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Epidemiology Research Branch (ERB)

What We Do:

The mission of the Epidemiology Research Branch is to promote a national and international extramural research program that examines the impact of individual, familial, behavioral, developmental, and socio-cultural/ environmental risk and protective factors related to substance use, abuse, and addition. Findings will be used to inform prevention and services research to reduce the burden of substance use, abuse, and addiction on the nation's public health.

Research Goals:

  • Maximize return on investments by promoting analysis of existing data and data sharing - Program Contact: Marsha Lopez
  • Rapid assessment of emerging trends - Program Contact: Moira O'Brien
  • Expand translation research to address:
    • Interactions of intrapersonal and environmental factors, across development - Program Contacts: Bethany Deeds, Kathy Etz
    • Linking dynamics of HIV/AIDS transmission and disease progression to prevention intervention and services - Program Contacts: Elizabeth Lambert, Peter Hartsock

Staff Biographies for Epidemiology Research Branch:

  • Marsha Lopez, Ph.D., MHS Branch Chief
    (301) 443-6504
    Dr. Lopez is currently Chief of the Epidemiology Research Branch. Prior to becoming Branch Chief, her program areas included major epidemiological studies and secondary data analysis, studies of the co-occurrence of drug and other psychiatric disorders, diagnostic issues pertaining to drug and other psychiatric conditions. Dr. Lopez is a strong supporter of Research Training among new investigators. After receiving her B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown University, Dr. Lopez was an Intramural Research Training Associate (IRTA) Fellow at NIDA for two years in Behavioral Pharmacology in the Preclinical Pharmacology Laboratory. She subsequently attended the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Department of Mental Hygiene, where she received her MHS with a concentration in Public Mental Health, and then Ph.D. with a focus on drug and alcohol dependence epidemiology. Her training was funded by an Individual National Research Service Award (NRSA) from NIDA, supporting research on drug related mortality. Prior to joining the Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research, Dr. Lopez was on staff at the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland and led a team at Walter Reed Army Medical Center conducting medical surveillance on the United States Military service members.
  • Bethany Griffin Deeds, Ph.D. - Deputy Branch Chief
    (301) 402-1935
    Dr. Bethany Griffin Deeds is a Health Services Administrator in the Epidemiology Research Branch. Her program area covers social epidemiology research related to substance use, HIV and violence including: social context (e.g., school, workplace, neighborhood/community); drugs and crime; macro-social determinants of health (e.g., poverty, economics, policies); urbanicity; homelessness and housing; violent victimization; drug markets; geographic information systems (GIS); and the impact of natural disasters. Before joining NIDA, Dr. Deeds was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland Medical School where her research focused on adolescent violence, substance use and HIV prevention. She also served as Director for Connect to Protect: Baltimore, one of 13 national sites affiliated with the Adolescent Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions, investigating how community partnerships can reduce adolescent HIV incidence and prevalence by making structural changes to the environment. Dr. Deeds' research included the community health partnership formation; community mapping and resource assessments; community protection concepts/ethics; HIV early identification strategies; community-level HIV prevention approaches; HIV vaccine community preparedness; substance use, victimization and violence; and the role of social contexts in violence and HIV. Her current research interests include the social epidemiology of drug abuse, HIV and violence; the relationship between social environments and the characterization of modifiable structural factors in communities/neighborhoods.
  • Kathy Etz, Ph.D. - Health Science Administrator
    (301) 402-1749
    Dr. Etz is a Health Science Administrator in the Epidemiology Research Branch and Chair of the American Indian and Alaska Native Coordinating Committee for NIDA. Her program area includes studies of population and clinical epidemiology in adolescents and early adults; psychological, familial and environmental risk and protective factors and processes and how these interact in the development of drug abuse; and the sequencing and temporal potency of risk factors that affect the development of substance abuse. The program also supports epidemiologic research studies examining the social, cultural, environmental and historical factors related to drug use among American Indians and Alaska Natives as well as a more general focus on epidemiology and health disparities. In addition, the program includes a focus on data sharing and the support of a behavioral and social science drug abuse and HIV data archive. Dr. Etz's academic background includes a B.A. in Psychology from Kenyon College and a M.S. and PH.D. in Human Development from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Prior to joining NIDA, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Prevention Research Center, University of Kentucky. Dr. Etz has served on the Board of Directors for the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) as well as the SPR Training Committee.
  • Peter Hartsock, Dr.P.H. - Research Scientist Officer
    (301) 402-1964
    Dr. Peter Hartsock is a Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service. He has many years of experience at NIDA, with expertise in epidemiological and prevention research on drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. He currently serves as a Research Scientist Officer and Program Official in the Epidemiology Research Branch, where he provides technical assistance and guidance to potential research grantees and to federal and international agencies. Since the AIDS epidemic began nearly 25 years ago, Dr. Hartsock has dedicated himself to facilitating a successful program of research in mathematical modeling of HIV and other infectious diseases, molecular epidemiology, and innovative methods in the behavioral and social sciences to characterize HIV/AIDS and other emerging and re-emerging diseases associated with drug abuse. Most recently, Dr. Hartsock has been instrumental in advancing the science of mathematical modeling efforts to determine the public health impact and cost effectiveness of making HIV testing and counseling routine in medical and clinical settings. Dr. Hartsock served with Dr. C. Everett Koop as a coauthor on the Surgeon General's Report on AIDS and was awarded the Surgeon General's Exemplary Service Medal for this and related work. Dr. Hartsock also manages international research grants on drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and related problems. Part of this work includes the former Soviet Union where HIV is spreading faster than anywhere else on earth and where drug abuse is the principal driver of the epidemic. Dr. Hartsock serves on a number of advisory groups including the Federal Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, the UNAIDS Task Force on AIDS in the Military, and the Committees on AIDS of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Atlantic Council.
  • Elizabeth Lambert, M.Sc. - Health Statistician
    (301) 402-1933
    Ms. Lambert is a Program Official in the Epidemiology Research Branch, where she manages a portfolio of research on the epidemiology and natural history of HIV/AIDS among drug users, as well as HIV-related co-infections (e.g., hepatitis-C, hepatitis-B, and other sexually transmitted infections). Ms. Lambert's research program areas address: (1) new theoretical approaches to understand the natural history/epidemiology of disease, progression, and health and social outcomes of drug abuse/addiction and HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases; (2) intrapersonal dynamics (e.g., partner concurrency) and other behavioral, social, and environmental factors and their interactions with genetic factors that influence drug abuse/addiction and HIV-related risk behaviors; and (3) the translation of epidemiological research to advance the development of improved HIV/drug prevention interventions, health services, and public health practice. Projects of particular interest on the epidemiology of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men; studies of contextual factors and transmission risk behaviors associated with acute HIV infection and early HIV disease; studies of HIV and co-infections (e.g., HCV, HBV, other STIs) among drug users including factors specific to transitions from non-injection to injection drug abuse and their sex partners; the behavioral and social epidemiology of non-injecting drug use and its role in the spread of HIV/AIDS; research on social networks and partnership dynamics that impact drug abuse and HIV/AIDS transmission patterns; and methodological research in the behavioral and social sciences to improve epidemiological measures and methods for drug abuse and HIV/AIDS research.
  • Moira O'Brien, M.Phil. - Health Scientist Administrator
    (301) 402-1881
    Moira O'Brien is a Health Scientist Administrator in the Epidemiology Research Branch and serves as Project Officer for the Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG). She has responsibility for planning and chairing the semiannual CEWG meetings and for overseeing the development of publications reporting meeting findings. Ms. O'Brien also serves as Program Official for research grants focusing on prescription drug abuse as well as grants examining current and emerging drug abuse trends. She has worked at NIDA since 1990. Prior to joining the Epidemiology Research Branch in 1995, Ms. O'Brien worked in the NIDA International Research Program. During her time at NIDA, she has been responsible for developing and collaborating on a number of international activities in the area of epidemiology pertaining to training, research development, and the promotion of methods and mechanisms for the collection and sharing of internationally comparable data. Current responsibilities include stimulating and managing extramural research, including studies to: characterize the nature and extent of emerging and current drug abuse trends within local, national, and international contexts, and identify associated health, social, and behavioral consequences; enhance the identification and monitoring of emerging trends; elucidate individual, social, cultural and contextual factors influencing the initiation of drug using behaviors; and examine processes influencing the development and diffusion of new drug trends.
  • Jeffrey Schulden, M.D. - Medical Officer
    (301) 402-1526
    Dr. Schulden is a Medical Officer in the Epidemiology Research Branch. Prior to joining NIDA in February 2008, he served as a Medical Epidemiologist in the Behavioral and Clinical Surveillance Branch of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From 2002-2004, he served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer with CDC's Division of Violence Prevention. He received his B.A. from Duke University and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He completed residency training in Psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Cornell University. Research areas of particular interest include: the association between psychiatric illness and substance abuse among adults, with a particular focus on the association between substance abuse and PTSD, trauma, and stress; intimate partner violence and substance use disorders; suicide and overdose; and mental health and substance use disorders among persons living with HIV.
  • Naimah Weinberg, M.D. - Medical Officer
    (301) 402-1908
    Dr. Weinberg is a Medical Officer in the Epidemiology Research Branch. She received her training in General Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, and has served on the child psychiatry faculty at the University of Michigan, University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University/Kennedy Krieger Institute, and on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She completed postdoctoral research training in the Department of Mental Hygiene at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Her research area focuses on child psychiatric precursors to drug abuse and dependence, and the interplay of genetic and environmental factors on trajectories to comorbid disorders. Research approaches of particular interest include: epidemiologic (population-based) longitudinal studies; genetic epidemiologic and other studies of familial risk; clinical prospective and follow-up studies; and characterizing the interactions between individual psychiatric and genetic factors with the environment in producing high risk phenotypes.

This page was last updated December 2011

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