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Public health researcher to give University of Iowa Presidential Lecture

UI president: 'Professor Peek-Asa is an ideal choice'

Corinne Peek-Asa
Corinne Peek-Asa

IOWA CITY — From world-renowned astrophysicist Don Gurnett to head of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center E. Dale Abel to Marilynne Robinson — Pulitzer Prize winning author whose acclaimed novel “Gilead” earned a spot on Barack Obama’s favorites list — the University of Iowa’s Presidential Lecture series has become a prime opportunity for its faculty to share their impactful work with the wider community.

Held annually “to encourage intellectual communication among the many disciplines that constitute the institution, and to provide a public forum for university scholarship, research, and creative achievement,” UI this month announced Corinne Peek-Asa will give its 2020 lecture.

Peek-Asa, associate dean for research in the UI College of Public Health and professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, will make her presentation Feb. 16.

Her areas of expertise include injury and violence prevention — having researched road traffic safety, interpersonal and workplace violence, residential fire injuries, poisoning and acute care, among other things, according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.

As an epidemiologist, Peek-Asa works to implement and translate programs and policies to reduce the burden of injuries — work that has reached beyond Iowa to international collaborations. She’s coordinated alliances among more than 66 faculty and staff in the UI Injury Prevention Research Center, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She also directs the Trauma Training Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health, and its pursuit to build research capacity in Romania, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova.

“Professor Peek-Asa is an ideal choice to present the Presidential Lecture, with her vibrant research program in traumatic injury and violence prevention, her outstanding teaching and mentorship, and her notable cross-disciplinary collaborations in the public health practice community,” UI President Bruce Harreld said in a statement. “She will perfectly fulfill the main goal of the Presidential Lecture: to share the most distinguished work by the University of Iowa’s best faculty with a wider audience.”

Recent research on teen driving

Some of Peek-Asa’s most recent research — scheduled for publication in the October issue of the journal “Accident Analysis and Prevention” — found using video monitoring technology in combination with parental advisement can motivate young drivers to be safer on the road.

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The UI College of Public Health-guided research found in-vehicle video monitoring systems can more effectively improve safety for high school drivers when parents supplement the technology with conversation.

About 3,000 teenagers die in the United States annually in vehicle crashes, making that the leading cause of death for the 15-to-18-year age range, according to Peek-Asa, who co-authored the study. Technology has emerged to improve safety for young drivers, including in-vehicle monitoring systems that record — among other things — speed, direction and G-force.

The systems send real-time notifications to parents when their young driver’s vehicle exceeds a safety threshold — including sudden braking, accelerating or swerving. Some versions can even record video and audio of what’s happening in the car.

For the study, the UI College of Public Health partnered with its National Advanced Driving Simulator to follow 150 Iowa families over three years. Video-monitoring systems were installed in all the vehicles, with 100 sending notifications to parents. The other 50 did not.

Half the parents who received notifications also agreed to participate in a series of conversations about safe driving with their kids — based on a Steering Teens Safe program, a parental guide being developed by the UI College of Public Health.

The guide aims to help parents improve their child’s driving by providing more focused feedback following an unsafe driving event notification.

The UI research found those 50 families who used the Steering Teens Safe guide reported 80 percent fewer subsequent unsafe driving incidents than the 100 drivers in the other two groups. Those who used the discussion guide also experienced 65 percent fewer unsafe incidents than the group that received notifications only, according to the research.

Peek-Asa said feedback from other sources, including driver education instructors, also could be helpful. But “Steering Teens Safe is the only program that focuses specifically on parent communication strategies to help self-motivate teens to embrace safe driving behaviors,” she said.

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In addition to Peek-Asa — who earned a doctorate from University of California, Los Angeles before serving on the UCLA faculty before Iowa — Cara Hamann, Brandon Butcher and Joseph Cavanaugh in the UI College of Public Health authored the study, along with Michelle Reyes with the driving simulator.

If you go

• What: Corinne Peek-Asa will give the 2020 UI Presidential Lecture

• When: 3:30 p.m. Feb. 16, 2020

• Where: Levitt Center for University Advancement, 1 East Park Road, Iowa City, on the University of Iowa campus

• Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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