Santarossa Sara

Research Interests

Dr. Santarossa is committed to using diverse participant-driven methodologies that combine both qualitative and quantitative approaches and has expertise in engaging with diverse communities to improve patient-centered outcomes. She is particularly interested in leveraging physical activity to improve pregnancy outcomes and women’s health and well-being. A new area of research focus for Dr. Santarossa, is the role of physical activity on the composition of the gut microbiota.

Dr. Santarossa's research program has emphasized using a mixed methods approach that enriches quantitative measures with qualitative data collection. She has experience with collecting and analyzing qualitative multimedia, including thematic analysis of visual and audiovisual data (e.g., photovoice projects that include images and/or videos posted on social media, Body Mapping). Moreover, she has employed cutting-edge innovations in analyzing qualitative data, such as computer coding (e.g., Leximancer, Netlytic) to produce conceptual extraction (i.e., thematic) and relational (i.e., semantic) analyses.

The long-term goal of her research is to is to become an independent researcher in the fields of reproductive, perinatal, and pediatric epidemiology and patient-centered research. Specifically, she aims to improve understanding of how physical activity may influence pregnancy outcomes which will then be used to generate evidenced-based physical activity interventions and create a foundational underpinning of knowledge translation for birthing people and those working with pregnant populations.

Dr. Sara Santarossa is an Assistant Scientist in the Department of Public Health Sciences, working closely with the Mom and Baby Research Studies at Henry Ford Health. She is also the Scientific Director of the Patient-Engaged Research Center (PERC) and an Assistant Professor-Research in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University.


Dr. Santarossa has training in kinesiology, mobile/electronic health, and the science of engagement as well as research experience with birthing people and wearable technology, patient centered research, and patient related outcome measures. She received her PhD in Kinesiology (2020) from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. She has experience leading 3 federally funded (Canadian) grants, 2 Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) grants (EASC-COVID-00231; 29002), 1 Blue Cross Blue Shield award (2022080030.PIRAP), and 2 competitive, internally funded grants as PI, all of which leveraged qualitative data to improve patient-centered outcomes. The 2 internally funded studies focus on physical activity during pregnancy, measured via Fitbit, and its impact on various obstetric outcomes. She is also co-I on four National Institutes of Health-funded projects (R41HL163783; R01 DK135054; R01HL159180), including the REACH study (5P01AI089473, PI Johnson), a large multi-site, observational study seeking to enroll 3,000 pregnant women.


  • Storytellers Top 25 Finalist, National Award for Knowledge Translation, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (2020)
  • Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canadian Doctoral Scholarship, Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2017 - 2020)
  • Mitacs-Accelerate Internship Program and Scholarship (2014, 2019)
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award, University of Windsor (2019)
  • Center for Teaching and Learning GATA Educational Practice Award, University of Windsor (2017)
  • Community Health Promotion Award for Outstanding Individual, Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (2017)