu Ni Joins SDSU SPH Epidemiology & Biostatistics Division

September 27, 2023

We are excited to welcome environmental epidemiologist Dr. Yu Ni to SPH faculty as an assistant professor in the Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics this semester!

Dr. Ni’s initial interest in pediatrics stemmed from “a combination of passion and opportunity.” Throughout her medical training and internship in pediatrics, she observed children’s unique vulnerabilities to diseases. When offered a position at Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Center, one of the largest children’s hospitals in south China, she jumped at the opportunity. “Specialized children’s hospitals offer a wide range of subspecialities,” Dr. Ni explained, “which allow young healthcare providers like me to grow quickly.” Witnessing firsthand the importance of applying disease prevention strategies for high-risk populations throughout her three years as a pediatrician, she was able to apply this perspective to her work at the Bureau of Health of Guangzhou Municipality to work as a Health Administrator. In this role, her understanding of the barriers to healthcare among her patients faced grew. “[This] inspired me to pursue higher education in public health.” Since obtaining her Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology and Global Health and PhD in Epidemiology, Dr. Ni has dedicated her work to learning how environmental exposures impact population health, particularly among women and children. 

“SDSU is a very supportive community for people who are working and learning here,” Dr. Ni noted. In her first weeks of the semester, she has gotten connected to other faculty members who can serve as mentors and collaborators from the broader university, college, school, and division levels. “There is no doubt that I am experiencing a big change from a postdoc trainee to an independent faculty member with many tasks,” she explained, “and teaching a whole class individually is also a new challenge. In addition to teaching the core biostatistics course PH 602, Dr. Ni has dedicated time to working one-on-one with students on their final research projects, preparing for a course she will be teaching next semester, and resuming her ongoing research in the NIH Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program with her postdoctoral team at the University of Washington. While her team aims to investigate a wide range of environmental exposures on child health and development, Dr. Ni’s projects explore the impacts of air pollution and chemical exposures during pregnancy on child cardiometabolic health and neurodevelopment.

In addition to her current workload, Dr. Ni has already begun brainstorming new research ideas with her colleagues at both SDSU and UCSD. “I would love to conduct a pilot study in the greater San Diego area to examine the health effects of water, wildfire, or other environmental pollutants during pregnancy on birth outcomes.” With such a pilot, she would aim to identify novel evidence reflecting the impact of these cumulative environmental exposures in utero. “Hopefully the results [could] inform a bigger study in the future,” Dr. Ni explained. This would allow her to explore how behavioral and lifestyle factors interplay with exposure to pollutants and their impact on child development. Despite the busy nature of her adjustment to this new role, “With all the support from SDSU, this transition process becomes much smoother.”

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