The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is proud to announce that Dr. Elizabeth Pearce, Associate Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, today delivered the Van Meter Award Lecture at its 81st Annual Meeting, held October 26-30, Indian Wells, California. Dr. Pearce has taken a leadership role in her main areas of clinical and research expertise: dietary iodine sufficiency in the U.S.; thyroid function in pregnancy; effects of environmental perchlorate exposure on the thyroid; and cardiovascular effects of subclinical thyroid dysfunction and thyroid disease. She has received national and international recognition for her research, has published many original articles, reviews, and editorials, is a sought-after lecturer, and has received multiple awards and honors.
The Van Meter Award Lecture was established in 1930. It recognizes outstanding contributions by a young researcher to research on the thyroid gland or related subjects. The award honors Dr. Seymour Doss Van Meter, a charter member of the American Association for the Study of Goiter (now the ATA) in 1923. Dr. Pearce's accomplishments and outstanding achievements as a clinical investigator, teacher, lecturer, and clinician epitomize the attributes of this honor.
The 2011 Van Meter Award Lecture, entitled "Iodine, Environmental Thyroid Disruptors, and the Cardiovascular Effects of Hypothyroidism," wove together multiple topics, beginning with a discussion of the various sources of dietary iodine in the U.S. and population subgroups that may be at risk for iodine deficiency. Dr. Pearce also described studies of the effects of environmental exposure to perchlorate, which may result in decreased thyroidal iodine utilization. Additionally, the lecture focused on maternal thyroid status in pregnancy and its impact on child cognition, based on data from the Project Viva pregnancy cohort, and presented current rates and efficacy of thyroid function testing in pregnancy at Boston Medical Center. Finally, Dr. Pearce reviewed the most recent findings from studies designed to assess the effects of hypothyroidism on serum lipid levels and lipid subparticle size distributions, and the effects of baseline thyroid status on longitudinal cardiovascular risk and mortality in the Framingham Heart cohort.
Dr. Pearce received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from Harvard College. She then completed her medical degree at Harvard Medical School, an internal medical residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and an Endocrinology Fellowship at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center. She also received a Master of Science in Epidemiology from the Boston University School of Public Health.
Dr. Pearce was recently elected to the ATA Board of Directors, has served as chair of the ATA's Public Health Committee, is a member of the ATA's Task Force on Thyroid in Pregnancy, and serves on the Thyroid in Pregnancy Guidelines Committee. In addition, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, and serves on committees of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology (AACE), including its Publication Committee. She is an Associate Editor for Thyroid Research and is a member of the Editorial Boards of Thyroid, Endocrine Practice, and The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
A recipient of a 5-year K award from the NIH, Dr. Pearce pursued research projects that included a study of the potential effects of hypothyroidism on cardiac function and lipid metabolism in the Framingham Heart Study cohort. This study led to three publications and several key findings, including the observation that in both subclinically hypothyroid patients and in severely hypothyroid patients with thyroid cancer elevated serum LDL cholesterol concentrations were due mainly to increases in LDL cholesterol subparticles of a size considered to be less atherogenic. Therefore, the elevated serum lipid levels associated with hypothyroidism might not be as harmful as previously thought.
Dr. Pearce's research has also focused on the status of iodine nutrition in the U.S., and especially in pregnant and lactating women. Her work has demonstrated that as many as 40% of pregnant women in the Boston area may have mild iodine deficiency, and that the reduced levels of iodine in lactating women could adversely affect neonatal thyroid function. Another study evaluated the iodine content of prenatal vitamins. The recommended daily intake of iodine for pregnant women is 250 µg. Dr. Pearce and colleagues conducted a survey of prenatal vitamins available in the U.S. and found that only 28% of prescription vitamins and 69% of over-the-counter prenatal vitamins contained iodine, with inconsistent levels across the varieties tested.
As the potential adverse effects of environmental perchlorate on thyroid health have become increasing evident and are currently being investigated by the EPA, Dr. Pearce has taken a leading role in research aimed at clarifying the public health risks of perchlorate exposure. To date, her studies have shown no clear relationship between perchlorate levels in breast milk or breast colostrom and iodine concentrations in lactating women, or between urinary perchlorate and thiocyanate levels and thyroid function and urinary iodine levels among pregnant women.
American Thyroid Association