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Sep. 15, 2016

Collaboration brings more health research to northwest Michigan

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Munson Medical Center are strengthening collaboration for health research in northwest Michigan.

The College of Human Medicine announced it is adding a full-time epidemiologist to its Traverse City Campus, in addition to the epidemiologist who has been at the campus since 2015.

“We see real benefits in our medical education partnerships with Munson Healthcare and Munson Medical Center,” said Aron Sousa, interim dean at the College of Human Medicine. “Our researchers here in Traverse City are available to help local physicians, physician residents and our medical students at the local campus connect with the research opportunities and resources available at the university. It also gives our researchers here access to opportunities in northwest Michigan.”

Epidemiologist and assistant professor at the College of Human Medicine Jean Kerver has been in Traverse City for more than a year as part of the College of Human Medicine’s efforts to promote public health in rural communities. She now has been joined by assistant professor and epidemiologist Kelly Hirko whose research focuses on how lifestyle and racial and socioeconomic disparities affect the etiology of cancer.

Kerver said since arriving in Traverse City she has worked on several research projects, including an effort with the help of OB/GYN physicians at Grand Traverse Women’s Clinic to enroll 70 women in perinatal research. The study is part of a state wide project looking at how environmental exposures during pregnancy affect the health of children as they grow.

“We are looking at factors such as diet, social situations and exposures that we can assess from blood and urine,” she said. “I am assessing iodine in women’s urine. We also have other studies looking at physical activity during pregnancy and cholesterol levels, because we know cholesterol increases in the body during pregnancy.”

Another study set to kick off involves the impact of increasing fiber in a pregnant woman’s diet and how that affects the biome in their digestive system and their baby’s digestive system. There is also a study on breast-feeding and weight management in conjunction with the Healthy Future’s program – a partnership between Munson Healthcare, regional health care providers, and health departments.

Munson Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Derk Pronger said as a teaching hospital, the collaboration with the College of Human Medicine continues to bring many benefits.

“We’re excited about how our relationship with the College of Human Medicine has grown and continues to flourish,” he said. “We’re hoping the medical students who learn here will consider coming back to practice when they start their careers. Adding Jean and Kelly to the local campus allows opportunities for students and physicians to really impact the future of public health. It also provides Jean and Kelly front-line perspectives on rural health care.”

More information about the MSU College of Human Medicine Traverse City Campus can be found at