Core Faculty Members

Nancy E. Adler, Ph.D.


Nancy E. Adler is the Lisa and John Pritzker Professor of Psychology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Center for Health and Community at UCSF.  She also directs the National Program Office of the Robert Wood Johnson Evidence for Action Program (E4A) which supports research on policies and programs that can improve population health and promote health equity.

Dr. Adler’s earlier research used psychological decision models to understand health behaviors, with particular focus on determinants and consequences of pregnancy, infertility and abortion.  Her current work examines the pathways from socioeconomic status (SES) to health, and explores interventions to address the social and behavioral determinants of health.  She is working to expand standard collection of information on these determinants of health in electronic health records, and to document the impact of having this information on clinical care and health outcomes.

Dr. Adler earned her BA from Wellesley College and her PhD in Psychology from Harvard University.  She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).  Among her awards are the James McKeen Cattell Award from the American Psychological Society (APS); Distinguished Scientific Award for the Application of Psychology from the American Psychological Association (APA); the Marion Spencer Fay Award from the Institute for Women’s Health Leadership; the David Rall Medal from the NAM, and the Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Biomedical Sciences from the New York Academy of Medicine

Nicole (Nicki) Bush, PhD

Nicole (Nicki) Bush joined the faculty after completing a postdoctoral fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the UCSF/UCB site. Prior to that, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in children’s physiologic stress reactivity at UC Berkeley. She received her PhD in Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Washington and completed her child clinical training internship at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She has a background in basic research as well as clinical and community intervention with families from high-stress contexts, and she is actively involved in policy-oriented projects.

Her research has examined relations among biobehavioral predispositions (e.g., temperament and physiology) and stressful life circumstances (e.g., poverty, parenting, and neighborhood) in the prediction of a broad range of children's mental health outcomes. In recent years, Dr. Bush has expanded her examination of contextual risk effects by infusing her models with a new understanding of biology (physiology, genetics, epigenetics) throughout early development, including the prenatal period. Her work integrates insights from social epidemiology, sociology, clinical psychology, and developmental psychobiology to elucidate the interplay of biology and context in youth development, as physiological systems mature and social environments change. Her examinations of how social disadvantage interacts with and alters children’s biological stress response systems aim to clarify the etiology of children’s mental and physical health outcomes and subsequent adult health.

Elissa Epel, PhD

Elissa Epel, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, at University of California, San Francisco. Her research aims to elucidate mechanisms of healthy aging, and to apply this basic science to scalable interventions that can reach vulnerable populations. She is the Director of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Lab, and the Center for Obesity Assessment, Study, & Treatment, (COAST), and Associate Director of the Center for Health and Community. She studies psychological, social, and behavioral pathways underlying chronic psychological stress and stress resilience that impact cellular aging. She also studies the interconnections between stress, addiction, eating, and metabolic health. With her collaborators, she is conducting clinical trials to examine the effect of self regulation and mindfulness training programs on cellular aging, weight, diet, and glucose control. She leads or co-leads studies funded by NIH (NIA, NCCIH, NICHD, and NHLBI) including a Stress Network, and a UCOP multicampus center on obesity. She is involved in NIH initiatives on role of stress in aging, and on reversibility of early life adversity, and Science of Behavior Change, and is on the Steering Council for Mind & Life Institute.

Epel studied psychology and psychobiology at Stanford University (BA), and clinical and health psychology at Yale University (PhD). She completed a clinical internship at the Palo Alto Veterans Healthcare System. Epel has received several awards including the APA Early Career Award, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research Neal Miller Young Investigator Award, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. She was named Innovator of the Year by McLaughlin group and received the 2017 Silver Innovator Award from the Alliance for Aging Research.

Her research has been featured in venues such as TEDMED, NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s Morning Show, 60 minutes, National Public Radio, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Wisdom 2.0, Health 2.0, and in many science documentaries. She co-authored "The Telomere Effect" (2017) with Elizabeth Blackburn, a NYT bestseller under the category of Science.

Laura Gottlieb, MD, MPH

Laura M. Gottlieb, MD, MPH is a Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research explores health care sector programs and policies related to identifying and addressing social risk factors in the context of care delivery. She is the founding director of the Social Interventions Research and Evaluation Network, a national research network that advances research on health care strategies to improve social conditions. Dr. Gottlieb is also Associate Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evidence for Action National Program Office.

Kaja LeWinn, Sc.D

Kaja LeWinn, Sc.D., is an epidemiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Division at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. LeWinn attained her doctorate in Social Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health and completed fellowships through the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars Program and the Clinical Services Research Training Program at UCSF. Dr. LeWinn takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the influence of social context on cognitive and socioemotional development during childhood and adolescence. The overarching goal of Dr. LeWinn’s research is to integrate approaches from neuroscience, psychology, and epidemiology to generate generalizable and replicable findings about the experiences in early life that shape risk for psychopathology in pediatric populations experiencing high levels of adversity. She conducts this work at several levels of analysis, which include 1) longitudinal, epidemiological cohort studies of pediatric populations that allow for generalizable knowledge about the role of social context in shaping early cognitive and socioemotional skills, and 2)  large, neuroimaging studies to better understand the neural underpinnings of socioemotional development. She plays a major leadership role in three large cohort studies focused on neurodevelopmental outcomes. She is Co-Scientific Director of a longitudinal birth cohort study of over 1,500 women and their children (the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Early Learning study- CANDLE) designed to understand the links between early life adversity and cognitive and socioemotional development in early childhood. She is an M-PI of PATHWAYS, a birth cohort study that combines the CANDLE study with two additional extant cohorts funded by the NIH Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) initiative. PATHWAYS is focused on understanding the combined impact of chemical (e.g. phthalates, air pollution) and non-chemical (e.g. psychosocial) stressors during pregnancy on child neurodevelopment and asthma outcomes in a combined cohort of 3,500 mother-child dyads. She is Co-PI of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded cohort study in Flint, Michigan designed to assess the impact of lead exposure during the Flint water crisis and childhood adversity on child cognitive and socioemotional outcomes.


Wendy Berry Mendes, PhD

Wendy Berry Mendes, PhD, is the Sarlo/Ekman Endowed Professor in the study of Human Emotion and Director of Health Psychology at UC San Francisco. She completed her doctoral training at UC Santa Barbara in social and biological psychology and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at UCSF in psychology and medicine. Professor Mendes was faculty at Harvard University from 2004 to 2010 where she was named “One of Harvard Undergraduates’ Favorite Professors” for five consecutive years. In 2010 she accepted her current position at UCSF. Her research focuses on embodiment – how emotions, thoughts and intentions are experienced in the brain and body and how neurobiological changes influence behavior and cognition. Research topics include effects of discrimination and stigmatization on health, intergroup interactions, affect contagion, and effects of stress across the life span. She is the recipient of several career awards including the Sage and APS early career awards, and the Gordon Allport award for best paper on intergroup relations. Currently she is the senior editor at Psychological Science, past President of the Society for Affective Science, and serves as the Treasurer for the Society of Personality and Social Psychology.

Matt Pantell, MD, MS

Matt Pantell worked at the Health Policy Center of the Urban Institute before attending the UC Berkeley - UCSF Joint Medical Program for medical school, where he earned an MD and a Master's in Health and Medical Sciences focusing on social epidemiology. He then completed his residency in pediatrics and was Chief Resident at the University of California, San Francisco. He was also a fellow in the Clinical Research Training Program at the NIH, where his work focused on biomarkers of social adversity. Currently he is an assistant professor at UCSF, where his clinical work is as a pediatric hospitalist and urgent care physician. His research is conducted with the UCSF Center on Health and Community and the UCSF Preterm Birth Initiative, and focuses on the utility of incorporating social information into clinical decision making, data mining and the analysis of large datasets, and biological manifestations of the social determinants of health.

Aric Prather, PhD

Aric Prather is an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry. He is also a faculty member in the Health Psychology Postdoctoral Program, the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Postdoctoral Scholars Program, and on the Executive Board of the UCSF Center for Obesity Assessment, Study, and Treatment (COAST). His research focuses on the inter-relationship between psychological stress and sleep as dynamic predictors of physical and mental health. His research 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 construct (e.g, social disadvantage) drive variation in stress and sleep disturbance and ultimately contribute to health disparities.

Danielle Roubinov, PhD

Dr. Danielle Roubinov is an Assistant Professor and licensed clinical psychologist in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (DPBS). She joined the UCSF faculty in 2017, following a two-year fellowship in developmental psychobiology in the UCSF Department of Pediatrics.


Dr. Roubinov is the director of the Childhood Adversity and Resilience (CARE) Lab, which focuses upon the pathways and mechanisms through which exposure to adversity early in life shapes children’s trajectories of physical and psychological health. A particular focus of her work is on children’s developing stress response systems, with a goal to understand how environmental contexts become “biologically embedded” to influence health outcomes across the lifespan. By understanding the “how, when, and for whom” of early trauma and its effects on children’s development, she aims to help develop tailored prevention and intervention program for at-risk children and families. In recent years, she has led federally- and state-funded research projects to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of interventions to reduce risk and promote psychological and physiological resilience among mothers with depression and their young children. Dr. Roubinov is also actively involved in efforts to promote diversity at UCSF and across academic more broadly. She is the co-chair of the DPBS Recruitment and Retention Task Force, leads a peer mentorship group to support gender equity research projects, and has published on gender equity in academic medicine.


You can also learn more about Dr. Roubinov’s research, view her grants, and see media coverage of her work by going to her UCSF profile.