I am a chronic disease epidemiologist. I study the connections of cardiovascular and metabolic health with neurological health in older adults. I completed my bachelors degree in neuroscience at BYU, my masters degree in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and my doctoral degree in epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Prior to joining the Public Health faculty at BYU, I worked as an epidemiologist/biostatistican at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health. I served a proselyting mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sapporo, Japan, from 1997-1999. I live in Orem, Utah, with my wife JaNeece and our two children.
I teach undergraduate courses for students majoring in Public Health:
HLTH 314 -- Health, Disease, and Their Determinants, Part 1. The purpose of this course is for public health students in all emphasis areas to learn basic concepts about human health from a life course perspective, determinants of health including biological, behavioral, social, and environmental, major infectious diseases, and major chronic non-communicable diseases. In addition to studying a variety of topics as a class, students complete a series of research and writing assignments to go into more depth on selected topics that interest them.
HLTH 447 -- Introduction to Biostatistics. The purpose of this course is for epidemiology and health science emphasis students to apply biostatistics concepts and procedures to the study of epidemiologic research questions. The approach combines learning statistical concepts with practical application of statistical methods in data analysis. Students complete a series of data analysis assignments using SAS software in which they analyze epidemiologic data to address research questions using statistical methods.
HLTH 493 -- Epidemiology Capstone. The purpose of this course is for epidemiology emphasis student teams to conduct an epidemiologic research project using publicly available quantitative data. Students complete a research proposal, systematic literature review, detailed statistical analysis plan, quantitative data analysis, and structured research report. All student projects involve real data and are potentially publishable.
The purpose of my research program at BYU is to involve undergraduate and graduate students in creating new knowledge through epidemiologic research that will benefit the health of older adults. Currently we focus primarily on projects exploring determinants of cognitive decline, cognitive impairment, and dementia.
We use data from epidemiologic cohort studies in the United States including the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke Study (REGARDS), and the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS).
Undergraduate students who wish to work with us on epidemiologic research projects can best prepare by completing the following courses:
HLTH 345 -- Principles of Epidemiology
HLTH 440 -- Computer Applications in Epidemiology
HLTH 447 -- Introduction to Biostatistics
- PhD, Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health, 2011
- SM (MS), Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 2005
- BS, Neuroscience, Brigham Young University, 2003
- American Epilepsy Society, 2019-Present
- Gerontological Society of America, 2018-2019
- American Heart Association, Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health, 2014-Present
- American Heart Association, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, 2007-Present
- Society for Epidemiologic Research, 2014-2015
- HLTH 314: Hlth, Disease & Determinants 1 Section 001
- HLTH 491R: Mentored Research Section 027
- HLTH 493: Epidemiology Capstone Section 001
- HLTH 314: Hlth, Disease & Determinants 1 Section 001, 002
- HLTH 447: Introduction to Biostatistics Section 001
- HLTH 491R: Mentored Research Section 011
- HLTH 688R: Field Experience Section 015
- HLTH 310: Chrnc Disease:Prevntn & Cntrl Section 003
- HLTH 447: Introduction to Biostatistics Section 001
Hedges DW, Berrett AN, Erickson LD, Brown BL, Thacker EL, Gale SD. 2019. Cardiovascular factors moderate the association of infection burden with cognitive function in young to middle-aged US adults. PLOS ONE. doi: 10.1371
Harding MC, Sloan CD, Merrill RM, Harding TM, Thacker BJ, Thacker EL. 2018. Transitions from heart disease to cancer as the leading cause of death in US states, 1999-2016. Preventing Chronic Disease. 15:E158. doi:10.5888/pcd15.180151
Berrett AN, Gale SD, Erickson LD, Thacker EL, Brown BL, Hedges DW. 2018. Toxoplasma gondii seropositivity and substance use in US adults. Folia Parasitologica. 65:011. doi:10.14411/fp.2018.011
Gillett SR, McClure LA, Callas PW, Thacker EL, Unverzagt FW, Wadley VG, Letter AJ, Cushman M. 2018. Hemostasis biomarkers and incident cognitive impairment: the REGARDS study. Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. 16(7):1259-1267. doi:10.1111/jth.14138
Kamel H, Bartz TM, Elkind MS, Okin PM, Thacker EL, Patton KK, Stein PK, deFilippi C, Gottesman RF, Heckbert SR, et al. 2018. Atrial cardiopathy and the risk of ischemic stroke in the CHS (Cardiovascular Health Study). Stroke. 49(4):980-986. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.020059
Hammond CA, Blades NJ, Chaudhry SI, Dodson JA, Longstreth WT, Heckbert SR, Psaty BM, Arnold AM, Dublin S, Sitlani CM, et al. 2018. Long-term cognitive decline after newly diagnosed heart failure: longitudinal analysis in the CHS (Cardiovascular Health Study). Circulation: Heart Failure. 11(3):e004476. doi:10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.117.004476
Ehlert AN, Heckbert SR, Wiggins KL, Thacker EL. 2017. Administrative billing codes accurately identified occurrence of electrical cardioversion and ablation/maze procedures in a prospective cohort study of atrial fibrillation patients. Clinical Cardiology. 40(12):1227-1230. doi:10.1002/clc.22812
Garg PK, O'Neal WT, Ogunsua A, Thacker EL, Howard G, Soliman EZ, Cushman M. 2017. Usefulness of the American Heart Association’s Life Simple 7 to predict the risk of atrial fibrillation (from the Reasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke [REGARDS] Study). American Journal of Cardiology. 121(2):199-204. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2017.09.033
Kuzma E, Airdrie J, Littlejohns TJ, Lourida I, Thompson-Coon J, Lang IA, Scrobotovici M, Thacker EL, Fitzpatrick A, Kuller LH, et al. 2017. Coronary artery bypass graft surgery and dementia risk in the Cardiovascular Health Study. Alzheimer’s Disease and Associated Disorders. 31(2):120-127. doi:10.1097/WAD.0000000000000191
Kunzelman JE, Gabor RM, Scrobotovici M, Blades NJ, Longstreth WT Jr, Heckbert SE, Psaty BM, Arnold AM, Fitzpatrick AL, Llewellyn DJ, Kuźma E, Kamel H, Dhamoon MS, Chaudhry SI, Dodson JA, Hedges DW, Gale SD, Erickson LD, Brown BL, Thacker EL. Long-term cognitive decline in older adults after incident coronary heart disease or after first receipt of coronary artery bypass grafting surgery or percutaneous coronary intervention. AHA Epidemiology and Prevention Conference. Phoenix, AZ. 2020.
Thacker EL, Boehme AK, Elkind MSV, Longstreth WT Jr, Choi H. Cognitive decline in older adults with epilepsy: the Cardiovascular Health Study. AES Annual Meeting. Baltimore, MD. 2019.
MaWhinney K, Tounkara MD, Evans K, Startup E, Ehlert A, Covey E, Westra J, Blades NJ, Dhamoon MS, Gonzalez HM, et al. Cardiovascular health and cognitive decline in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study. AHA Epidemiology and Prevention Conference. Houston, TX. 2019 .
de Oliveira Otto MC, Wu JH, Thacker EL, Lai H, Lemaitre RN, McKnight B, Padhye N, Song X, King IB, Lopez O, et al. Longitudinal associations of omega-6 and omega-3 plasma phospholipid polyunsaturated fatty acids with dementia in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study. AHA Epidemiology and Prevention Conference. Houston, TX. 2019 .
Harris ML, Bennion E, MaWhinney K, Howard VJ, Wadley VG, McClure LA, Levine DA, Manly JJ, Glymour MM, Wisco JJ, et al. Rural versus urban living and incident cognitive impairment in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke Study (REGARDS). AHA Epidemiology and Prevention Conference. Houston, TX. 2019 .
Tounkara MD, MaWhinney K, Evans K, Startup E, Ehlert A, Covey E, Westra J, Blades NJ, Dhamoon MS, Gonzalez HM, et al. Seven-year changes in cardiovascular health in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study. AHA Epidemiology and Prevention Conference. Houston, TX. 2019 .
Jensen A, Claunch KD, Verdeja MA, Dungan MT, Goates MC, Thacker EL. Successful aging: cross-cultural comparison of older adults' lay perspectives. GSA Conference. Boston, MA. 2018 .
Suemoto CK, Gibbons LE, Thacker EL, Jackson JD, Satizabal CL, Bettcher BM, Mez J, White LR, Power MC. Midlife incident prolonged rate-correct QT interval does not predict late-life cognitive performance: the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. Chicago, IL. 2018 .
Kamel H, Bartz TM, Elkind MS, Okin PM, Thacker EL, Patton KK, Stein PK, deFilippi C, Gottesman RF, Heckbert SR, et al. Atrial cardiopathy and the risk of ischemic stroke in the Cardiovascular Health Study. AHA International Stroke Conference. Los Angeles, CA. 2018 .
Jensen A, Dungan M, Goates MC, Thacker EL. What is successful aging? Comparing frameworks for successful aging with cultural perspectives. IAGG / GSA Conference. San Francisco, CA. 2017 .
Ernstsen L, Sui X, Howard VJ, Wadley VG, Thacker EL. Estimated cardiorespiratory fitness and incident cognitive impairment: results from the REGARDS Study. ACSM Conference. Denver, CO. 2017 .
Nielsen N, Palmer V, Bradshaw R, Thacker EL, Johnston JD. Estimating children's exposure to indoor particulate matter (PM10) using a statistical prediction model. American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo. Seattle, WA. 2017 .
Ehlert AN, Heckbert SR, Wiggins KL, Thacker EL. Administrative billing codes accurately identify occurrence of electrical cardioversion and ablation/maze procedures in atrial fibrillation patients. AHA Epidemiology and Prevention Conference. Portland, OR. 2017 .