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Amanda M. Simanek, PhD, MPH

Amanda M. Simanek, PhD, MPH

Amanda M. Simanek, PhD, MPH
Director, Michael Reese Foundation Center for Health Equity Research; Associate Professor, Epidemiology

Dr. Amanda Simanek received her MPH in International Health Epidemiology and PhD in Epidemiologic Science from University of Michigan School of Public Health, where she trained as a social epidemiologist and then served as a member of the research faculty in the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health. Prior to joining RFU, she was a faculty member in the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, helping to build new MPH and PhD programs in Epidemiology.

Dr. Simanek's research focuses on understanding psychosocial determinants of infectious disease, identifying novel biologic pathways by which social inequities in health develop across the lifecourse and are perpetuated across generations, and assessing best practices in science communication and infodemic management in the context of public health crises. Her research, funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Marmot Prince Mahidol Fellowship, focuses on understanding the biologic pathways by which prenatal socioeconomic disadvantage adversely affects offspring health such as via fetal programming of the immune system and via alterations to the neonatal epigenome. She has also assessed social patterning of acquisition and immune control of bacteria and viruses that persist in the body over time and the role such pathogens play in the development of chronic disease outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and depression. Last, she is founding member and contributing writer for the COVID-19 social media-based science communication effort, Dear Pandemic, a project which actively addresses the COVID-19 infodemic and has assessed the information needs of individuals over the course of the pandemic.

In her capacity as founding Director of the Michael Reese Foundation Center for Health Equity Research, she aims for the center to foster health equity-focused research collaborations that are responsive to community needs, address socio-structural determinants of health and involve implementation of interventions aimed at improving health equity in Lake County, IL.

Curriculum Vitae


Recent Publications

  • Ukraintseva, S., Duan, M., Simanek, A.M., Holmes, R., Bagley, O., Rajendrakumar, A.L., Yashin, A.P, Akushevich, I.,  Tropsha, A., Whitson, H., Arbeev, K. Vaccination against pneumonia may provide genotype-specific protection against Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. In Press.
  • James, R., Albrecht, A., Buttenheim, A., Dowd, J., Kumar, A., Jones, M., Leininger, L., Simanek, A.M., Aronowitz, S. What were the information voids?: A Qualitative Analysis of Questions asked by Dear Pandemic readers between August 2020-August 2021.  J Health Commun. 2023 Apr 7;28(sup1):25-33. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2023.2214986. PMID: 37390014.
  • Simanek, A.M., Xiong, M., Woo, J.M.P., Zheng, C., Zhang, Y., Meier, H.C.S, and Aiello, A.E. Prenatal Socioeconomic Disadvantage, Adverse Birth Outcomes, and Inflammatory Response at Birth. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2023 Jul;153:106090. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2023.106090. Epub 2023 Mar 30. PMID: 37146471.
  • Golos, A., Guntuku, S., Piltch-Loeb, R., Leininger, L., Simanek, A.M., Albrecht, S., Kumar, A., Dowd, J.B., Jones, M. and Buttenheim, A. Themes and trends in COVID-19 information needs: topic modeling analysis of the Dear Pandemic question box. PLoS One. Mar 30;18(3):e0281773. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0281773. PMID: 36996093; PMCID: PMC10062627.
  • Woo, J.M.P., Parks, C.G., Lynch, E.E., Auer, P.L., Simanek, A.M., Konkel, R.H., Taylor, J., Sandler, D.P., Meier,H.C.S.M. Early life trauma and adult leukocyte telomere length. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2022 Oct;144:105876. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2022.105876. Epub 2022 Jul 23. PMID: 35939862; PMCID: PMC9446387.
  • Simanek, A.M., Mansala, R., Woo, J.M.P., Meier, H.C.S, Needham, B. and Auer, P.L. Prenatal Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Alterations to the Neonatal Epigenome Children in the Born in Bradford Cohort. Epigenetics. 2022 Jul 14:1-15. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2022.2098569. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35837690.
  • Woo J.M.P., Simanek, A.M., O’Brien, K., Parks. C., Gaston, S., Auer, P., Konkel, R.H., Jackson, C., Meier, H.C.S, Sandler, D.P. Latent class models of early life trauma and incident breast cancer. Epidemiology 2022 Sep 1;33(5):729- 738. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000001507. Epub 2022 May 16. PMID: 35580243; PMCID: PMC9378657.
  • Albrecht, S., Jones, M., Aronowitz, S., Dowd, J.B., Hale, L., Kumar, A., Leininger, L., Ritter, A.Z., Simanek, A.M., Whelan, C., and Buttenheim, A. Lessons Learned from Dear Pandemic, a Social Media-based Science Communication Project Targeting the COVID-19 Infodemic. Public Health Reports. 2022 Mar 3:333549221076544. doi: 10.1177/00333549221076544. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35238241.
  • Leininger, L., Albrecht, S., Buttenheim, A., Dowd, J.B., Ritter, A., Simanek A.M., Valentino, M.J., Jones, M. Fight Like a Nerdy Girl: The Dear Pandemic Playbook for Combating Health Misinformation. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2022 Mar;36(3):563-567. doi: 10.1177/08901171211070956. PMID: 35164543; PMCID: PMC9354480. *Winner of the Editor in Chief Award 2022 and selected as 1 of 8 papers of the year by the American Journal of Health Promotion (