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School of Medicine students receive Fulbright Scholarship for household air pollution research in Guatemala

Tatiana Petrovick and Emily Nuss to work in conjunction with the Household Air Pollution Intervention Network trial

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

July 16, 2020
SOM ’21 students Tatiana Petrovick and Emily Nuss

Tatiana Petrovick, SOM ’21, and Emily Nuss, SOM ’21, received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to conduct a study in Guatemala from January to August 2021. The J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board gives hundreds of U.S. students and citizens the opportunity to teach, research and provide expertise abroad; recipients are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement.

“This is a huge honor,” said Petrovick. “We are so thrilled to be provided this funding in order to study something we are both passionate about.”

Petrovick and Nuss are students in the Population-based Urban and Rural Community Health (PURCH) track at UMass Medical School. They also both studied in Guatemala prior to matriculating at UMMS.

They will be working in conjunction with the Household Air Pollution Intervention Network (HAPIN) trial, a multinational and multicentric study that analyzes the impacts of household air pollution on health outcomes, specifically on pregnant women and infants. The HAPIN trial has research sites in Guatemala, India, Peru and Rwanda.

“A lot of people living in lower or middle income countries cook over an open fires in their homes,” said Petrovick. “You can imagine that would send a lot of particulate matter and carbon monoxide into the air, which can cause pneumonia, heart disease and poor birth outcomes. This trial will look at the health effects and also look to find a potential solution.”

The trial is enrolling 3,200 households; half of the participants will be given gas stoves and propane, and half will remain as a control group using customary cooking practices. Households will be assessed and monitored based on their stove use and exposure to pollution. With this data, Nuss and Petrovick will analyze outcomes such as preterm birth, birth weight, growth and respiratory infections in children; and respiratory function, blood pressure, inflammation and other indicators of heart disease in adults.

“Our primary responsibilities will be to assist in capacity building. We will work with nurses to ensure that there is a consistent and accurate method of collecting data from questionnaires as well as of conducting growth monitoring, physical exams and developmental exams,” said Nuss.

The Fulbright Scholarship will cover Nuss and Petrovick’s living, travel and training expenses. Petrovick is working toward a career in obstetrics and gynecology, focusing on women’s health and cervical cancer prevention in Latin American countries. Nuss plans to go into family medicine, and also work closely with Latin American populations.

“In the future, we hope to work with historically underserved groups and use our position as physicians to advocate for improved access to health care, both in the United States and abroad,” said Petrovick.