Torri D. Metz, M.D.
NHLBI Celebrates Women Scientists

Torri D. Metz, M.D.


For Torri D. Metz, M.D., an obstetrician and maternal-fetal medicine specialist, conducting research is a way to help patients. The work really suits her, too. “I’m a concrete and linear thinker,” she explained.

Metz studied chemistry in college, so the idea of generating a question, then starting an experiment or thought process to find the answer, was nothing new when she began her career in medical research. “We have a clinical question,” she said. “We have to answer it.” The best part: the findings often translate into ways to support a patient’s health.

One of Metz’s current projects is a multi-year, observational clinical trial to answer questions about the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, or long COVID. One aim of the NIH-supported study is to see if people exposed to COVID-19 during pregnancy develop long COVID. If so, is their experience different from others?

“There are things that are different in pregnancy,” explained Metz, who also is vice chair of research of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah Health. Pregnancy impacts a person’s physiology, hormones, and immune response. Through the NIH Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative, she and researchers will see if these factors provide a protective effect against long COVID, increase a person’s risk, or have no influence.

They will also study if infants, toddlers, and young children exposed to COVID in utero have different developmental outcomes compared to children who weren’t exposed to COVID. The study will assess the physical growth and development of these children, including their cognitive function and neurodevelopment.

“If we are seeing differences, that’s going to affect public health moving forward and would give us an opportunity – to screen those children early and, hopefully, intervene,” Metz said.

After completing a rotation in medical school with an obstetrician who had a close bond with patients, Metz was drawn to the field. “Being able to see that relationship and how important it was for the whole family, really inspired me to want to do obstetrics,” she said.

She selected maternal-fetal medicine during her residency because both the individual giving birth and the fetus need extra care due to pregnancy complications.

Her advice to students and others considering a similar path is to know that “it’s a long road, but the journey is absolutely worth it.”