King: 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award for Service


Wendy King is an associate professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health who received her PhD in 2004 from The Department of Epidemiology. Her work is focused on the design, coordination and analysis of multi-center cohort studies and clinical trials. She has studied physical activity, obesity, and its treatment, bariatric surgery and lifestyle interventions, throughout her career. More recently she has also studied SARS-CoV-2 infection and liver disease. She is currently the principal investigator of the data coordinating center for two prospective cohort studies related to the Hepatitis B Research Network (HBRN): an eight-site study of the progression of hepatitis B in adults co-infected with HIV, and a 28-site study of novel markers of hepatitis B.

"I was able to join a research study upon my arrival at Pitt Public Health, which made everything I learned in classes more tangible and exciting. By the time I graduated I had gained experience in conducting research assessments with study participants, data entry, management and analysis, study coordination, and manuscript preparation as part of NIH-funded research projects. Additionally, through class work I gained experience applying epidemiological methods to a wide variety of health exposures and outcomes, which contributed to how comfortable I’ve been studying new health outcomes throughout my career," King said. 

King serves on the editorial board of Surgery for Obesity and Related Disease (SOARD), the official journal of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, and Obesity Science and Practice, the official journal of World Obesity and The Obesity Society. She has a history of publishing in high impact journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and Annals of Surgery. Several of her publications have impacted clinical guidelines and reporting practices, garnered international news coverage, and been recognized via research awards at national conferences.

King has chaired and currently serves on the Department of Epidemiology PhD Preliminary Exams Committee, and has taught Epidemiology Methods 1, and  Reading, Analyzing and Interpreting the Public Health and Medical Literature. She especially enjoys working one-on-one with PhD students through their Graduate Student Researcher positions and as their dissertation committee member and advisor. Her favorite part of her job is the diversity of research areas she has been able to study. "Although I’ve studied obesity and its treatment (lifestyle and surgical interventions) throughout the majority of my career, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to study a large variety of health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, dietary intake and eating behaviors, substance use) and health outcomes (e.g., weight, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, physical function, pain, reproductive health, sexual function, psychopathology, patient satisfaction, hepatitis B, HIV, COVID-19)." 

Since 2011, King and her family have raised over $65,000 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCF) as part of their annual fundraising campaign, the “Take Steps” walk. Although the in-person walk was replaced by an online event this past June, King and her daughter, Madeline, raised $8,533 with creative fund-raising efforts, including posting video entries in the CCF’s online “IBDs Got Talent” competition.

In addition to serving as a fundraising effort, the Take Steps walk is an event which provides education, support and inspiration for patients, caregivers, and friends affected by inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) (i.e., Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis). Wendy has embraced this aspect of the Take Steps walk, and in particular, CCF’s mission to support families. When parents with a newly diagnosed child call the Western PA/WV chapter of CCF, they are asked whether they’d like to speak with an experienced parent. Sometimes these families call Wendy so she can answer questions, share experiences and offer support. Wendy also provides peer support to parents of children with IBD via a Facebook group focused on diet therapy for IBD.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, King has been volunteering time with the Allegheny County Health Department. She first worked with ACHD Chief Epidemiologist LuAnn Brink (IDM '98, EPI '96) and a small team of Pitt Public Heath faculty to plan a COVID-19 surveillance project. Specifically, they planned a population-based SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence survey of county residents to allow the county and state policy makers and service providers better estimate the number of individuals infected to date, the distribution of the clinical presentations (asymptomatic, mild, moderate and severe), and the individual and neighborhood level factors associated with infection and clinical outcomes of COVID-19 (to help identify the most vulnerable subgroups of the population).

This work led to Wendy’s role on the multi-center NIH-funded, “Community Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Study (COMPASS), with IDM's Ernesto Marques, and Ken Ho of Pitt Medicine. Wendy is also helping the ACHD by analyzing their COVID-19 databases and census data to identify factors that help explain the increased SARS-CoV-2 risk among Blacks versus Whites within AC, as well as understand the degree of household transmission among positive cases.


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