Program Leadership Committee

The Program Leadership Committee has overall responsibility for the development, implementation, and general oversight of the Health & Society Scholars program at UCSF-UCB. They share a strong commitment to the success of each individual Scholar as well as to the program.

Download the PDF document for a complete list of our program faculty.

Program Directors
Program Leaders

PROGRAM DIRECTORS

Nancy E. Adler, PhD
Nancy E. Adler, PhD
Co-Director


My broad interest is in the contribution of social and psychological factors to health and illness. My current research is examining the mechanisms by which socioeconomic status affects health. This work is identifying multiple pathways, but with particular focus on differential exposure to stress and the cumulative effect of stress exposure on disease risk. I am also “unpacking” socioeconomic status to examine how the component resources (e.g. education) contribute to health, as well as the role of subjective perceptions of social status. I continue an interest in work on reproductive health, including risks for unwanted pregnancy, sexually-transmitted infections, and infertility.

PUBLICATIONS ON PUBMED


Ray Catalano, PhD
Ray Catalano, PhD
Co-Director


My research attempts, at the most general level, to explain change over time in indicators of population health.  Most of this work has focused on the effect of macro-economic shocks on health.  In recent years, I have studied the effects of macro social shocks such as the events of September 11, 2001 on outcomes of human gestation including fetal death, low birth weight, the sex ratio, and perinatal morbidity.  My current work measures the contribution of adaptation and selection in utero to population health.

PUBLICATIONS ON PUBMED

 

Robert A. Hiatt, MD, PhD
Robert A. Hiatt, MD, PhD
Associate Director

Bob is Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Associate Director and Director of Population Sciences for the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

His research work continues to focus primarily on cancer epidemiology and related topics. He is Principal Investigator of Coordinating Center for the national Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences.  For the last nine years he and his colleagues have been studying the determinants of the pubertal onset in young girls in BCERP as a way of understanding how environmental factors, including social factors, potentially affect early risk factors for breast cancer. Bob has been working with colleagues at UCSF, Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research, UC Berkeley and Stanford to sort out the role of psychosocial factors, subjective social status, other measures of social status and the built environment as determinants of particular interest.  Bob mentors Olivier Humblet, a current RWJ Health and Society Scholar as he is proposing to investigate the role of selected environmental chemicals on the onset and progression of asthma in these BCERP girls. Also with David Rehkopf, a former RWJ Scholar, and large multidisciplinary panel of breast cancer experts, he has developed a complex systems model for breast cancer etiology that seeks to demonstrate the multilevel causes of this important disease and the multiple interactions that impact carcinogenesis across the life course. Finally, in a new center grant led by Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Bob has taken on the role of Research Core Director for the study of early development and health disparities.

This year is the third year of a new doctoral program at UCSF in Epidemiology and Translational Science that Bob and his department created. This is the first new departmentally based PhD program at UCSF in many years and it is exciting to have been given the support to go forward with it despite difficult financial times. Maria Glymour, another former RWJ Scholar, has recently been recruited from Harvard to lead this graduate program.

Bob lives in Berkeley with his wife June, who is the author of the Principles of Knitting, considered “The Bible” of techniques for the craft of knitting. Their multi-talented musician-videographer-audio engineer son, Jesse, recently moved back from New Orleans to Oakland where he is building a sound studio and multi-tasking on a number of creative projects.


PUBLICATIONS ON PUBMED


Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD
Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD
Associate Director

Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD, Associate Professor of Public Health Nutrition in the Division of Community Health and Human Development, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley.  Dr. Laraia’s research focuses on how health is influenced by the food and physical activity environment and by household food insecurity and stress—especially among vulnerable populations.  Her ongoing research shows links between food insecurity and dysregulated eating behavior in predicting gestational weight gain and adverse pregnancy outcomes, and how access to food is associated with dietary intake and obesity.  Dr. Laraia has expertise with measurement of the food, physical activity and social environment: most recently she created the OurSpace Longitudinal Neighborhood Database which characterizes a number of contextual data layers for the state of California between 1995 and present.  She is now investigating how the psychological stress of living in a low socioeconomic neighborhood may be associated with adverse cardiometabolic outcomes among adults with diabetes.  She is currently the PI of “Neighborhood Effects on Weight Change and Diabetes Risk Factors” that seeks to identify modifiable contextual-level risk factors that influence dietary intake and cardiometabolic outcomes.  She is a multiple PI on the U01 “Novel Interventions to Reduce Stress-Related Non-homeostatic Eating” that is implementing stress reduction and healthy eating and movement interventions for middle- and low-income overweight/obese pregnant women. She has previously served on the IOM planning committee for the Workshop on the Public Health Effects of Food Deserts and is currently serving on the IOM Committee on the Examination of the Adequacy of Food Resources and SNAP Allotments. Dr. Laraia received her PhD and MPH from the University of North Carolina, School of Public Health. She is a member of the American Public Health Association, the Society for Epidemiologic Research and Population Association of America.


PUBLICATIONS ON PUBMED

[back to top]


PROGRAM LEADERS
 

Paula Braveman, MD, MPH
Paula Braveman, MD, MPH
Program Leader


Paula Braveman, MD, MPH is Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Director of the Center on Social Disparities in Health at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  She received her degree in medicine from UCSF and in epidemiology from UC Berkeley, and practiced medicine in a range of settings serving diverse, disadvantaged populations.  For more than two decades, Dr. Braveman has studied and published extensively on social disparities in health and health care and actively engaged in bringing attention to this field in the U.S. and internationally.  Her research has focused on measuring, documenting, and understanding socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities, particularly in maternal and infant health and health care.  During the 1990s she worked with World Health Organization staff in Geneva to develop and implement a global initiative on equity in health and health care.  Throughout her career, she has collaborated with local, state, federal, and international health agencies to see research translated into practice with the goal of achieving greater equity in health.  She has been a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences since her election in 2002.

PUBLICATIONS ON PUBMED


Wendy Berry Mendes, PhD
Wendy Berry Mendes, PhD
Program Leader


Wendy Berry Mendes is the Sarlo/Ekman Associate Professor of Emotion at UC San Francisco. She obtained a Ph.D. in social psychology from UC Santa Barbara in 2003 and then completed a post-doctoral training program in psychology and medicine at UC San Francisco. In 2004 she became an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard University and was promoted to associate professor in 2008. She accepted her current position at UCSF in 2010. Her research questions sit at the intersection of social, personality, and biological psychology and primarily concern questions regarding embodiment - how emotions, thoughts, and intentions are experienced in the body and how bodily responses shape and influence thoughts, behavior and emotions. Some current research areas include coping with stigma and discrimination, dyadic intergroup interactions, affect contagion, mind-body relations across the life course, influence of emotional labeling on emotional experience, and effects of stress on decision-making. Professor Mendes won the Gordon Allport prize in 2008 for the best paper on intergroup relations, the Sage Young Scholar Award for early career contributions in social psychology in 2009, the Janet Spence Award for early career transformative contributions in psychological science in 2011, and for five consecutive years (2006 – 2010) she was named one of Harvard undergraduates “Favorite Professors.”


PUBLICATIONS ON PUBMED

 


Leonard Syme, PhD
Leonard Syme, PhD
Program Leader


I am Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health (Emeritus) at the School of Public Health at Berkeley. My major research interest has been on psychosocial risk factors such as job stress, social support and poverty. In doing this research, I have studied San Francisco bus drivers; Japanese living in Japan, Hawaii and California; British civil servants; people living in Alameda County, California; and 5th grade children living in Richmond, California. I also am Director of the Health Research into Action Center at the University. This Center does research and intervention projects that attempt to empower people and communities using printed materials, television, and community resource development.

PUBLICATIONS ON PUBMED

 

Jennifer Ahern, PhD, MPH
Jennifer Ahern, PhD, MPH

Program Leader

I conduct research in social epidemiology, a field that examines social and structural aspects of our environments, our interactions with one another, and how these phenomena shape our health and well-being. My work focuses specifically on understanding the vulnerabilities imposed on populations by social circumstances and the various ways these vulnerabilities may manifest in well-being or poor health, with a focus on factors that could be targeted for intervention. Complementing this content work, I propose and apply novel methodologic approaches to improve the quality and interpretability of research in social epidemiology.

PUBLICATIONS ON PUBMED


[back to top]