Philip A. May, PhD, joined the NRI in 2011 as Research Professor. He is an expert in the field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and the epidemiology of a number of health-related behaviors.
Dr. May has conducted extensive research on the epidemiology and risk factors for FASD, including maternal and paternal alcohol use and abuse, childbearing variables, and maternal health factors such as socioeconomic status and dietary intake in various populations. He has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), specifically the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), over the past 20 years. Dr. May was formally trained in demography, social epidemiology, and population studies and focuses much of his research on the epidemiologic discovery of etiology, targeted opportunities for community-wide prevention, and programs of intervention.
At the NRI, Dr. May combines the knowledge gained from his on-the-ground research in the United States, Italy, and South Africa with the institute’s advancements in developing an individualized approach to nutrition. “We have made great progress identifying the demographic and behavioral risk factors for FASD in some populations,” Dr. May explains. “Now we must look at individual risk factors such as nutritional deficiencies in mothers and children including how genetics, epigenetics, and metabolism influence the severity of FASD outcomes.”
By joining NRI and moving to North Carolina, Dr. May has returned to his roots in the Southeastern United States. He graduated from Catawba College with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and received his Masters of Sociology at Wake Forest University. He earned his Doctorate of Sociology from the University of Montana. He has since built an esteemed professional career in public health research serving first as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service. He came to UNC-NRI after 33 years as a Professor of Sociology and Family and Community Medicine at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Dr. May has recently received a number of awards for his research. He was selected to deliver the 2011 University of New Mexico (UNM) 56th Annual Research Lecture, one of the highest honors that can be awarded to a UNM faculty member. His lecture, titled “Adventures in Public Health Research: Four Decades of Shoe-Leather Epidemiology and Prevention,” shared key areas of his critical research, including 30 years of epidemiology research on behavioral health factors among a number of tribes of American Indians of the western states. In 2012, he received an Excellence Award for “pioneering research and distinguished contributions” from the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In 2013 he was the recipient of a Starfish Award from the University of British Columbia’s Fifth International Conference on FASD for “having the courage to make a difference” in the lives of people living with FASD. In 2014, the Henry Rosett Award of the FASD Study Group of the Research Society on Alcoholism was presented to Dr. May “in honor of his achievements in research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.”
Dr. May is appointed in the Department of Nutrition at the UNC-Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health. He also maintains roles as an Extraordinary Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Stellenbosch, in Cape Town, South Africa, and as an Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics for the Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota.
May’s Research Team
Julie Hasken, PhD, MPH
Research Associate, May Lab
Julie joined the NRI in 2012 as a Project Manager for Dr. Philip May focusing on the prevalence, child characteristics, and maternal risk factors of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in the United States and South Africa. She earned her doctorate from the UNC-CH Department of Nutrition in 2021 and is now a postdoctoral research associate with Dr. May. Julie earned her BS in Health Science from Truman State University and a Masters in Public Health, with a concentration in Health Education and Health Behavior, from UNC-CH. Julie is also a Certified Health Education Specialist.
- Early-Life Predictors of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
- Relation between adaptive function and IQ among youth with histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure
- Attitudes toward alcohol use during pregnancy among women recruited from alcohol-serving venues in Cape Town, South Africa: A mixed-methods study.
- Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in 4 US Communities
- The postural stability of children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders during one leg stance: a feasibility study
- A Utilitarian Comparison of Two Alcohol Use Biomarkers with Self-Reported Drinking History Collected in Antenatal Clinics
- Computer-aided Recognition of Facial Attributes for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
- Replication of High Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Prevalence Rates, Child Characteristics, and Maternal Risk Factors in a Second Sample of Rural Communities in South Africa.
- Who is Most Affected by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure: Boys or Girls?
- Risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies among women at drinking venues in Cape Town, South Africa