Like many people in the fields of health and medicine, Andrea Duran started out with a greater interest in prevention than cure. Fundamentally, her focus hasn’t changed, but it took an unexpected twist along the way.
“I went from working with children and primary prevention to working with patients with established heart disease and looking for novel secondary prevention strategies to ward off the recurrence of heart attacks or death,” says Duran.
There were two very important reasons for that shift: Jaime and Mary Frances Lopez-Tiana, Duran’s grandparents.
“My love for them is insurmountable,” says Duran. “But my grandparents engaged in unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, which I’ve seen manifested in adverse health outcomes. That, in turn, sparked my desire to combat disease through behavioral health.”
Actually, to back up a few steps, Duran originally set out to fight obesity in the Latinx community, switching her undergraduate major from dance to kinesiology (the study of the science of body movement). In fall 2016, she enrolled as a doctoral student in the Movement Science/Kinesiology Program of Teachers College’s Department of Biobehavioral Sciences.
My grandparents engaged in unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, which I’ve seen manifested in adverse health outcomes. That, in turn, sparked my desire to combat disease through behavioral health.
Her obesity research was proceeding exactly as she’d envisioned until, while at TC, she won an appointment as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-Health Policy Research Scholar. She subsequently learned more about the risks of sedentary behavior, leading her to conduct studies at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health (CBCH) at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
The CBCH core mission formed the basis for Duran’s dissertation – “Exploring Sedentary Behavior as a Secondary Prevention Target for Heart Disease,” which she dedicated to her grandparents. Her advisers were TC Professor of Movement Carol Ewing Garber and Keith Diaz, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Medicine with the Columbia University Department of Medicine and Director of the CBCH Exercise Testing Laboratory.
Graduate Gallery 2019
Meet some more of the amazing students who earned degrees from Teachers College this year.
Now, with her TC doctorate in hand, Duran is returning to the Columbia Division of Cardiology as a Post-Doctoral Research Scientist, the next step toward a career as a clinical researcher in which she hopes to concentrate on “implementation science.”
“Cardiac rehabilitation is already a well-known evidence-based secondary prevention practice,” she explains. “But the evidence shows it can be underutilized for a variety of reasons, including a shortage of support from insurance companies, and referral and health systems. Implementation science bridges the gap between research and practice.”
For evidence of both the need for such work and what it can accomplish, Duran need look no further than TC’s doctoral hooding ceremony this past May. Conspicuously absent was Jaime Lopez-Tiana, who died last year at age 79 after struggling with Type II Diabetes. But the attendees included a grandmother who had flown in from California to honor the achievement of her granddaughter: Mary Frances Lopez-Tiana.