Get to Know Center Faculty: Dr. Marcia Otto

Published: April 28, 2022

Interviewing faculty can be a great way to get to know more about them! Learning more about faculty research and interests can be helpful to students forming their own interests and career goals.

Dr. Marcia Otto is an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences. Originally trained as a physicist, Dr. Otto’s interest in public health began during her graduate studies at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. During the development of her master thesis, she developed methods to quantify exposure to environmental pollutants present in water using nuclear physics techniques. While doing this work, she became more aware of potential long-term effects of heavy metals among children living in low-income communities in Brazil. As her interest in these issues increased, her studies evolved into epidemiological questions. When her advisor suggested to invite an epidemiologist to join the committee evaluating her thesis, she decided to pursue a doctoral degree with a strong focus on Epidemiology and later applied to the PhD program at UT School of Public Health in Houston.

During our conversation, Dr. Otto and I discussed how important prevention of poor health outcomes is in vulnerable and underserved populations. “The risk of major diseases causing of death and disability in adult populations can be drastically decreased during one’s lifespan” ” Dr. Otto shares, “It gives me hope to work on projects focusing on things that CAN be done to help individuals live better, healthier lives” Her passion for the individuals and communities she serves is apparent not only through her words, but through the research she conducts. Her current research projects includes quantifying nutritional deficiencies among cancer patients and survivors, evaluating effects of diet on cognition and cardio-metabolic disease in adult populations, and quantifying the burden and disparities related to COVID-19 in Texas. As we continue to navigate the future of public health, Dr. Otto is working diligently to identify and address key questions to help the field of public health move forward. She emphasizes the importance of health equity, and how we MUST not only increase in our understanding of health disparities, but continue working diligently to reduce them. We must strengthen the connection between understanding and acting. As Dr. Otto puts it, “the better we understand the needs of different population subgroups, , the better we can help inform programs to improve health for all.”

To read more about Dr. Otto and the amazing work she’s doing, you can click here