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National Academy of Medicine elects Bernice Pescosolido to governing and oversight body

Jun 7, 2024

Nationally recognized sociologist and Indiana University faculty member Bernice Pescosolido has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine Council.

Bernice Pescosolido is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at IU and founding director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Ser... Bernice Pescosolido is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at IU and founding director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research and the Irsay Family Research Institute. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana UniversityPescosolido, the founding director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research and director of the Irsay Institute, is the College of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Professor of Sociology at IU Bloomington and a leading expert on mental health, stigma and suicide.

Founded in 1970, the National Academy of Medicine is a membership organization and trusted source of evidence-based guidance on health, medicine, biomedical science and related policy in the United States and around the world. The more than 2,400 members of the academy are elected by their peers in recognition of outstanding achievement in advancing science, technology and health. The organization is governed by its council, which includes three officers and 15 members-at-large elected from academy membership.

“One of our nation’s renowned social scientists, Bernice Pescosolido has brought great distinction to Indiana University,” IU President Pamela Whitten said. “In establishing both a consortium and an institute dedicated to interdisciplinary mental health research, Bernice has demonstrated exceptional leadership that has positioned our university as a leader in sociomedical sciences research. Her expertise will undoubtedly be a valuable addition to the National Academy of Medicine Council.”

Pescosolido, who has been at IU for more than four decades, was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2016 and is one of four members representing IU Bloomington. She is also an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research led by Pescosolido has played a pivotal role in identifying solutions to health issues Hoosiers face. As a member of IU’s Precision Health Initiative, she led a team of interviewers conducting the Person-to-Person Health Interview Study to identify Indiana residents’ exposure to environmental contaminants and understand their attitudes toward mental health treatments. Information gained from interviews helped researchers study how biological information, behaviors, environment and social networks are related to health outcomes. To respond to Indiana’s addiction crises, Pescosolido leveraged data analysis to investigate potential “hot spots” in other death classifications to provide new insights on opioid deaths.

Also a leading sociological researcher on suicide, Pescosolido’s work focuses on the complex dynamics of human connectedness, which can protect against suicide or, under certain conditions, amplify the risk. She and her colleagues recently broke through data barriers that have prevented researchers from understanding how individuals and places they live work together to prevent suicide.

Pescosolido is the founding director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, an interdisciplinary program that convenes academic researchers, government leaders and advocates to study communities and their mental health treatment systems. The consortium also develops applied research projects pertaining to mental health and related services for people with severe mental disorders.

In 2021, Pescosolido founded the Irsay Institute, a leading national center aiming to increase research and collaboration at the intersection of health and social sciences. By focusing on areas such as stigma, social exclusion and health equity, the institute implements sustainable, research-backed solutions supported by diverse expertise. The institute was established with a gift from the Jim Irsay family, owners of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

As director of the institute, Pescosolido leads a team of over 50 faculty, scholars, graduate student fellows, staff and advisory members from universities and organizations across the country to translate research into practice.

“To me, election to the National Academy of Medicine Council is an honor that has special meaning,” she said. “The vote of the members of the National Academy of Medicine translates into a message that they value and embrace the perspective and contributions of the social sciences in addressing their mission to advance science, policy and action to improve health, equity and well-being. The sociomedical science underway at IU, and especially at the Irsay Institute, holds the potential to contribute to this most critical mission.”

While at IU, she has garnered over $22 million in external funding for teaching and research and has received several prestigious awards, such as the Carl Taube Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Field of Mental Health from the American Public Health Association and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression Distinguished Investigator Award. She has also served as vice president of the American Sociological Association.

In May, Pescosolido received Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors from the National Institutes of Health, where she gave the keynote address as the program’s distinguished lecturer. The honors recognize leaders in behavioral and social sciences whose research reflects Riley’s vision of research excellence in the field.

Pescosolido’s council term will run from July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2027.

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