Ronald C. Kessler, PhD is the McNeil Family Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School (HMS), where he carries out research in psychiatric epidemiology, the targeting and evaluation of interventions for the prevention of common mental disorders and their sequela (most notably suicide and interpersonal violence), and the development of multivariate clinical decision support tools for the precision treatment of mental disorders. He is also one of the two Co-Directors (with Dr. Somnath Chatterji) of the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative, the Director of the WMH Data Coordination Centre at HMS, the HMS Site PI of the STARRS epidemiological-neurobiological studies of Army and Veterans suicides, and the HMS Site PI of the AURORA Study of the biological bases of neuropsychiatric responses to traumatic life events. Dr. Kessler was trained at Temple University (BA in Sociology 1970), New York University (PhD in Sociology 1975) and the University of Wisconsin (Postdoctoral fellow in Psychiatric Epidemiology 1977) before joining the faculty of the Sociology Department at the University of Michigan in 1979. Kessler was a Professor of Sociology in Michigan at the time he joined the Harvard Medical School Faculty in 1996.

Research Interests

Kessler's research deals broadly with the social determinants of mental health and illness as studied from an epidemiological perspective. He is the Principal Investigator of the US National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), the first nationally representative survey of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in the U.S., and a series of NCS extensions. He oversees cross-national analyses of the WMH surveys, a series of comparative community epidemiological surveys of common mental disorders and their treatments in 26 countries around the world. He is a Principal in the Army Study of Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers, a multi-component study of modifiable risk and protective factors for suicide deaths and related outcomes among U.S. Army soldiers. His work in STARRS focuses both on analytic studies of risk and protective factors aimed at guiding preventive intervention planning and machine learning analyses aimed at targeting high-risk soldiers most likely to profit from preventive interventions. He also works with U.S. Veterans Administration to develop suicide prevention intervention targeting models. In addition to his epidemiological studies, Kessler is involved in evaluating diverse preventive interventions for individuals at high risk of mental disorders and related outcomes. Finally, he is a Principal in the Precision Treatment of Mental Disorders Initiative, a clinical epidemiological research program designed to develop and evaluate clinical decision support tools to help treatment providers select optimal treatments for mentally ill patients. Kessler is the author of nearly 1,000 scientific publications and one of the most widely-cited researchers in all of science in the world.

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Section 53: Social and Political Sciences