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 addiction. 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.
ERB is looking for research solutions to these questions:
- How do we take current understandings of more general predictors of drug use outcomes and move toward more precise, individualized predictors of risk? How do we determine the unique risk and protective factors of different subpopulations in order to identify foundations for more effective, tailored interventions?
- How do rapidly changing technological advances (i.e. modernization) impact both drug using behaviors and our strategies for assessment, prevention, and treatment?
- How do we best address variation in broad structural factors (e.g. policy context, shifting attitudes toward drug use, drug availability) across the population landscape to support science with real world implications?
Staff Biographies for Epidemiology Research Branch:
Marsha Lopez, Ph.D., MHS - Branch Chief
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 the Program Official for the Monitoring the Future Study, as well as an active 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.
Jeffrey Schulden, M.D. - Deputy Branch Chief
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.
Kathy Etz, Ph.D. - Director of Native American Programs, Program Director
Dr. Etz is the Director of the Native American Program at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, where she also serves as a Program Director in the Epidemiology Research Branch. In addition to leading efforts for AI/AN Drug Abuse research, her program area includes studies of population and clinical epidemiology in adolescence and early adulthood; 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. Her 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. She is a Project Scientist on the University of Alaska at Fairbanks BUILD program. Dr. Etz received the Phillip L Smith Award for Exceptional Contribution to Research to Benefit Native Communities in 2012 from the Native Research Network. Dr. Etz received the 2018 Advances in Culture and Diversity in Prevention Science award from the Society for Prevention Research (SPR). Dr. Etz received her Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in 1997. Prior to joining NIDA, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Prevention Research Center, University of Kentucky.
Harold Gordon, Ph.D. - Psychologist
Dr. Gordon first earned a BS in Physics at Case Institute of Technology followed by a Ph.D. in Psychobiology at the California Institute of Technology under the mentorship of Nobel Laureate, Roger Sperry; there he studied the specialized cognitive functions of the left and right cerebral hemispheres. Subsequently, he spent 25 years in neuropsychological research on the faculty of the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) followed by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. When he first joined NIDA, his areas of focus included the initiation of studies in human genetics and, later, sleep. Dr. Gordon joined the Epidemiology Research Branch in 2015 with the goal of a continued neuroscience focus on the etiology of drug abuse vulnerability, usage, and relapse. This includes a particular concentration on individual differences in cognitive behavior and its underlying neurobiology and on the effects of diruption of sleep and circadian rhythms on drug abuse.
Peter Hartsock, Dr.P.H. - Research Scientist Officer
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.
Heather L. Kimmel, Ph.D. - Health Scientist Administrator, Director of the PATH Study at NIH
Dr. Heather Kimmel is a Health Scientist Administrator in the Epidemiology Research Branch. Her program area includes tobacco regulatory science research and marijuana policy research as well as the general epidemiology of tobacco and marijuana use, including topics of comorbidity with psychiatric disorders, polysubstance use, as well as genetic and environmental risk factors for drug use. Other areas of interest include topics related to marketing, point-of-sale, and risk perceptions of these substances. In addition, Dr. Kimmel is the Director of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study at NIH, which is an ongoing longitudinal cohort study on tobacco use behavior, attitudes and beliefs, and tobacco-related health outcomes, conducted as a collaboration between NIDA and the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Prior to joining NIDA, Dr. Kimmel was an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow. Her fellowship tenure was at the Energy and Minerals, and Environmental Health Mission Area at the U.S. Geological Survey and then at the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to joining NIDA, Dr. Kimmel was an Assistant Professor in the Division of Neuropharmacology and Neurologic Diseases at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University as well as in the Department of Pharmacology at the Emory University School of Medicine. There, her research focused on the neuropharmacology and behavior of psychostimulants in animal models as well as the development of medications to treat psychostimulant addicts. At Emory, she taught courses in drug development and neuropsychopharmacology, as well as several seminar series. She has also authored peer-reviewed articles and book chapters related to the neuroscience of drug abuse and addiction. Dr. Kimmel earned her B.S. in Biology from Wake Forest University, and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Emory University.
Moira O'Brien, M.Phil. - Health Scientist Administrator
Moira O’Brien is a Health Scientist Administrator and serves as NIDA Project Scientist for the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Cooperative Agreement awarded in 2014. From 2003 to 2014, Ms. O’Brien was the Program Official for the Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG) with 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 epidemiology, grants examining current and emerging drug abuse trends, and epidemiology-oriented grants utilizing social media. She has worked at NIDA since 1990. Prior to joining the Epidemiology Research Branch in 1995, Ms. O’Brien worked in the NIDA International Program. During her time at NIDA, Ms. O’Brien 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 overseeing an extramural research portfolio 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 including use of novel psychoactive substances; 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.
Naimah Weinberg, M.D. - Medical Officer
Dr. Weinberg is a Physician 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 areas focus on childhood individual-level precursors to drug abuse and dependence, including child psychiatric risk factors, the interplay of genetic and environmental factors on trajectories to comorbid disorders, and the effects of child maltreatment on risk for later substance use disorders. Research approaches of particular interest to study these risk factors 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.