5 questions for … Dr. Nana Mensah

A maternal and child health epidemiologist, Nana Mensah, PhD, MPH, is in the first year of her postdoctoral program at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. Through her research working with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Pregnancy Registry, she seeks to understand how clinical guidelines and practices shape birth outcomes in women at risk for preterm labor.

What inspired you to pursue research?

My interest in maternal and child health research was inspired by my experience growing up in Ghana, a country burdened with high maternal mortality rates and limited health care resources. During my graduate education, I was fortunate to work with excellent mentors who further fueled my desire to address maternal and child health problems using research.

Why did you come to Research & Evaluation to pursue your postdoctoral training?

As my graduate education was winding down, I wanted to find additional maternal and child health epidemiology training using electronic health record data. Research & Evaluation offered the exact opportunity I was looking for. During my training, I hope to improve my research and grant writing skills in preparation for a career as an independent researcher.

How do you think starting a new position in the midst of a global pandemic has changed your experience?

It has been an exciting ride beginning my postdoctoral training in a remote environment. Remote work offers flexibility that I appreciate, especially as a parent of small children. On the other hand, it can sometimes feel isolating, so I am always grateful for the opportunity to connect virtually with work colleagues and other postdocs in meetings and other events.

What research are you currently working on that you are most excited about?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was curious to know the implications of COVID-19 infections on expectant mothers. At the time, however, there was limited information available. Now, with a lot of data available, I get to work on a project assessing the risk of perinatal outcomes among women infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy from a race/ethnicity perspective. In this project, we will look at various perinatal and neonatal outcomes. They include preterm birth, preeclampsia, stillbirth, COVID-19 vertical transmission (from mother to child), NICU admission, congenital anomalies, and APGAR scores, which assess Appearance, Pulse, Grimace response (flexibility), Activity, and Respiration in newborns.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

As an introvert, I enjoy staying at home, binging TV shows, reading, and writing poetry (my favorite spoken word poet is Sarah Kay). I also enjoy spending time with my husband and 2 girls.

Image: Nana Mensah with her husband, Joe, and daughters Samy and Summer on a family outing to Disneyland.