Thomas McElrath

Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology

Department of Epidemiology

Background and Research Interests

Dr McElrath is an attending physician in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital.  His clinical work involves providing direct patient care for women who are at risk of pregnancy complications particularly those at an increased risk of preterm birth or pregnancy loss. He is also involved in the clinical teaching of medical students, residents and fellows within the Harvard system and he directly manages the delivery of over 200 babies per year.

Dr McElrath is also the PI on the LIFECODES pregnancy biobank and has a long-standing interest in perinatal and reproductive epidemiology.  His lab’s interests are divided into two main areas of focus: Exploring the effects of endocrine disrupting environmental exposures on pregnancy outcome and the utility of exosomes in predicting adverse pregnancy outcome.

The LIFECODES Biobank: LIFECODES has been recruiting for over 14 years and presently has data and samples on over 6,000 pregnancies.  Samples are collected longitudinally though pregnancy and include plasma and urine sampling at 12, 24, and 35 weeks gestation, data abstracted from the medical records and direct survey information from the subjects.  On average 5-8 subjects are recruited per week. LIFECODES has been the foundation for multiple successful federal, foundation and international grants. It has also been supported the primary research for over 50 trainees including multiple PhD dissertations.

Environmental Exposures: Dr McElrath’s lab and collaborators have leveraged the data and samples from the LIFECODES Biobank to examine the influence of environmental toxicants, primarily phthalates on pregnancy outcome. Current work seeks to define the mechanisms by which exposure influences pregnancy physiology. Additionally, the effects these exposures have on long-term, post pregnancy maternal health represents an active area of inquiry.

Exosomes as Biomarkers: Exosomes represent small lipid bilayer vesicles that are purposely secreted by most cell types and represent a pervasive although newly discovered means of cell-cell communication. Dr McElrath’s collaborative work uses cutting edge extraction and mass spectrographic techniques combined with machine learning and bioinformatic methods to discern patters of proteins within these exosomes. The goal is to relate protein expression to adverse pregnancy outcome including spontaneous preterm labor and preeclampsia. This work holds the promise of not only establishing biomarkers for pregnancy outcome but also insights into the underlying physiology of pregnancy.

Other Affiliations

  • Harvard Medical School, Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
  • Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Attending in Maternal-Fetal Medicine


  • BA, University of Michigan – Anthropology
  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania – Demography
  • MD, Harvard Medical School

Global Health Experience

Dr McElraht has significant experience in Global Women’s Health. He was a Fulbright Scholar working in rural Bangladesh. Has worked in Vietnam, Mongolia and presently maintains an affiliation with Health Equity International and their hospital facility in rural Haiti.

Select Publications

McElrath TF, Cantonwine DE, Jeyabalan A, Doss RC, Page G, Roberts JM, Brohman B, Zhang Z, Rosenblatt KP. Circulating microparticle proteins obtained in the late first trimester predict spontaneous preterm birth at less than 35 weeks’ gestation: a panel validation with specific characterization by parity. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2019 May;220(5):488.e1-488.e11.

Ferguson KK, Meeker JD, Cantonwine DE, Mukherjee B, Pace GG, Weller D, McElrath TF. Environmental phenol associations with ultrasound and delivery measures of fetal growth. Environ Int. 2018 Mar;112:243-250.

Cantonwine DE, Meeker JD, Ferguson KK, Mukherjee B, Hauser R, McElrath TF. Urinary concentrations of Bisphenol A and phthalate metabolites measured during pregnancy and risk of preeclampsia. Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Oct; 124(10):1651-1655.

Cantonwine DE, Zhang Z, Rosenblatt K, Goudy KS, Doss RC, Ezrin AM, Page G, Brohman B, McElrath TF. Evaluation of proteomic biomarkers associated with circulating microparticles as an effective means to stratify the risk of spontaneous preterm birth. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016 May; 214(5):631.e1-631.e11.

Cantonwine DE, Ferguson KK, Mukherjee B, Chen YH, Smith NA, Robinson JN, Doubilet PM, Meeker JD, McElrath TF. Utilizing longitudinal measures of fetal growth to create a standard method to assess the impacts of maternal disease and environmental exposure. PLoS One. 2016 Jan 5; 11(1):e0146532.

Ferguson KK, McElrath TF, Meeker JD. Environmental phthalate exposure is associated with increased odds of preterm birth. JAMA Pediatr. 2014; 168(1):61-7.

McElrath TF, Lim K-H, Pare E, Rich-Edwards J, Pucci D, Troisi R, Parry S. Longitudinal evaluation of predictive value for preeclampsia of circulating angiogenic factors through pregnancy. Am J of Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Nov; 207(5):407 e1-7.

Edlow AG, Chen M, Smith NA, Lu C, McElrath TF. Fetal Bisphenol A exposure: Concentration of conjugated and unconjugated Bisphenol A in amniotic fluid in the second and third trimesters. Reprod Toxicol. 2012 Aug; 34(1):1-7

Hansen A, Barnes CM, Folkman J, McElrath TF. Maternal preeclampsia predicts the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. J Pediatrics 2010; 156(4):532-36

McElrath TF, Hecht JL, Dammann O, Boggess KA, Onderdonk AB, Markenson G, Harper M, Delpapa E, Allred EN, Leviton A. Pregnancy disorders that lead to delivery before the 28th week of gestation. An epidemiological approach to classification. Amer. J Epidemiol. 2008; 168(9):980-989.

McElrath TF, Allred EN, Boggess  KA , K Kuban, TM O’ Shea, N Paneth,  Leviton A. Maternal antenatal complications and the risk of neonatal cerebral white matter damage and later cerebral palsy in children born at extremely low gestational age. Amer J Epidemiol. 2009; 1:170(7):819-28.