Division of
Public Health

College of Human Medicine


C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health

image of dr. holdenI am the Interim Director of the Division of Public Health and Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)-funded Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions (U54MD011227). I also serve as the MSU co-Director of the Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center. I am an epidemiologist and classically trained public health professional with expertise in drug and alcohol dependence epidemiology, psychiatric epidemiology and prevention science. I attended Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (BA Natural Sciences and Public Health, 1996) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (PhD, 1999).

In 2005, I initiated the Drug Investigations, Violence and Environmental Studies Laboratory (The DIVE Studies Lab) at The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. In 2007, the group moved to The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In January 2016, I became one of the C.S. Mott Endowed Professors of Public Health at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine at the Flint, Michigan campus. When I came to the Division of Public Health, I immediately began working with grass-roots community partners as well as academic partners within and outside of Michigan State University.

My Flint-based work will focus on structural interventions to address behavioral health inequalities and promote policy interventions to improve public health for Flint residents. In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, I will put my expertise in universal and targeted school-based interventions, extensive background in community-based participatory approaches to public health, action-oriented research to improve public health, and track record of policy interventions to advance the public health status of the Flint community.

The move to MSU and back to Flint has been exciting and rewarding. As a former Flint resident, I have a commitment to Flint that began early in adolescence. My work in Flint is focussed on behavioral health equity and policy-level interventions to promote health equity. My action-oriented research is rooted in the principles and practices of community-based participatory research and I conduct my research with my community and other research partners and not to them or for them. I fundamentally believe there is a seat for everyone at the table and I am honored and humbled to work such an amazing and committed group of people. A working list of core community partners can be found here (link to list http://fches.org/consortium-partners/).

I am the developer of a novel observational environmental assessment tool, the Neighborhood Inventory for Environmental Typology (NIfETy). The NIfETy is a unique systematic social observation developed to measure features of the built and social environment linked to violence, alcohol, tobacco and other drug exposure (VAOD) exposure. My NIfETy-based research has been used to promote environmental interventions to prevent and reduce VAOD exposure. This work is highly collaborative and has fueled a range of partnerships with researchers and policy makers across the country. In 2007, I received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for my early career accomplishments in substance abuse research and research using the NIfETy. I have worked with local and national policy makers to improve data driven decision-making across a broad range of behavioral health topics to include 'health equity in all policies'. As part of the work of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions we will conduct annual city-wide assessments of Flint neighborhoods using the NIfETy. We are simultaneously initiating the Flint Area Study (FASt), a longitudinal study of Flint residents to assess the multigenerational and intergenerational transition of risk and resilience. Details on NIfETy, the Flint Area Study, and other active projects that I lead can be found here (add link to projects list).

My research team, the Health Equity Research Workgroup, currently includes 12 full-time staff, 4 undergraduate research assistants, and 5 faculty working across multiple projects. Details on the Health Equity Research Workgroup can be found here (add link to HERWG). Job opportunities for the HERWG and at MSU-Flint can be found here (use the link on the word here http://careers.msu.edu/cw/en-us/filter/?job-mail-subscribe-privacy=agree&search-keyword=&location=flint).