Study Center: North Carolina

The North Carolina Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (NCCBDRP) is a collaborative effort between the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health and the North Carolina Birth Defects Monitoring Program in the North Carolina Division of Public Health. 


The Center's mission is to conduct epidemiologic research into the causes of birth defects, and to promote the use of research findings to enhance public health education and birth defects prevention efforts aimed at improving the health and quality of life of children in North Carolina and across the United States.

The NCCBDRP participated in the NBDPS from 2002 to 2012 and is currently participating in the Birth Defects Study to Evaluate Pregnancy exposureS (BD-STEPS). For more information please visit:

Principal Investigators

Dr. Andrew F. Olshan, PhD

Distinguished Professor

Dr. Andrew F. Olshan is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He has an established research record covering genetic, occupational, and environmental epidemiology focused specifically on reproduction, birth defects and cancer. As Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Olshan co-directs the NC Center’s research agenda and oversees all staff and study-related activities.

"It’s truly a privilege to help lead the efforts, nationally and in North Carolina, to uncover the causes of birth defects that will ultimately lead to targeted prevention. Our center includes very talented staff, students, and investigators that work synergistically to collect and analyze large volumes of complex data. Our collaborations with other centers have been especially beneficial. We are grateful to have such enthusiastic participation from North Carolina families."
— Dr. Andrew F. Olshan

Tania A. Desrosiers, PhD, MPH

Principal Investigator

Dr. Desrosiers has over 15 years experience in birth defects epidemiology. She is particularly interested in identifying actionable risk factors for birth defects that can translate to prevention and/or reduction in childhood morbidity associated with birth defects, as well as increasing capacity for birth defects research by developing innovative data and biospecimen resources. 

Dr. Desrosiers has been an investigator with the NCCBDRP since 2011 and co-Principal Investigator since 2018. As co-PI, Dr. Desrosiers co-directs the Center’s research agenda, oversees the current implementation of BD-STEPS in North Carolina (, mentors junior scientists in birth defects research, and collaborates with the CDC and other NBDPS and BD-STEPS Centers on study-wide research and protocol development. Dr. Desrosiers is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and a core faculty member of the Department’s program in Reproductive, Perinatal, and Pediatric Epidemiology.

“Over 400 articles using data from NBDPS have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. This body of research represents the commitment of dozens of inter-disciplinary researchers to learning more about what causes major structural birth defects so that we can prevent some cases in the future and understand how to better support pregnancies and children affected by a birth defect. This body of research also represents the time and effort so generously provided by the thousands of families that participated in the NBDPS, including over 3,400 families from North Carolina. It is their stories, their experiences, and their participation in research that has made it possible.”
— Tania

Former Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Robert Meyer

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Robert Meyer (retired) served as co-Principal Investigator of the North Carolina Center from 2002 to 2018, and was Director of the Birth Defects Monitoring Program at the North Carolina Division of Public Health from 1997 to 2018. He has over 20 years of experience in birth defects surveillance and research, and has published over 100 articles in birth defects epidemiology and maternal and child health. For his dedication to research in birth defects, he was honored by his peers with the National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s Godfrey P. Oakley Jr. Award in 2011.

Local Activities and Research

Our team of investigators brings a unique blend of expertise in teratology and dysmorphology, developmental biology, reproductive and perinatal epidemiology, pharmaco-epidemiology, biostatistics, genetics, environmental sciences, and surveillance. With NBDPS data the NC Center has pursued a number of important avenues of birth defects research and prevention, including:

  • Examining geographic patterns and social determinants of health for birth defects like gastroschisis
  • Understanding how different components of the maternal diet during pregnancy reduce the likelihood of having certain types of birth defects like neural tube defects
  • Investigating whether jobs that may have exposures to certain chemicals might increase the risk of some birth defects like orofacial clefts 
  • Studying how the intensity and timing of environmental exposures like air pollution during pregnancy influence risk of congenital heart defects
  • Exploring whether a person’s genetic makeup increases the risk for certain birth defects

Notable Research Findings

Sotres-Alvarez D, Siega-Riz, AM., Herring, AH., Carmichael, SL., Feldkamp, ML., Hobbs, CA., Olshan, AF. Maternal Dietary Patterns are Associated With Risk of Neural Tube and Congenital Heart Defects.  American Journal of Epidemiology. 2013 Jun; 1;177(11):1279-88. PMID: 23639938. 

Desrosiers TA, Herring AH, Shapira SK, Hooiveld M, Luben TJ, Herdt-Losavio ML, Lin S, Olshan AF. Paternal occupation and birth defects: findings from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2012; Aug; 69(8): 534-542. PMID: 22782864. 

Desrosiers TA, Lawson CC, Meyer RE, Richardson DB, Daniels JL, Waters MA, van Wijngaarden E, Langlois PH, Romitti PA, Correa A, Olshan AF. Maternal occupational exposure to organic solvents during early pregnancy and risks of neural tube defects and orofacial clefts. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2012 Jul; 69(7): 493-499. PMID: 22447643

Olshan AF, Hobbs CA, Shaw GM. Discovery of genetic susceptibility factors for human birth defects: an opportunity for a national agenda. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A. 2011 Aug; 155(8):1794–1797. PMID: 21739590. 

Siega-Riz AM, Herring AH, Olshan AF, Smith J, Moore CA and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. The joint effects of maternal prepregnancy [pregravid] body mass index and age on the risk of gastroschisis. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology. 2009 Jan; 23(1): 51-7. PMID: 19228314. 

Slickers J, Olshan AF, Siega-Riz AM, Honein MA, Aylsworth AS and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Maternal body mass index and lifestyle exposures and the risk of bilateral renal agenesis or hypoplasia: Findings from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. American Journal of Epidemiology.2008 Dec 1; 168(11): 1259-67. PMID: 18835865. 

Siega-Riz AM, Olshan AF, Werler MM, Moore C. Fat intake and the risk of gastroschisis. Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology. 2006 Apr; 76(4): 241-5. PMID: 16575898.