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USM professor highlighted in national press for COVID-19 gender data research

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The work of biological anthropologist Heather Shattuck-Heidorn — a USM assistant professor with ties to Harvard University — is drawing national attention for her work to understand why more men than women are dying from COVID-19.

On June 24th, the New York Times published an op-ed written by Shattuck-Heidorn and two other directors of Harvard’s GenderSci Lab, Meredith W. Reiches and Sarah S. Richardson. Their piece was titled, “What’s Really Behind the Gender Gap in Covid-19 Deaths?

And on July 9, Wired Magazine published a story on the work titled “Covid Kills More Men Than Women. Experts Still Can’t Explain Why.

Both stories follow the lab directors’ creation of the US Gender/Sex COVID-19 Data Tracker, the most comprehensive collection of US sex-disaggregated statistics on COVID cases and deaths, which offers data and analysis on the global pandemic.

“Emerging Covid-19 data already shows an important role for social context in generating sex disparities,” the directors wrote in the New York Times. “In Connecticut and Massachusetts there is no sex difference in confirmed Covid-19 fatalities, while in New York and Florida, men account for about 60 percent of Covid-19 deaths. Globally, the male-to-female death ratio varies from a staggering 2:1 in the Netherlands to 1:1 in Iran and Canada. It’s too early to say what accounts for these levels of variation; what they do seem to indicate is that sex difference alone isn’t meaningful without incorporating other factors.”

Shattuck-Heidorn is a USM alumna. She earned her bachelor’s degree at USM, graduating Magna cum Laude in 2009 with a Geography-Anthropology B.A.  In 2013, she earned a master’s degree in Human Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University. In 2017, she earned a doctorate in Human Evolutionary Biology and had a secondary field: Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

She co-founded the Harvard GenderSci Lab.

The lab is “a collaborative, interdisciplinary research lab dedicated to generating feminist concepts, methods and theories for scientific research on sex and gender,” according to its website. “Through research, teaching and public outreach, we work to advance the intersectional study of gender in the biomedical and allied sciences, counter bias and hype in sex difference research, and enhance public discourse surrounding the sciences of sex and gender.”