Susan Puumala PhD

Research Interests and Expertise

Susan Puumala, PhD

Dr. Puumala’s research focuses on reproductive, perinatal, and pediatric epidemiology. Her main interests are in prenatal exposure assessment, DNA methylation in disease development, complex models for exposure-disease relationships, and pediatric health disparities. She also has a strong background in study design and statistical analysis. This includes studies for basic biomedical research, clinical research, clinical trials, and observational studies. She has expertise in a multitude of statistical and epidemiological techniques using both Bayesian and frequentist methods.

Sanford Research - Susan Puumala PhD
  • Assistant Scientist, Center for Health Outcomes and Population Research
  • Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine
  • Associate Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, South Dakota State University
  • B.S. Mathematics, Philosophy at Creighton University
  • M.S. Statistics, Iowa State University
  • PhD Epidemiology, University of Minnesota

Current Projects

Emergency Department Use and Care in American Indian Children
1U54MD008164 (PI: Elliott)

American Indian (AI) children face a number of disparities in health and health care. One area that has received little attention is the use of and care provided to AI children at the emergency department (ED). The research that has been performed suggests that AI children have increased usage of the ED, increased rates of leaving without care, and possible differential care provided within the ED setting. This study aims to more fully understand and characterize the patterns of ED use and care for AI children in the Upper Midwest and develop interventions to address issues that are unexplored to date. Six EDs in the Upper Midwest are participating in this research. The study sites represent a broad geographical area and include centers the provide care to a substantial number of AI children. Currently the study is piloting interventions at each study site based on an overall evaluation of site specific needs. This research will provide the most comprehensive study of ED use and treatment patterns in AI children to date as well as preliminary information on the effect of site specific interventions. (Puumala-PI, funded through NIMHD as a component of 1U54MD008164 “Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health” (Elliott-PI))

Role: Project PI


Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes in the Northern Plains Safe Passage Study Cohort
1UG3OD023279 (PI: Elliott)

The goal of the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) in the Northern Plains Safe Passage Study Cohort is to identify factors that affect child health occurring throughout the continuum from pre-conception through childhood. Our cohort will be combined with a national network of cohorts providing the sample size and diversity needed to study risk and resiliency factors and their role in pre-, peri-, and post-natal outcomes, upper and lower airway health and development, obesity, and neurodevelopment.

Role: Co-Investigator


Sanford Imagenetics project

The Sanford Imagenetics project aims to provide access to preemptive genetic testing within a primary care setting. The outcomes and research group of the Imagenetics project provides expertise in research study development and design, data collection, program evaluation measures, and translational research potential such as developing precision prevention models to aid in risk prediction that can be utilized easily in a clinical setting.

Role: Co-Investigator

Contact Us  Resources

Phone: (402) 981-0678

Sanford Research/USD
2301 E. 60th Street N.
Sioux Falls, SD 57104

Access Dr. Puumala's publications here.

Lab News

March 2017
Susan Puumala, PhD, presented to a high school class at Creighton Preparatory School. Her presentation was on implicit bias in healthcare and she discussed findings from her study "Use and Care in Emergency Departments for American Indian Children.

March 2017
Susan Puumala, PhD, presented for the 'Genetic Counseling Research II' class at Augustana University on the topic of survey questionnaire development.

November 2016
Dr. Susan Puumala was the senior author on an article “Patient and Physician Perceptions of Genetic Testing in Primary Care”. This manuscript was led by Sam Evenson, a medical student at USD SSOM, mentored by Dr. Puumala. The study assessed baseline knowledge of genetic testing by physicians and patients in internal medicine clinics.

October 2016
Dr. Susan Puumala was a co-author on an article "Vaccine-Preventable Hospitalizations among American Indian Children in 2012." This manuscript was submitted as part of the Emergency Department Use and Care in American Indian Children Study.

August 2016
Dr. Puumala along with Dr. Hanson had a study published titled "Epidemiology of substance-exposes pregnancies at one Great Lakes hospital that serves a large number of American Indians". The study was published in American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research. The study aimed to determine the prevalence of substance-exposed pregnancies at a hospital in the Great Lakes region of the U.S.

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