I am the Deputy Director of the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group ([GPEG], C.W Hoven Director), in the Department of Psychiatry, where I have worked since 1995 and developed a broad expertise in domestic and international Epidemiologic research, including large-scale population studies. As a Medical Geographer, I have had the opportunity of incorporating into this research Geographic Information Science (GIScience), a discipline, with a substantial capacity for analyzing and understanding population health, both locally and globally. As a scientific approach, it marries Medical Geography, Public Health and Informatics, to obtain a deeper understanding of how health issues impact populations. Since the 1990s, this approach has become an ever increasing valued and progressive discipline to analyze epidemiological phenomena. As a faculty member in the Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology, I bring a Medical Geographer/GIScientists’ lens to the Psychiatric Epidemiological research questions of today. My main research interest has three inter-related foci: 1) effects of traumatic exposure on child and adolescent mental health; 2) environmental and social determinants of health; and, 3) mental health literacy and psycho-education. In addition to these research foci, I have advocated for the use of GIScience in public health with numerous national and international presentations and publications.
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PhD, 2013, Graduate Center, City University of New York
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MA, 2006, Hunter College, City University of New York
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Research Scientist, RFMH/NYSPI
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Areas of Expertise
Data Management, Health Informatics, Spatial Analysis, Adolescent Health, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Disparities / Inequalities in Health, Family and Community Structure, Minority Health, Social / Cultural Issues, Social Capital, Social Epidemiology, Social Factors in Health, Stigma, Underserved Populations, Violence, Health Literacy, Risk Factors, Environmental Risk Factors, Global Health, Incarceration and Recidivism, Depression, Mental Health, Addiction/Drug Abuse, Alcoholism, Urban Health
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Context and Ethnic Diversity: Children's Responses to 9/11: Several of our studies at the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group (GPEG) examine the impact of 9/11 on NYC Metro Area populations. This Study will identify the role that race/ethnicity, interacting with family and neighborhood contextual factors, had on the mental health outcomes of youth exposed to 9/11. Using data from the New York City Board of Education Study (NYC-BOE Study; PI: Hoven) this study aimed at clarifing the role that children’s context played in determining if they had a resilient, versus an adverse response to 9/11. This understanding is key to the development of improved and targeted prevention and treatment strategies, as well as public policies, for all children exposed to mass trauma, but especially minority populations.
The Impact of 9/11 on Youth: Mental Health, Substance Use and Other Risk Behaviors: The purpose of this investigation is to improve understanding of the effects of children's direct exposure to 9/11 and future mental health disorders, substance use or abuse and other risky behaviors as they now enter into adolescence and emerging adulthood.
Sleep and Well-Being in High Risk Youth: This study proposes to examine the ways in which environmental, psychosocial, and genetic risk factors influence sleep and how sleep in turn might play a role in psychiatric, functional, and health-related outcomes in high-risk youth and young adults living predominately in the South Bronx. The scientific premise is based on gaps in mental health, sleep, and health disparities literature, as well as preliminary data. Significance of the study relates to its potential to identify risk factors for poor sleep quality in this population and to point to preventive and targeted sleep interventions that might impact health outcomes.
Select Global Activities
Prevalence and Dynamics of Suicide in LMICs, Tajikistan: Suicide is a world-wide phenomenon and the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently declared that depression (highly associated with suicide) is the number one disease burden in the world. Close to one million people commit suicide each year, with ten to twenty times as many attempts. By the year 2020, it is estimated that 1.53 million suicides will occur annually worldwide. That is equivalent to one death every twenty seconds, or one attempt every 1-2 seconds. Historically, suicide among Young People was less frequent than among the elderly. More recently, in most countries, a shift has taken place whereby the rate of suicide among the younger population has surpassed the rate among the elderly. Globally, the highest rate of all suicides occurs among those under 25 years of age. Based on a perception that the rate of suicide in Young People was increasing, especially among girls, the Sughd Governor asked for assistance from UNICEF. Consequently, UNICEF-Tajikistan commissioned a Study: Prevalence and Dynamics of Suicide among Children and Young People, designed and conducted by GPEG. The specific aims of the Study were to: 1) identify major factors associated with suicide among youth; 2) provide fact-based recommendations for improved identification and referral of at-risk youth; 3) identify practical recommendations of possible interventions to minimize suicide among youth in Sughd; and 4) generate new information to support targeted advocacy for child protection and youth rights. To accomplish these goals, a holistic approach was taken. The Study methodology therefore reflects the concept that suicide is a complex phenomenon embedded within social and familial structures.
Mental health literacy and psycho-education, Armenia, Brazil, China (People’s Republic of), Egypt, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Uganda: At GPEG, we believe that mental health begins with awareness; and, to increase awareness, we need to begin with children. Since 2004, we have conducted several large-scale studies looking at the efficacy of mental health awareness/literacy programs across the world. As lead researchers in one of three components of the World Psychiatric Association’s (WPA) task force on Child Mental Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association of Child Psychiatrists and Allied Professions (IACPAP), CPEG conducted a nine-country (5 continent) study designed to measure pre- and post-campaign awareness among students, parents and teachers. This awareness approach was later re-conceptualized and applied to the European Union funded Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT): Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe (SEYLE). With Dr. Danuta Wasserman, Karolinska Institute, as Principal Investigator, a more interactive psycho-education awareness program was carried out across 10 countries and over 11,000 students, with GPEG providing methodological consultation. The overall aim of the SEYLE RCT that included three interventions and controls was to identify an effective intervention for suicidal behavior. The awareness arm of this RCT had the highest reduction of suicidal behavior and depression, compared to the other arms. This is the first study to identify a psychosocial-education intervention as the most effective intervention against suicidal behavior, compared to case identification by professionals or school staff.
Spatial distribution of health outcomes in Taiwan, Taiwan: With my collaborators in the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) in Taiwan (NIH counterpart), I have investigated the spatial distribution of heavy metal contaminants in soils of Changhwa County, a major agricultural county in Taiwan, co-authored the first ever five-volume atlas of Cancer in Taiwan and have collaborated on using GIScience methods in modeling access to health care in a remote area of Taiwan.