Faculty Profile

Jennifer A. Smith, PhD, MPH

Jennifer A. Smith, PhD, MPH

  • Associate Professor of Epidemiology
  • 2631 SPH I
  • 1415 Washington Heights
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2029

Dr. Smith is a genetic epidemiologist with appointments in the Epidemiology Department, School of Public Health and the Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research. Broadly, her research investigates the relationship between genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptomic variation and age-related chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and dementia. She is a core faculty member of the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health (CSEPH) and is affiliated with the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging (MiCDA), the Center for Midlife Science, and the Population, Neurodevelopment and Genetics (PNG) Program. She also directs SPH's Certificate Program in Public Health Genetics.

  • PhD, Epidemiology, University of Michigan, 2011
  • M.A., Statistics, University of Michigan, 2009
  • MPH, Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan, 2005
  • B.S., Biological Sciences, Cornell University, 2001

Dr. Smith's overarching research focus is on the genetics and epigenetics of age-related chronic diseases and their risk factors. She works with large, multi-ethnic cohort studies including the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA), the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN), and the Longitudinal Aging Study in India (LASI). Her work encompasses a broad range of traits, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dementia, cognition, and health behaviors. She studies genetic/epigenetic determinants both as direct risk factors for chronic disease, as well as the interaction between genetic and non-genetic factors in shaping disease risk. In particular, she is interested in genetic interaction with social, psychosocial, and neighborhood determinants of health, particularly those that influence health disparities.

A large component of Dr. Smith's work is in the field of social epigenomics, which investigates the ways that social factors impact the epigenome. She is the PI of a NIH-funded project to investigate how socioeconomic (education, income, wealth) and neighborhood (neighborhood SES, social environment, land use) factors influence DNA methylation and cardiovascular disease risk factors in four multi-ethnic cohorts. This project involves the development of high-dimensional mediation methods to test the effects of multiple social factors on multiple DNA methylation sites, and evaluate their impact on risk factors for cardiovascular disease including obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

  • Ammous F, Zhao W, Ratliff SM, Mosley TH, Bielak LF, Zhou X, Peyser PA, Kardia SLR, Smith JA. (2021)  Epigenetic age acceleration is associated with cardiometabolic risk factors and clinical cardiovascular disease risk scores in African Americans. Clinical Epigenetics 13(1):55. PMID: 33726838; PMCID: PMC7962278. 
  • Smith JA, Kho M, Zhao W, Yu M, Mitchell C, Faul JD. (2021)  Genetic effects and gene-by-education interactions on episodic memory performance and decline in an aging population. Social Science and Medicine 271:112039. PMID: 30449520; PMCID: PMC6510651.
  • Zhao  W,* Smith JA,* Yu M, Crandall CJ, Thurston RC, Hood MM, Ruiz-Narvaez E, Peyser PA, Kardia SLR, Harlow SD. Genetic variants linked to reproductive lifespan: Associations with vasomotor symptoms in a multi-racial/ethnic cohort. Menopause [E-pub ahead of print]. PMID: 33906203
  • Smith JA, Zhao W, Yu M, Rumfelt K, Moorjani P, Ganna A, Dey AB, Lee J, Kardia SLR. (2020)  Association between episodic memory and genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease in South Asians from the Longitudinal Aging Study in India – Diagnostic Assessment of Dementia (LASI-DAD). Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 68(Suppl 3):S45-S53. PMID: 32815605; PMCID: PMC7507858.
  • Ammous F, Zhao W, Ratliff SM, Kho M, Shang L, Jones AC, Chaudhary NS, Tiwari HK, Irvin MR, Arnett DK, Mosley TH, Bielak LF, Kardia SLR, Zhou X, Smith JA. (2020)  Epigenome-wide association study identifies DNA methylation sites associated with target organ damage in older African Americans. Epigenetics [E-pub ahead of print]. PMID: 33100131.
  • Kho M, Zhao W, Ratliff SM, Ammous F, Mosley TH, Shang L, Kardia SLR, Zhou X, Smith JA. (2020)  Epigenetic loci of blood pressure are associated with hypertensive target organ damage in older African Americans from the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy. BMC Medical Genomics 13(1):131. PMID: 32917208; PMCID: PMC7488710.
  • Shang L*, Smith JA*, Zhao W, Kho MJ, Turner ST, Mosley TH, Kardia SLR, Zhou X. (2020)  Genetic architecture of gene expression in European and African Americans: An eQTL mapping study in GENOA. American Journal of Human Genetics 106(4):496-512. PMID: 32220292; PMCID: PMC7118581.
  • Kho M, Smith JA, (…17 additional authors…), Lieske JC, Kardia SLR. (2020)  Genome-wide association meta-analysis of individuals of European ancestry identifies suggestive loci for sodium intake, potassium intake, and their ratio measured from 24-hour or half-day urine samples. Journal of Nutrition 150(10):2635-2645. PMID: 32840624; PMCID: PMC7549298. 
  • Liu J, Zhao W, Ammous F, Turner ST, Mosley TH, Zhou X, Smith JA. (2019)  Longitudinal analysis of epigenome-wide DNA methylation reveals novel smoking-related loci in African Americans. Epigenetics 14(2):171-184. PMID: 30764717; PMCID: PMC6557606. 
  • Smith JA, Zhao W, Yasutake K, August C, Ratliff SM, Faul JD, Boerwinkle E, Chakravarti A, Diez Roux AV, Gao Y, Griswold ME, Heiss G, Kardia SLR, Morrison AC, Musani SK, Mwasongwe S, North KE, Rose KM, Sims M, Sun YV, Weir DR, Needham BL. (2017) Gene-by-psychosocial factor interactions influence diastolic blood pressure in European and African ancestry populations: Meta-analysis of four cohort studies. International Journal of Environmental Research in Public Health 14(12):e1596. PMID: 29258278; PMCID: PMC5751013.
  • Smith JA, Zhao W, Wang X, Ratliff SM, Mukherjee B, Kardia SLR, Liu Y, Diez Roux AV, Needham BL. (2017) Neighborhood characteristics influence DNA methylation of genes involved in stress response and inflammation: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Epigenetics 12(8): 662-673. PMID: 28678593; PMCID: PMC5687339.

  • International Genetic Epidemiology Society
  • American Society of Human Genetics
  • Society for Epidemiologic Research
  • American Heart Association