Meet a Member

Jeremy Schraw, PhD

Baylor College of Medicine

What type of research do you do?

As an epidemiologist, I study how disease is distributed in human populations. Early in my training my research focused on childhood cancer, but I was quickly drawn to the study of birth defects, because these are the leading cause of death in infants and a risk factor for cancer in children. Currently, my research seeks to identify genetic and environmental factors (or “exposures”) that are associated with birth defects, to describe novel multiple birth defect syndromes and elucidate their causes, and to understand and improve outcomes for children with birth defects. To achieve these objectives, I use many types of data, including records from population-based birth defects registries, federal agencies, and the genomes of affected children and their family members.

What would you describe as your most important accomplishment?

As one example of how my research seeks to improve human health, my mentors, colleagues and I recently published a manuscript in JAMA Oncology highlighting the increased risk of cancer among children with birth defects. This paper described, for the first time, associations between specific structural birth defects and specific types of childhood cancer. We hope that this work will inform cancer risk prediction and early detection efforts in children with birth defects, thereby improving survival and minimizing toxicities and adverse effects from cancer chemotherapy. This work may also be useful in identifying genes and exposures that are linked to both birth defects and cancer. Indeed, through this work our group has identified a new genetic variant we believe is associated with both a multiple birth defect syndrome and leukemia in girls. This information could be used to diagnose or confirm this condition in affected children in the future, as well as identify children at risk of leukemia.

What does it mean to you to be involved in the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (BDRP)?

Membership in BDRP means a great deal to me. As a young investigator, I can say that I have benefitted immensely from the Society’s support for its trainees and junior faculty. The Society has given me opportunities to share my research with other scientists and the public, provided financial support to participate in scientific meetings, and introduced me to a diverse group of scientists, healthcare professionals and advocates. By doing so, it has helped me foster new ideas and collaborations and strengthen existing ones. Society members come from a wide array of scientific disciplines and are experts in many different fields, disciplines, and techniques. A number of them have become important mentors and collaborators to me. Their insights, perspectives and talents are invaluable as we strive to perform the most impactful research possible and advance human health.

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