Epidemiology Student Wins First Place in Student Presentation Session at APHA

Fei Tang stands behind a podium, holding up a certificate.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 16, 2022) - Epidemiology PhD student Fei Tang won first place in the Greg Alexander Outstanding Student Presentations in Maternal and Child Health at the American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in Boston last week.

The Greg Alexander Outstanding Student Presentations session at APHA showcases findings from students’ independent or collaborative research projects that investigate a variety of maternal and child health issues, such as predicting preterm birth, reproductive health services for homeless women, school absenteeism and healthcare use.

Tang’s oral presentation focused on research from her PhD dissertation that examined the patterns and changes of parenting stress across early to middle childhood among unmarried mothers— along with the impact on their children's behavioral symptoms during adolescence.

“Compared to married mothers, unmarried mothers are generally at higher risks of developing parenting stress,” Tang explains. “High levels of parenting stress could in turn aggravate their children's behaviors through negative thoughts and behaviors.”

Most of the studies conducted in this area have focused on evaluating the impact of maternal parenting stress at a single point in time, while very few studies have identified and examined the effects of different trajectory patterns of maternal parenting stress on children's behaviors. Tang’s work provides unique insights on timely interventions that could be beneficial for the wellbeing of both mothers and children in unmarried families.

“I worked on this research with Dr. Vasquez, Dr. Tracy and Dr. Radigan from our school, who provided me with tremendous support and valuable insight. I’m very thankful to have them as my PhD committee members and for their support of my presentation at APHA—which was an incredible experience!” she says.

Tang, originally from Foshan in Guangdong province, China, completed the preventive medicine program in Southern Medical University before going on to pursue a Master of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology at UAlbany. Now as a PhD candidate, her research interests focus on identifying risk factors of adverse behavioral health outcomes, disparities in health service utilization, and minority health. Her passion for behavioral health research developed in part from her own experience.

“When I was growing up, no one really talked about mental health and paid much attention to it. There was and still is a lot of stigma about behavioral health issues. Some people who have been suffering from mental disorders are labeled as 'weak' and 'sensitive', which makes it even harder for them to seek professional help,” Tang explains. “I have anxiety issues, and also once thought I was 'weak' and 'not strong enough,' but over all these years of seeking help and understanding myself, I gradually realized that there could be so many reasons that a person would respond to their emotions in a maladaptive way, not just because they are 'weak.' These self-realizations further inspired me to study the potential causes of different behavioral issues.”

In addition to her academic program, Tang currently works as a senior research consultant for real world evidence studies. Going forward, she hopes to design and conduct more studies to identify causes and evaluate effective treatments for behavioral disorders.