A visit to Deborah Padgett's office immediately imbues a sense of home. Sitting on the northeast corner of historic Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, it is the same sunlit site where the iconic artist Edward Hopper once painted. His easel sits across from a fireplace - space that now serves as home and hearth for her role as mentor, professor and Director of CGPH's PhD Program.
Dr. Padgett's fascination with people, their culture, language and environment has prompted her to pursue community-based and mixed methods research. Through her findings, advocacy and activism, she works to break down barriers to better mental health, including a focus on people without homes, whether in New York City or New Delhi, India. Her new book, Housing First: Ending Homelessness, Transforming Systems, and Changing Lives, provides a unique perspective, examining "a 'paradigm shift' in homeless services."
With a comprehensive understanding of qualitative methods in public health, Dr. Padgett engages her students through narratives of first-hand experiences. Her enthusiasm is contagious as she explores the social determinants that impact disease and illness in diverse populations. "I like to focus on critical thinking in the classroom and teach students how to view the same issues in many different ways. I try to bring a social science perspective into public health. As they move through their careers in public health, my hope is that our students really use critical thinking and the social determinants of health in their appraisal of public health situations."
"Her course deepened my experience and interest in wanting to build the skills necessary to meet my career objectives. She is a 'real' teacher, in the sense that she gives you the tools and the knowledge to do the work, but in a manner that is true to how it is done 'out in the real world.' Her teaching and grading style allowed students to experience what it would be like in the field - if she is lenient with us because we are students, then what are our lessons learned? It is also her personality - teaching is a skill and I think she does it very well."
-Jessica Cohen, MPH/GHL
Motivated to broaden her horizons to conduct research outside the familiar confines of New York City, Deborah and research assistant Prachi Priyam embarked on an ethnographic study of 'pavement dwellers' in Delhi, India in 2013. This work led to collaborating with a leading organization serving homeless mentally ill adults (The Banyan) and with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences(TISS) in Mumbai to organize a conference entitled 'Mental Health and Social Inclusion' in August 2016. The conference, which will include providers, patients and policymakers from the Global South, will chart a course for improving mental health services for those in need.
"Although mental health is getting more attention than ever before in public health, it often takes a back seat to physical health problems. Our goal with this conference is to get people to work together around a mental health agenda that will expand care for mental illness as well as reduce stigma and increase social inclusion. The research is out there and the timing is right for this. Our goal is to be activists, not just researchers. This is a time in my career where I'm happy to be part of any movement toward action."
Dr. Padgett has been the recipient of the Global Public Health Excellence in Teaching Award (2010), the Silver School of Social Work's Distinguished Teaching Award (2012) and the University's Distinguished Teaching Award (2012). As Director of the CGPH Doctoral Program, she is dedicated to maintaining a program led by world-class faculty who mentor highly-motivated students - a group small enough for professors to meet each student's individual learning needs. The program, which combines coursework with intensive research mentorships, has enrolled two student cohorts since beginning in 2014. Attracting over 145 applicants each year, the PhD program has grown in stature as a place of academic excellence at the CGPH.
A professor of social and behavioral health and qualitative research, Deborah brings the invaluable insight of first-hand research experience using on-the-ground, flexible, qualitative methods into her Master's classes. She has served as principal investigator of two National Institute of Mental Health R01 qualitative studies -- The New York Recovery Study (2010-2015; $1.9 million) and The New York Services Study (2004-2008; $1.4 million). She also served as co-principal investigator on two NIMH-funded grants and an NCI-funded mixed methods study of African- American women and breast cancer screening (1994-1998); and was national co-director of the Screening Adherence Follow-up (SAFe) project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1997-2001).
In addition to her research and academic roles, Deborah is a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. She is a former board member (2002-2007) and president (2004-2006) of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR); and received recognition for her contributions with the launch of the Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Fellowship in 2005. She was editor of The Handbook of Ethnicity, Aging, and Mental Health (1995) and The Qualitative Research Experience (2004), author of Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research (2016, 3rd ed.) and Qualitative and Mixed Methods in Public Health (2012) and co-author of Program Evaluation (5th ed., 2014).
Dr. Padgett has a doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and post-doctoral training in public health and psychiatric epidemiology at Columbia University and Duke University, respectively.
Read her complete CV here.