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“Increasing the Healthy Years of Life”: Meet DLSPH’s Newest Epidemiologist

September 21/2021

By Heidi Singer

DLSPH is welcoming a new epidemiologist to the School in January: Asst. Prof. Hailey Banack, who studies obesity and aging in postmenopausal women.

Raised in Toronto, Banack received her PhD from McGill University and is currently a Research Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo, where she works on the large, long-term research study, Women’s Health Initiative.

“We know the aging process results in striking physical changes, and I’m interested in better understanding the downstream health effects of those physical changes for older adults,” she says.

Banack is passionate about improving the quality of people’s lives as they age.

“We’ve had gains in life expectancy, but I want to focus on increasing the healthy years of life and making those additional years more enjoyable,” says Banack, who is looking forward to being closer to her 101-year old grandmother, who still lives on her own in Toronto. “Lifespan is important, but so is healthspan. It’s one thing to live to 85 in poor health and it’s a completely different thing to live to that age and get to enjoy life.”

Banack also brings specialized knowledge on epidemiologic methods and causal inference. She is looking forward to collaborating with faculty and students across divisions within the school such as Biostatistics, Clinical Public Health, and the Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation (IHPME). Her research is strongly interdisciplinary: she believes that working with experts from a range of different fields is the best approach to make a meaningful impact on population health.

“The Faculty at DLSPH have such a diverse range of expertise and I am looking forward to collaborating with them to develop new and impactful research questions,” she says. “While my core research is focused on methods to study age-related change in body composition, new collaborations with DLSPH affiliated faculty have the potential to broaden the scope of this research to include questions about health disparities and community-level population health interventions.”

Banack particularly enjoys teaching and working with students. She co-hosts a podcast called SERious Epidemiology that discusses epidemiologic methods in a way that’s accessible for trainees who want to learn more about novel methods. She is keenly interested in mentorship and paying forward the excellent mentoring she received over the years. She co-founded the Mentoring Committee of the Society for Epidemiologic Research; and she’s an editor at the journal Epidemiology, helping early career researchers participate in the peer review process.

“I love working with students because I am always learning from them” she says. “They each bring unique expertise based on their training and background. I am excited to meet the graduate students at DLSPH and help train future generations of researchers in epidemiology and leaders in public health”.

Colleagues are eagerly anticipating her arrival:  “Hailey’s expertise in epidemiological methods, and the novel forms of data she uses will be so important to our division,” says Prof. Arjumand Siddiqi, head of the Division of Epidemiology. “But, perhaps more importantly, Hailey brings enthusiasm and a wonderful creative spirit about how to work with and communicate epidemiological ideas.”