Mary A. Ott

Mary A. Ott Mary A. Ott, M.D., M.A. is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics whose research focuses on developmental aspects of adolescent sexual behavior and STIs. Dr. Ott examines decision-making and behavior from the perspectives of individuals, romantic dyads, parent-adolescent pairs, and social groups. Dr. Ott has expertise in ethical aspects of research on sensitive issues with vulnerable populations. Dr. Ott was a co-investigator on the Young Women’s Project, and has published papers examining the interrelationships of adolescent STD acquisition with sexual abstinence, partner change, and contraceptive use. Dr. Ott’s current projects focus on adolescent boys’ risk and protective factors for STD acquisition. She is examining developmental trajectories of sexual behavior using longitudinal surveys and cell phone based methods. Her work has been funded through a K23, a STDCRC Developmental Award, foundation grants, and a recent NIH R56 grant. Dr. Ott started with a rigorous scientific examination of sexual abstinence as a health decision. Abstinence had become a highly politicized primary approach to reducing adolescent pregnancy, yet our scientific understanding of how adolescents made decisions about abstinence was limited. Dr. Ott’s interdisciplinary research program advances our understanding of how development, relationships and social contexts influence adolescent abstinence decisions. Four linked studies use a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods that are drawn from psychology, sociology, anthropology, and medicine. Her research findings have been translated into practice on several levels: (1) a developmental framework for office-based counseling; (2) evaluation and improvement of Indiana RESPECT, an abstinence-focused public health education program; and (3) research findings have been directly incorporated into Society for Adolescent Medicine policy statements. Dr. Ott’s current research is a developmental examination of how adolescent boys’ make decisions about romantic and sexual relationships, and the impact of those decisions on STIs. Results suggest important roles for families in STI prevention, and identify patterns of communication that can inform both office-based STD prevention counseling and STD prevention programs. She has provided technical assistance and consultation in adolescent health for several community organizations. For example, focus groups with Indiana youth across the state on their health related priorities provided important youth input to the Indiana Coalition to Improve Adolescent Health for the first Indiana state health plan for adolescents. Professor Ott’s long-term goal is to inform and improve interventions that promote healthy sexual development and prevent adolescent unintended pregnancy and STIs.