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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Mary Claire Kimmel, MD
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Psychiatry
Medical Director, Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit
School of Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Research Summary 

Mary Kimmel, MD is a psychiatrist who specializes in treating women during pregnancy and the postpartum period for mood and anxiety disorders. She is the Medical Director of the UNC’s Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit (PPIU) and for North Carolina’s Maternal Mental Health MATTERS program.  Dr. Kimmel’s research strives to better understand the role of the microbiota-gut-brain axis in the development of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and in the transmission of stress from mother to child during the critical perinatal period. Dr. Kimmel has NIMH and foundation funding to study the microbiota-gut-brain axis in relation to stress reactivity of both mother and child and development of mood and anxiety disorders. Her research involves the clinical characterization of subjects along with measures of stress reactivity such as heart rate variability and changes in the immune and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis systems studied in relation to gut microbial composition and function. Her work also focuses on microbial metabolites such as the tryptophan/serotonin pathways. Her ultimate goals are to translate findings into clinical care to improve screening and treatment of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and to improve outcomes for mother and child. Dr. Kimmel has been an invited speaker at numerous state, national, and international conferences about the care and her research of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. She has authored articles on the relationship of the microbiota-gut-brain axis to perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, mother-child attachment, maternal nutrition, and stress reactivity.

Relevance of Research to CGIBD Mission: The focus of Dr. Kimmel’s research is to understand how resident microbes interact with host immune system, autonomic nervous system, and HPA axis to reflect risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and the effects on mother and child’s mental health.

CGIBD Focus Area(s):  Microbiome

Collaborators:  Azcarate-Peril, Carroll, Redinbo