Emily Oken

Professor in the Department of Nutrition

Department of Nutrition


Dr. Oken is a Professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.

Dr. Oken Directs the Division of Chronic Disease Research Across the Lifecourse within the department of Population Medicine.  Her research focuses on the influence of nutrition and other modifiable factors during pregnancy and early childhood on long-term maternal and child health, especially cardiometabolic health and cognitive development.  She has also led a number of studies examining predictors and sequelae of maternal overweight, weight gain, and related conditions such as gestational diabetes mellitus in the peripartum period.  Her work on the toxicant risks and nutrient benefits of prenatal fish consumption has influenced national guidelines for fish consumption during pregnancy, helping to shift the previous focus of risk-only or benefit-only studies to a broader emphasis on the overall health effects of fish consumption for mother and baby.   She has also published widely on perinatal influences on child health including asthma and atopy.  In support of this work she has led longitudinal studies commencing in the peripartum period and following mothers and children throughout childhood.  She is Principal Investigator of Project Viva, a unique US pre-birth cohort study that has followed pregnant women and their children since 1999.  She is also PI and a co-leader of the team assessing cardio-metabolic, respiratory, and neurocognitive outcome measures on children enrolled 1996-7 in the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT), a cluster-randomized trial of breastfeeding promotion in the Republic of Belarus.  She has served on committees to develop maternal nutrition guidelines both nationally and internationally.



Dr. Oken’s commitment to research mentorship has been recognized with a K24 mid-career development grant from NICHD and the A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award at HMS. Within the Department of Population Medicine, she is Vice-Chair, Director of Faculty Development, and site director for the Harvard General Medicine fellowship.  At Harvard Medical School she is Associate Director and Advisor in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Society.  She co-Directs the Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health curriculum for first year medical students at HMS.  For 15 years she practiced as a primary care physician in the Gretchen and Edward Fish Center for Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.



Dr. Oken received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1996 and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the Harvard Combined Program.  She completed her fellowship in general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and obtained her Master’s degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health.