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Home > For the Media Home > Biosketches > By Topic > Chronic Condition and Mental Health

Biosketches - Chronic Condition and Mental Health

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Research on Vulnerable Populations turns a critical eye on the dynamics influencing coverage for the poor, immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, children, and people with chronic mental illness.

Alegria, Margarita
Benitez-Silva, Hugo
Bhattacharya, Jay
Cao, Zhun
Ettner, Susan L.
Goldman, Dana

Kreider, Brent
Lo Sasso, Anthony T.
McGuire, Thomas G.
McLaughlin, Catherine
Schoenbaum, Michael L.
Williams, David R.

Dr. Margarita Alegría is Director of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research (CMMHR) at Cambridge Health Alliance, and a full professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She has devoted her professional career to researching disparities in mental health and substance abuse services. A natural collaborator, Dr. Alegría has worked with investigators and researchers across the United States and Puerto Rico to generate research focused on improving health services for Latinos and other minority populations.

As the Director of CMMHR, Dr. Alegría oversees an interdisciplinary group of researchers and scholars, including psychologists, social policy analysts, health economists, psychiatrists, data analysts, sociologists, and other professionals that assist in the research, analysis and administration of the Center projects. She currently serves as the Principal Investigator of three National Institute of Mental Health-funded research studies. The Latino Research Program Project (LRPP) focuses on research to improve the mental health care of Latino populations, while the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS) aims to estimate mental health and substance abuse disorders as well as rates of mental health and health service use for a nationally representative sample of Asians and Latinos. Additionally, Dr. Alegría serves as co-Principal Investigator of the NCMHD-funded Excellence in Partnerships for Community Outreach, Research on Health Disparities and Training (EXPORT). This study proposes to generate and test interventions that can remedy service disparities in asthma and mental health for disadvantaged Latino and African Caribbean populations.

Dr. Alegría's published works focus on the areas of mental health services research, conceptual and methodological issues with minority populations, risk behaviors, and disparities in service delivery. She received her Ph.D. from Temple University and was awarded the 2003 Mental Health Section Award at the 131st conference of the American Public Health Association.

Hugo Benítez-Silva obtained his M.A., M.Ph., and Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University in December 2000. His research includes contributions to the analyses of disability programs in the United States, dynamic life-cycle models of annuity and portfolio decisions with an emphasis on modeling the effects of uncertainty in wage income and capital investments, the study of retirement expectations, and the labor supply effects of the early retirement rules. His current work includes the estimation of a dynamic structural life-cycle model of retirement and disability, a dynamic analyzes of job search behavior among older Americans, and the connection between automobile recalls and accidents. His research projects have received support from the Michigan Retirement Research Center, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the TIAA-CREF Institute, the National Institute of Aging, and the Economic Research Initiative for the Uninsured through the RWJ Foundation. His research has been published in journals like the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Applied Econometrics, and Labour Economics.

Jay Bhattacharya is an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University. Jay finished his M.D. in 1997 and was awarded his Ph.D. in 2000 on the subject of physician wages in the United States. Bhattacharya's research interests can best be summarized as the microeconometric analysis of health and health care for special populations. He has published empirical economics and health services research papers on the elderly, on adolescents, on HIV patients, on the disabled, on injured workers, and on managed care experts. Most recently, he has done work on the regulation of viatical settlements market, which is a secondary life insurance market popular among HIV patients, and on summer-winter differences in nutritional outcomes for poor American families.

Zhun Cao, Ph.D., is the Associate Director for Methodological Affairs at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research, Cambridge Health Alliance. She received a Ph.D. degree in economics from Boston University in January, 2003. Her research interests are risk selection and its impact on mental health care services, insurance for vulnerable populations, and economics of health care disparities. Dr. Cao was awarded a Presidential University Graduate Fellowship at Boston University from 1996 to 2000, and the Robert Dorwart Doctoral Student Podium Presentation Honorary Title in 2002 from the NIMH. Her paper "Service -level Selection by HMOs in Medicare (joint with Thomas G. McGuire), was published in the Journal of Health Economics in 2003. Also, Dr. Cao is the Principal Investigator of a pending NIMH project on HMO Selection Incentives and Underprovision of MH Care.

Susan L. Ettner is Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research in the UCLA Department of Medicine and in the Department of Health Services in the UCLA School of Public Health. Dr. Ettner obtained her Ph.D. in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991. She was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School in the Department of Health Care Policy prior to joining UCLA as a tenured Associate Professor in 1999. Her research interests include reciprocity in the relationship between health and labor market outcomes, mental health and substance abuse services, insurance markets and managed care, chronic disability, post-acute and long-term care. Dr. Ettner was the 2001 recipient of the Alice S. Hersch New Investigator Award by the Academy for Health Services Research and Health Policy, given each year to the outstanding new health services researcher in the country.

Dr. Ettner's current research projects include analyses of the cost-effectiveness of a randomized, integrated patient-provider intervention to prevent harmful and hazardous alcohol use in the elderly; treatment patterns and their relationship to outcomes among managed behavioral health patients; the impact of provider reimbursement incentives on the quality of diabetes care in managed care settings; risk adjustment of behavioral health care costs in the VA and Medicare among dual enrollees; the cost-effectiveness of a self-care intervention for elderly minority patients with diabetes; predictors of health services and long-term care use among triply diagnosed HIV+ patients; longitudinal wage mobility among Californians; cost-effectiveness of a randomized, personalized motivational intervention aimed at reducing alcohol/drug use and psychological distress among orofacial injury patients who have alcohol/drug problems; the role of depression and medical comorbidity in work disability and the use of private disability insurance; the cost-effectiveness of a community-based intervention for Alzheimer's patients; a pilot study of provider financial incentives for improving the quality of depression care; and a policy evaluation of the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA) of 2000.

Dana Goldman holds the RAND Chair in Health Economics and is Director of Health Economics at RAND. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Health Services and Radiology at UCLA. His research interests combine applied microeconomics and health economics-with a special interest in the economics of chronic disease. His work has been published in leading medical, economic, statistics, and health policy journals and has been funded by both the public and private sectors, including NIH, NIA, NCI, NSF, Amgen, Merck, Genentech, California Healthcare Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Labor, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Most recently, he is the director of the RAND Roybal Center for Health Policy Simulation designed to provide better estimates of the impact of health policy changes. He is on several editorial boards including Health Affairs and the American Journal of Managed Care. Dr. Goldman was the recipient of the National Institute for Health Care Management Research Foundation award for excellence in health policy, and the Alice S. Hersh New Investigator Award that recognizes the outstanding contributions of a young scholar to the field of health services research.  He is also a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research.  He received his B.A from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University.

Brent Kreider (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) is an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University . His fields of specialization include public economics, applied econometrics, labor economics, and health economics. Recent empirical work develops methods for improving inferences about relationships between public policy and outcome measures of interest such as labor supply, program participation, and health care utilization among the disabled and other low-income groups. Part of this research investigates what can be learned in the presence of non-classical measurement error in key variables, such as disability or health insurance status. Although primarily an applied economist, he has also written theoretical articles on optimal taxation, tax incidence, income uncertainty, and human capital accumulation.

Anthony T. Lo Sasso, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and Senior Research Scientist in the Health Policy and Administration Division at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Lo Sasso is an economist and applied econometrician whose research spans several dimensions of health and labor economics and health services research. He received his doctorate in economics in 1996 from Indiana University, Bloomington. He is currently in the final year of a 5-year Independent Scientist Award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality studying workplace health benefits and how they affect employee health. As part of this broad research agenda, Dr. Lo Sasso has recently completed a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health to examine the impact of an expansion of mental health benefits on cost and quality of care at a Fortune 50 manufacturing firm. In addition, Dr. Lo Sasso is currently studying the nascent consumer-driven health care movement and its potential impact on employer-sponsored health insurance and employee health. Other recent research has examined the effect of copayment levels on the use of employer-provided substance abuse benefits. Additionally, he has explored the extent of so-called “responsible purchasing” by employers: the degree to which employers collect and use non-financial information in selecting and managing employee health care plans.

Dr. Lo Sasso is also keenly interested in how government policies affect private sector decisions. He has studied the impact of the State Children's Health Insurance Program on uninsurance among children and the extent to which public coverage may have “crowded out” private coverage of children. He currently has a grant to study how community rating provisions in state non-group health insurance markets affect non-group health insurance coverage and uninsurance. Dr. Lo Sasso also has recently completed a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization initiative to study how the availability of safety net health care services affects the willingness of firms to offer health insurance and the willingness of employees to take-up health insurance when it is offered.

Thomas G. McGuire, Ph.D., is Professor of Health Economics in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on 1) the design and impact of health care payment systems, 2) the economics of health care disparities and 3) the economics of mental health policy. Dr. McGuire has contributed to the theory of physician, hospital, and health plan payment. His current research includes application of theoretical and empirical methods from labor economics to the area of health care disparities. He has analyzed the reasons behind "discrimination" by doctors, and conducted empirical research to identify the contribution of the various mechanisms behind health care disparities. For more than 25 years, Dr. McGuire has conducted academic and policy research on the economics of mental health.

Dr. McGuire was the 1981 recipient of the Elizur Wright Award from the American Association of Risk and Insurance for his book, Financing Psychotherapy, and he has cochaired four NIMH-sponsored conferences on the Economics of Mental Health. He received the 1998 Arrow Award (joint with Albert Ma) from the International Health Economics Association. In 1991 he received the Carl Taube Award from the American Public Health Association. Dr. McGuire is a member of the Institute of Medicine, and a co-editor of the Journal of Health Economics. Dr. McGuire received his A.B. degree from Princeton and his Ph.D. degree in economics from Yale University.

Dr. McLaughlin is a Professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy and the Director of the Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured (ERIU) at the University of Michigan. ERIU, a five-year initiative funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has been conducting and disseminating research aimed at increasing our understanding of the interaction between health and labor market dynamics and the uninsured. In addition, Dr. McLaughlin is the director of the University of Michigan component of the Agency for Health Care Policy Research's Center of Excellence on Managed Care Markets and Quality directed by Harold Luft at University of California, San Francisco. The projects being pursued at Michigan focus on the dynamic interaction between plan performance measures, market structure, and employer behavior.

Dr. McLaughlin is also currently the Vice-Chair of the Citizens' Health Care Working Group and a Senior Associate Editor of Health Services Research. From 1993 to 2003 she was the Director of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Scholars in Health Policy Research Program at Michigan. Her current research interests are focused on the uninsured, managed care, market competition, and employer and employee benefit choice.

Dr. McLaughlin has studied various health economics topics. She has published numerous articles on the impact of HMOs on market competition and health care costs, the determinants of small area variation in hospital utilization and costs, and issues surrounding the working uninsured. Recent publications include: “The Long-Term and Short-Term Effects of a Copayment Increase on the Utilization and Expenditures of Prescription Drugs,” in Inquiry, “Donated Care Programs: A Stopgap Measure or a Long-Run Alternative to Health Insurance?” in Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, “Quality and Employers' Choice of Health Plans,” in Journal of Health Economics, "Causes and Consequences of Lack of Health Insurance: Gaps in Our Knowledge," in Health Policy and the Uninsured , Urban Institute Press; "Who Walks Through the Door? The Effect of the Uninsured" in Health Affairs; "Medigap Premiums and Medicare HMO Enrollment" in Health Services Research; "The Who, What, and How of Managed Care," The Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law; "Health Care Consumers: Choices and Constraints" in Medical Care Research and Review, "Competition, Quality of Care, and The Role of Consumers," in The Milbank Quarterly, and "The Demand for Health Insurance Coverage by Low-Income Workers: Can Reduced Premiums Achieve Full Coverage?," in Health Services Research.

Professor McLaughlin received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin.

Michael Schoenbaum (PhD in Economics, University of Michigan, 1995) is a health and labor economist at the RAND Corporation. He is currently leading analyses of the Palestinian health system, to identify policy options for improving clinical performance and economic viability; and he is leading economic analyses for several large-scale trials to improve care for depresssion. His research has included analyses of the costs and benefits of interventions to improve health care quality, evaluated from the perspectives of patients, providers, taxpayers and society; of the effectiveness of public health interventions, including infant nutrition, immunization, and community healthworker programs; of the social epidemiology and economic consequences of chronic illness and disability; and of health risk behavior, particularly cigarette smoking. Dr. Schoenbaum is also co-developer of RAND's Health Cost and Flexible Spending Account Calculators, web-based modeling and decision-support tools to help consumers make health benefits choices. Prior to joining RAND in 1997, Dr. Schoenbaum spent two years at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in health policy. He is based in RAND's Washington office.

Dr. David R. Williams is the Harold W. Cruse Collegiate Professor of Sociology, Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Social Research, Professor of Epidemiology, and Faculty Associate in the Program for Research on Black Americans and the Center for AfroAmerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. Previously, he was an Associate Professor of Sociology, Yale University, and Associate Professor of Public Health, Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Williams' research has focused on social influences on health and he is centrally interested in the trends and determinants of socioeconomic and racial differences in mental and physical health. He is the author of more than 100 scholarly papers in scientific journals and edited collections and his research has appeared in leading journals in sociology, psychology, medicine, public health and epidemiology. He has served on the editorial board of 6 scientific journals and as a reviewer for more than 40 others. In 1995, he received an Investigator Award in Health Policy Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in 2001, he was elected as a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Williams has served on the Department of Health and Human Services' National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (and chair of its subcommittee on Minority and Other Special Populations), and the National Science Foundation's Board of Overseers for the General Social Survey. He has also held elected and appointed positions in professional organizations, such as the American Sociological Association and the American Public Health Association. Currently, he is on the board of directors of Academy Health and a member of the MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Understanding and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care and also serves on its Panel on Race, Ethnicity and Health in Later Life.