Charlotte Druschel, MD, MPH, is the Medical Director of the New York State Congenital Malformations Registry and the Principal Investigator of the New York Center for the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Dr. Druschel is a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist who has more than 25 years of experience in birth defects research. Her most recent publications have focused on maternal illnesses and medications and identifying environmental and genetic risk factors for specific birth defects. Dr. Druschel has also played a key role in developing methodology for the surveillance of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and muscular dystrophy.
Why do you study birth defects? Why do you think the NBDPS is important?
Birth defects are a major cause of infant mortality and are among the top ten causes of death through young adulthood. They also result in major health burdens to the families and society. With the discovery of folic acid, we have started to see that some can be prevented. The NBDPS is a long-term on-going study of birth defects which has the real potential to increase our understanding of birth defects and ways to prevent them.
What are your hopes for the study?
While I certainly hope that we will find ways to prevent birth defects, I also hope that we can provide reassurance and guidance to pregnant women and their physicians that needed medications are safe. Too many women stop their medications, when the vast majority of the time both mother and baby are better off if she continues to take needed medications.
How long have you worked in this field? On the NBDPS?
I have worked in perinatal and reproductive epidemiology since 1983 when I started at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (I work with students born after that!). I have been with our state’s birth defects registry since 1988. New York was one of the initial participants in the NBDPS in 1997. It has been very gratifying after several years of data collection to see the number of publications resulting from the NBDPS.
If you could meet anyone living or passed, who would it be and why?
Jane Austen, she wrote the best books that I still enjoy after numerous readings and anyone who created Lizzy Bennett has to be a lot of fun.
If you weren’t an NBDPS researcher, what other profession would you have chosen?
If I were not in reproductive epidemiology, I would have liked to work in vaccines. Despite the bad press they get, vaccines have been tremendously important in reducing the burden of disease.
Selected NBDPS Publications:
Carter TC, Druschel CM, Romitti PA, Olney R, Werler M, Mitchell A and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Antifungal drugs and the risk of selected birth defects. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2008; 198( 2):191.e1-191.e7