Dr. Pamela Valera, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health was named to the Advanced Research Institute (ARI) in Geriatric Mental Health as a 2016 Scholar. ARI is a two-year national mentoring program designed to help new investigators achieve their first R01 funding. The program, whose mission is to reduce the burden of mental disorders in late life, seeks to increase the number of investigators conducting translational, interventions and services research in geriatric mental health. ARI is supported by a grant to Weill Cornell Medical College from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Dr. Valera is a social work scientist who focuses on research related to cancer-health disparities with criminal justice populations and men who have sex with men. Her latest paper, A Qualitative Study of Smoking Behaviors among Newly Released Justice-Involved Men and Women in New York City, published in the journal Health & Social Work found that among racially and ethnically diverse men and women who were incarcerated in a New York state prison and Rikers Island jail in New York City, 92 percent of those released from a smoke-free correctional facility to their residence in the Bronx resumed cigarette smoking. Results showed that social factors, specifically homelessness, mandated court or community supervision programs, stressful housing situations, and negative influences from participants’ family and peers emerged as key challenges to abstaining.
In addition to her academic responsibilities, Dr. Valera serves as the co-chair/co-founder of the Bronx Reentry Working Group, a coalition of agencies, health providers and individuals that provide a broad range of support to returning citizens coming home from state prison and Rikers Island.