R. Sue Day, PhD

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Professor, Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences

Dr. Day’s journey to public health began in Lubbock, TX, her hometown. After graduating from pre-med, home economics and secondary education studies at Texas Tech, she worked as a home economist and nutrition educator in Midland and Odessa, TX. Originally, Dr. Day came to Houston to meet faculty at the medical school, thinking she would go into medicine. She accidentally walked into the UT School of Public Health and a recruiter convinced her to study public health instead. She has been at the school 34 years. “Obviously they won me over!” Remembering her time as a nutritionist, she decided she really wanted to understand prevention of disease through nutrition.

Currently, she focuses on overweight and obesity’s effect on cardiovascular disease among firefighters. Dr. Day explains, “I often get asked, ‘why study firefighters?’, because many people think they must all be fit, muscular and have great dietary habits.  Unfortunately, the majority (78.4%) of firefighters are overweight or obese. Given how many firefighters struggle with their weight, it is no surprise they also suffer from a high rate of diseases related to obesity. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of firefighter line of duty death, accounting for almost half of deaths. I am so excited that we have just been funded by FEMA to implement the first health and wellness intervention for a national sample of volunteer firefighters with a focus on healthy eating, fitness and hydration.  This project is a great example of the type of public health work I hoped to do when I started my career at UTSPH.  Studies like this allow me to work directly with the people benefiting from the project and are indeed one of my passions.”

Click to read CBS and CNN’s take on Dr. Day’s research.

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Additional Research Projects:

NHLBI R34 HL125790
A Clinic and Tech-based Diet and Fitness Intervention for Volunteer Firefighters
Principal Investigator Subcontract
$631,000 09/01/2015 – 08/31/2018
Determine the comparative effectiveness of an occupational health clinician administered web- mobile lifestyle program The First Twenty® compared to the American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7 using a cluster randomized controlled trial among volunteer firefighters. Primary outcomes include weight, dietary intake, physical activity and cardiovascular risk score.

FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency EMW- EMW-2013-FP-00983
The First Twenty for Volunteer Firefighters
Principal Investigator
$1,571,946 08/01/2014–07/31/2017
Assess the efficacy of an internet-based firefighter health and wellness program, The First Twenty, for volunteer fire departments using a cluster randomized controlled trial in a national sample of volunteer firefighters. 

Current Projects

First Twenty for Volunteer Firefighters

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A cluster randomized controlled trial to address volunteer firefighters' (VFF) obesity to determine efficacy and acceptability of an inexpensive, culturally tailored internet based health and wellness intervention.

Fuel 2 Fight

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Examination of obesity, dietary intake, physical activity, and energy balance in the lifestyle environment of 1,000 firefighters housed in 60 fire stations within 20 fire departments across the nation.

Recent Publications

The association between body mass index and anal canal human papillomavirus prevalence and persistence: the HIM study.

(Nyitray, Alan G., Fen Peng, Rena S. Day, Roberto J. Carvalho Da Silva, Maria Luiza Baggio, Jorge Salmerón, Manuel Quiterio et al. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics (2019).)

The Timing of Cardiovascular Health Decline and Its Association With Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Adulthood.

(Pool, L.R., Krefman, A.E., Labarthe, D., Greenland, P., Juonala, M., Kähönen, M., Lehtimäki, T., Day, R.S., Bazzano, L., Van Horn, L. and Liu, L., 2019. Circulation, 139(Suppl_1), pp.A024-A024.)

Sleep, Obesity, and Injury Among US Male Career Firefighters

(Kaipust, Christopher M., Sara A. Jahnke, Walker SC Poston, Nattinee Jitnarin, Christopher K. Haddock, George L. Delclos, and Rena S. Day. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine (2019).)

Steady state hydration levels of career firefighters in a large, population-based sample

(Suminski RR1, Poston WSC, Day RS, Jitnarin N, Haddock CK, Jahnke SA, Dominick GM; J Occup Environ Med.; 2018)

Relationship between Homocysteine and Muscle Strength Decline: The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

(Vidoni ML, Pettee Gabriel K, Luo ST, Simonsick EM, Day RS; J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci.; 2018)

Recent News

Watch What You Eat with Dr. Susie Day

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Firefighters seem to be pretty healthy people. After all, you work out a lot, right? But what do you eat? Now look, I’m not your dad—but exercising doesn’t give you carte blanche to eat junk. But that’s exactly what my guest on this edition of Code 3 says is happening.

Firefighters' eating habits alarm health professionals

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Of all the meals in regular rotation at the Station 5 firehouse in North Charleston, none is as popular as the chicken sandwich. It’s not just any chicken sandwich, Capt. David Reindollar emphasizes. To make it, whichever firefighter has drawn cooking duty first rustles up a bag of hot dog buns. Then he or she tucks a fried chicken tender into each bun, and covers the meat with cheese and honey mustard. Next, the sandwich goes into the oven until the chicken is hot and the cheese is melty.

Study shows where firefighters get calories, it’s not pretty

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Results from the first detailed evaluation of what firefighters across America eat and drink, the “Fuel 2 Fight” study, is an eye-opener.