Indiana University sociologist Bernice Pescosolido elected to National Academy of Medicine

  • Oct. 20, 2016


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Bernice A. Pescosolido, Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences and a leading expert on the stigma associated with mental illness, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

She is the 11th Indiana University faculty member and the second from the IU Bloomington campus to be selected for membership in the prestigious organization. Richard D. DiMarchi, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at IU Bloomington, was elected in 2015.

An IU faculty member since 1981, Pescosolido is director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research and co-director of the Indiana University Network Science Institute. Her research and teaching focus on social issues in health, illness and healing.

“Bernice’s acclaimed research in the area of social networks and in addressing the stigma of mental illness has been truly pioneering and path-breaking,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. “Her work, including initiating the first major national study of the stigma of mental illness in the U.S. in more than 40 years, has led to valuable insights into the roots of stigma and new efforts to overcome this barrier to effective therapies and treatment. It has also deepened our understanding of the dynamics of complex social networks and their impact on health problems and the population's attitudes and actions concerning health care services.

“Considered a leader among her scientific colleagues, Bernice has brought great distinction to Indiana University and the IU Network Science Institute, and she has helped spearhead our university’s mission to meet the major societal challenges of the 21st century through cutting-edge research, innovative investigation and multidisciplinary collaboration. She is most deserving of this exceptional honor, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and a reflection of her remarkable professional achievement.”

The National Academy of Medicine announced the election of 70 regular members and nine international members at its annual meeting this week. New members are elected by current active members. Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine and related policy.

Pescosolido’s research agenda addresses how social networks connect individuals to their communities and to institutional structures. It encompasses three basic areas: health care services, stigma and suicide research.

In the early 1990s, she developed the Network Episode Model, which was designed to focus on how individuals come to recognize and respond to the onset of health problems and how they use health care services. The model has provided new insights to understanding the patterns and pathways to care, adherence to treatment and the outcomes of health care.

Pescosolido led a team of researchers that analyzed data from a national study of stigma of mental illness, producing groundwork for the U.S. surgeon general’s report on mental health. She and her colleagues developed a model on the underlying roots of stigma and completed a series of papers on stigma in children. She led a research team in the first international study of stigma, a 16-country study building on the World Health Organization's International Study of Schizophrenia.

She is also a leading sociological researcher on suicide. Her work has examined suicide statistics and focused on the way that religion and family ties can protect or push individuals to suicide. Under a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, she devised a big-data solution to move past unique barriers to understanding suicide data.

"At the core of all Professor Pescosolido undertakes is her profound compassion for those facing the challenges of mental illness, stigma and their treatment needs, and her determination to advance knowledge about these issues through research, service and teaching," said Brian Powell, the James H. Rudy Professor and chair of the Department of Sociology.

"What I admire the most is her full commitment to both research and teaching. At the same time that she is making groundbreaking contributions to research, she is an outstanding and award-winner teacher."

Pescosolido has published widely in sociology, social science, public health and medical journals, served on the editorial boards of a dozen publications and been elected to leadership positions in professional associations including the American Sociological Association.

She serves on the board of directors and chairs a scientific advisory council for Bring Change 2 Mind, a national nonprofit organization established by actress Glenn Close to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. In 2015, she became part of the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council Committee on the Science of Changing Behavioral Health Social Norms.

She has received numerous grants from federal and private sources, including the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She has received multiple awards for distinguished achievement from the American Sociological Association, the American Public Health Association and other organizations.

Pescosolido received a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island in 1974 and a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1982.

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