Freedman Fellowship Focus: Jacqueline Curtis

Jacqueline Curtis blue background

As a spatial epidemiologist, Case Western Reserve University Associate Professor Jacqueline Curtis, PhD, collects and looks for geographic patterns in disease, social, and environmental data to determine public health impacts. While working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Curtis noticed her then-third grader—attending online school—was struggling to participate fully due to her dyslexia. Observing the many ways the condition shapes her child's daily life inspired Curtis to explore geographic data relating to dyslexia, which led to her Freedman Fellowship project SEEN Kids—her self-described life’s work.

“In medicine, we refer to dyslexia as a neurodevelopmental ‘disorder,’” said Curtis. “But really, these are just differences in the way people navigate the world and our educational system.”

SEEN Kids: Spacial Epidemiology for Excellence in Neurodiverse Kids web mapping project was born out of Curtis’ desire to determine the prevalences of dyslexia and other neurodiverse conditions geographically. It is one of six Freedman Fellowships awarded to faculty during the 2023-24 year.

As part of the project, data scientists are working with Curtis to make sense of the collected information and are providing suggestions on how to share it with the public. With funds from the fellowship award, Curtis also enrolled in a Harvard Medical School course on media and medicine to help guide her data dissemination strategy.

“A really powerful thing that can come out of this mapping is showing families they aren’t alone, and that these paths are normal,” said Curtis. “Once complete, the mapping can also direct people to helpful community resources.”

Curtis encourages fellow faculty members to visit the Freedman Center, meet its experts and learn about its resources.

“They are going to spark ideas that you probably never had,” said Curtis. “They have such good connections to so many different disciplines and can synthesize ideas that would naturally stay separate. It’s transformational scholarship.”

The annual Freedman Fellowship program supports the advancement of digital scholarship research projects from Case Western Reserve University faculty. The fellowship aids researchers in integrating digital tools and technology into their work across multiple disciplines to support learning and advance scholastic discoveries.

The 2023-24 Freedman Faculty Fellows program is funded by the Freedman Fellows Endowment, established by Samuel B. and Marian K. Freedman. 

Faculty and student fellows will take part in the Freedman Fellows Forum on April 22. Visit this page for more details.