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UB lands its first Banting Fellowship recipient

By DAVID J. HILL

Published August 29, 2017

“We don’t fully understand how obesity affects women in these older age groups. It’s a topic that needs investigation based on the changing demographics of the U.S. and the fact that women are living longer.”
Hailey Banack, UB postdoc and recipient
Banting Fellowship

Hailey Banack

A postdoctoral researcher in the School of Public Health and Health Professions has been awarded a Banting Fellowship, Canada’s most prestigious award for postdoctoral researchers. The government of Canada awards 70 Banting Fellowships annually and each is worth $70,000 per year over two years.

This is the first time a UB postdoc has received the Banting Fellowship. Hailey Banack is working under the direction of Jean Wactawski-Wende, SUNY Distinguished Professor, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions, and professor of epidemiology and environmental health.

Banack’s research interest in healthy aging and women’s health led her to UB, which serves as the Northeast Regional Center for the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a prospective national study focused on strategies for preventing heart disease, cancer and osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women in the U.S.

“The WHI is a very well-known epidemiologic study. It was a great fit to come here and work with Dr. Wactawski-Wende because she is a recognized expert in women’s health and body composition,” Banack says. “This is an amazing opportunity for me as a young researcher.”

Postmenopausal women are a uniquely high-risk group and research is needed to improve researchers’ limited knowledge of the effects of obesity and hormone therapy on cardiovascular disease and mortality in older women, she explains.

“We don’t fully understand how obesity affects women in these older age groups. It’s a topic that needs investigation based on the changing demographics of the U.S. and the fact that women are living longer,” she says.

The majority of Banack’s research is focused on understanding the relationships between obesity, chronic disease and mortality in older women, and using novel methodologies to address complex statistical issues in aging research.

For her current research project, Banack is using data from more than 160,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative. She will first explore how body weight and body composition change over time in postmenopausal women and how these changes affect risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Next, she’ll use advanced statistical methods and bias-analysis techniques to investigate the effect of body weight changes on mortality. She also will examine whether hormone therapy and obesity interact to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.

“The results of this research have great public health significance,” Banack says. “Understanding the effect of obesity in postmenopausal women could help inform treatment guidelines and enable clinician-scientists to develop intervention programs specifically targeting postmenopausal women. These results will directly contribute to our understanding of healthy aging in postmenopausal women.”

Banack was born and raised in Toronto. She completed concurrent bachelor of physical education and bachelor of science degrees at Queen’s University and then a master’s degree in kinesiology at McGill University. She received a PhD in epidemiology from McGill University in 2016.

Banack was awarded both the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the most outstanding McGill graduate receiving a doctoral degree in 2015-16 in any discipline and the Gordon A. Maclachlan Prize for the top graduating doctoral student in health sciences.

She is actively involved in the peer-review process for a number of prominent epidemiology and medical journals.

She began her postdoctoral work at UB in September 2016.