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Who is SEW?

Leadership Lorrene Ritchie, PhD, MS, RD
Elissa Epel, PhD Kimber Stanhope, PhD
Nancy Adler, PhD
Peter Havel, PhD Post Docs & Students
Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD Cindy Leung, MPH, ScD
  Matt Tryon, PhD
Faculty & Researchers  
Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD Collaborators
Nicole Bush, PhD Kevin Laugero, PhD
Pat Crawford, DrPH, RD

Rashel DeCant

Mary Dallman, PhD  
Kristine Madsen, MD, MPH Staff
Aric A. Prather, PhD Stephanie Chernitskiy
Eli Puterman, PhD Jennifer Taggart



Elissa Epel, PhD

Photograph of Elissa Epel, PhD.

Elissa Epel, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF, Associate Director of the Center for Health and Community, and co-founder and Co-Director of the UCSF Center for Obesity Assessment, Study, and Treatment (COAST).  For the past 15 years, Dr. Epel has been studying effects of stress and hormones on metabolic outcomes in humans—food ingestion, macronutrient selection, and preferential storage of visceral vs. subcutaneous fat depots.  She has received numerous awards for her work, such as the 2008 APA Early Career Award.  She works closely with Drs. Adler and Laraia in running COAST and developing the research program on SES pathways to obesity, and collaborates with Drs. Havel and Laugero at UC Davis.  

Nancy Adler, PhD

Photograph of Nancy Adler, PhD

Nancy Adler, PhD, is Professor of Medical Psychology and Pediatrics at UCSF and vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry. She is the Director and founder of the UCSF Center for Health and Community, a Co-Director of COAST, and Co-Directs one of the sites of the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars Program with UCB. Dr. Adler is a member of the Institute of Medicine and serves on the NIH Director's board of advisors. She has received the APA "Outstanding Contributions to Health Psychology" award, as well as the Distinguished Science Award for the Application of Psychology. As Chair of the MacArthur Foundation Network on Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Health, she facilitates interdisciplinary research on mechanisms by which SES affects the onset and progression of disease. Dr. Adler contributes her expertise in how to span social, psychological, and biological levels of measurement, how to work collaboratively across campuses, and how to create a more cohesive intercampus training program.

Peter Havel, PhD

Peter Havel, PhD, is Professor in the Departments of Molecular Biosciences and Nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Havel's research program investigates the regulation of secretion and the action of hormones involved in energy homeostasis and carbohydrate/lipid metabolism, and the involvement of endocrine systems in the pathophysiology of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Havel studies the nutritional factors such as high sugar and high fat foods that are common in low SES environments and those that people reach for in times of stress. He has published over 100 original papers reporting the results of his research on diabetes and obesity and more than 30 review articles and book chapters in this area.

Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD

Photograph of Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD

Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at UCSF and a Co-Director of research at COAST. She is an expert in nutritional epidemiology and dietary and physical activity assessment. Dr. Laraia has focused on household food insecurity, stress, and the measurement of social-environmental indicators and the food environment for the past ten years. She has also studied how the psychological stress of living in a low socioeconomic neighborhood may affect birth outcomes, determinants of physical activity among pregnant women, and the influence of a lack of accessibility to grocery stores on the diet of pregnant women. Her ongoing research shows links between dysregulated eating behavior (high restraint) and food insecurity predicting weight gain during pregnancy. Dr. Laraia is a national leader in the area of food insecurity and obesity.


Faculty & Researchers

Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD

Nicole Bush, PhD

Pat Crawford, DrPH, RD

Photograph of Pat Crawford.

Pat Crawford, DrPH, RD, is Director of the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health and Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Heal and the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Crawford was the Berkeley PI of the 10-year longitudinal NHLBI Growth & Health Study (NGHS), an epidemiologic study on the development of obesity in African American and white girls. She has extensive experience relating food insecurity to obesity. She is currently leading studies to impove food resources for low-income families. She is evaluating the impact of large scale community interventions in low income communities to create healthy food environments. She is widely published in the field of child obesity prevention and is co-author of Obesity: Dietary & Development Influences (CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2006). She serves on a number of advisory boards including the California Legislative Task Force on Diabetes & Obesity and the Institute of Medicine's Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention.

Mary Dallman, PhD

Photograph of Mary Dallman, PhD

Mary Dallman, PhD, is a Professor Emerita of Physiology at UCSF and is one of the world experts on stress and metabolism, having pioneered the discoveries of how HPA axis regulation and metabolism are linked. She has deciphered the roles of stress induced glucocorticoid secretion on brain and feering behavior and the stress-damping role of pleasurable food intake on brain pituitary-adrenal responses to chronic stressors in rats. As Professor Emeritus, she remains active in mentoring and promoting training and research.

Kristine Madsen, MD, MPH

Photograph of Kristine Madsen

Kristine A. Madsen, MD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, in the Division of Community Health and Child Development. She is a pediatrician and research scientist with expertise in the design and evaluation of interventions related to childhood obesity and health disparities in youth. Her current work includes: an NIH-funded randomized trial looking at school-based body-mass index screening and reporting; a longitudinal study of the impact of Kaiser's new Thriving Schools initiative; a Robert Wood Johnson Foundaton-funded project examining the impact of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program; and a partnership with Contra Costa Health Services to disseminate their evidence-based Familias Activas y Saludables program.

Aric A. Prather, PhD

Photograph of Aric A. Prather, PhD.

Aric A. Prather is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF. He received his PhD (2010) in Clinical and Biological & Health Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, and completed his clinical training internship in Behavioral Medicine at Duke University Medical Center. He then completed a post-doctoral fellowship through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars program housed jointly at UCSF and UC Berkeley.  Dr. Prather's research focuses on the inter-relationship between psychological stress and sleep as dynamic predictors of physical and mental health.  His work utilizes epidemiologic, naturalistic, and laboratory based studies to understand the extent to which sleep disturbance serves as a critical behavioral pathway to poor health.  With specialized training in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), he primarily focuses on immune outcomes implicated in infectious disease, inflammatory conditions, and accelerated immunosenescence. He is also dedicated to investigating how larger social constructs (e.g., social disadvantage) drive variation in stress and sleep disturbance and ultimately contribute to health disparities.

Eli Puterman, PhD

Photograph of Eli Puterman.

Eli Puterman, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Francisco in the Department of Psychiatry and is the Director of the Fitness, Aging, and Stress Laboratory. He completed undergraduate degrees in Physiology and Psychology in Montreal, Quebec, received his MA in Clinical Psychology, and his PhD in Health Psychology at The University of British Columbia.

Lorrene Ritchie, PhD, RD

Photograph of Lorrene Ritchie, PhD

Lorrene Ritchie, PhD, MS, RD, is Director of Research at U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Weight and Health.  Dr. Ritchie obtained her doctorate in Nutrition at U.C. Berkeley and has worked at the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Center for Weight and Health for over a decade to promote the development of interdisciplinary, science-based and culturally relevant solutions to the obesity epidemic in children and families. Current research projects include evaluation of: nutrition environments in child care in California, dietary patterns, timing of eating and sleep duration in relation to obesity development in adolescent girls, infant feeding practices among WIC participants, and the impact of the Network's Power Play Campaign on the fruit and vegetable intakes of elementary school children.

Kimber Stanhope, PhD

Photograph of Kimber Stanhope, PhD.

Kimber Stanhope received a M.S. in Nutrition Science and a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biology from the University of California at Davis. She is currently an Associate Project Scientist in the Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of California at Davis. She has over 20 years of nutrition research experience, working first in the laboratory of Dr. Judith Stern and then with Dr. Peter Havel.  During her 16-year association with Dr. Peter Havel, she has progressed from technician to scientist while working on over 150 research projects investigating the regulation of energy homeostasis and carbohydrate/lipid metabolism, and the involvement of endocrine systems in the pathophysiology of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in human subjects, primates, rodents and isolated adipocytes. She has lately focused her efforts investigating the effects of sugar consumption on the development of metabolic disease, utilizing well-controlled diet intervention studies in human subjects. The recent Stanhope and Havel investigations have definitively demonstrated that there are significant biologic and metabolic differences between fructose and glucose, with fructose consumption promoting the development of dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and visceral adiposity in older, overweight/obese subjects. The early results from their current investigation have demonstrated that LDL-cholesterol and other lipids associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease are increased in young normal weight and overweight men and women who consumed 25% of their caloric requirement as beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or with fructose.  Dr. Stanhope’s long-term career goals are to continue to contribute significantly to the clinical research that will define the optimally healthy diet and delineate the mechanisms involved. She has over 50 peer-reviewed publications and has first-authored 6 review articles on the metabolic effects of sugar consumption. She also has 10 years experience as a public health educator, working as a Registered Dietitian with health clubs and health management organizations, and is the author of a children’s nutrition book.

Post Docs & Students

Cindy Leung, ScD, MPH

Photograph of Cindy Leung, ScD, MPH

Dr. Cindy Leung is a postdoctoral scholar in the Center for Health and Community in the School of Medicine at UCSF. She received her MPH from UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and her ScD in Nutrition and Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health, with concentrations in public health nutrition and cardiovascular epidemiology. Her previous research has examined the relations of household food security and participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to dietary intake and obesity-related health outcomes of low-income Americans. Currently, she is investigating the associations between dietary patterns and cellular aging, the effects of household food security on stress and diet-related chronic disease, and the interactions between the neighborhood food environment and household food security on predicting dietary intake. More generally, Dr. Leung is interested in examining social and environmental determinants of dietary intake and diet-related health outcomes, and using scientific evidence to influence public policy to create healthier environments, particularly for vulnerable populations.

Matt Tryon, PhD


Kevin Laugero, PhD

Photograph of Kevin Laguero, PhD

Dr. Laugero received a Bachelor's degree in biological science from California State University Fresno and a Ph.D. in physiology from the University of California, Davis.  As a National Research Service Award NIH Fellow, Dr. Laugero received his postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco where he studied the interrelationships between chronic stress, neuroendocrine function, and energy metabolism.  Subsequently, he spent 4 years in the biotechnology industry as a drug discovery scientist at Amylin Pharmaceuticals. His work, primarily during his tenure at UCSF, suggests a physiological basis for stress-related eating and, in 2006, Dr. Laugero joined the Western Human Nutrition Research Center translating his findings into human studies that aim to understand neurobehavioral aspects of eating behavior and develop nutrition based interventions that facilitate healthy eating patterns.  Dr. Laugero is also adjunct faculty in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis.

The overarching objective of Dr. Laugero’s research is to understand the physiological mechanisms that link emotion, eating behavior, and energy metabolism. Research studies are designed to test in children and adults 1) the interactions of psychosocial and metabolic regulation of eating behavior and physical activity and 2) the effects of nutrition and physical activity on the physiology of behavioral reactivity and function. Overall, studies currently being conducted and developed by the Laugero lab research team enlist functional brain imaging, metabolomics, neuroendocrine evaluation, and qualitative methods to 1) better understand factors that shape food choice, dietary patterns, and physical activity in children and adults of differing body composition and 2) assess interventions that facilitate healthy eating behavior.

RaShel DeCant


Stephanie Chernitskiy

Stephanie is a program coordinator in the Center for Health and Community at the University of California, San Francisco. Stephanie provides administrative support as well as web site development and maintenance.

Jennifer Taggart

Jennifer is a financial analyst in the Center for Health and Community at the University of California San Francisco. She manages the financial aspects of the center and its grant and coordinates intercampus meetings.


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