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Sarah Lowe, PhD, on a Public Health Approach to Mental Health

Sarah Lowe, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Yale School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the long-term mental health consequences of a range of potentially traumatic events, from hurricanes to pandemics. 

While doing her clinical training with trauma survivors at a community health care center in Boston, Lowe's patients were dealing with more immediate life stressors, like not having a place to live. 

"That showed me that you can't understand mental health without paying attention to the context and the social and economic stressors that trauma survivors face," she says. Lowe explains that within public health "we're able to look at those things simultaneously. So both the symptoms and treating symptoms but also thinking about systems and policies that both put people at risk for trauma, but then make their traumatic experiences even more negatively impactful." 

As a disaster mental health researcher, Lowe immediately knew the COVID-19 pandemic was going to be a mental health crisis. She's collaborated with students and other faculty on work related to the pandemic and mental health, particularly the mental health burden of health care workers on the frontlines. 

"I can say in this pandemic, Yale was able to provide support to me and to my colleagues to do really cutting-edge research. Just observing my colleagues  on the forefront of the response to the pandemic doing things like modeling transmission, understanding the genetics of the virus, that's been really really inspiring to see."

Research and Practice

Since its founding in 1915 by C.E.-A. Winslow, a founding father of public health in America, the Yale School of Public Health researchers have introduced important medical and health advances, helping to ameliorate problems that affect public health around the globe. Today our research spans a wide range of subjects from emerging threats such as COVID-19, infectious, chronic and behavioral diseases, health equity and social determinants of health, the environment and more. Our researchers approach their work from many perspectives, including epidemiology, biostatistics, modeling, policy and economics, management, laboratory science including microbiology and the -omics.


2020 YSPH Faculty Research Awards

Early Career Investigator Award

  • Abby Friedman: “Smoking to cope: Addictive behavior as a response to mental distress” published in Journal of Health Economics
  • Krystal Pollitt: “The Fresh Air Wristband: A Wearable Air Pollutant Sampler” published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters

The Early Career Investigator Research Award is given to a YSPH primary appointment Assistant Professor or Associate Research Scientist, within 10 years of their appointment, who was first or last author on a given published manuscript.

Investigator Award

  • Dan Weinberger: “Estimation of Excess Deaths Associated With the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States, March to May 2020”, published in JAMA Internal Medicine

The Investigator Research Award is presented to a YSPH primary faculty member of any track or rank who was first or last author on the published manuscript.

Team Science Award

  • Jacob Wallace, Chima Ndumele, and Anthony Lollo: “Comparison of Office-Based Physician Participation in Medicaid Managed Care and Health Insurance Exchange Plans in the Same US Geographic Markets” published in JAMA Network Open

The Team Science Research Award is granted to a YSPH group of two or more primary YSPH faculty members, with one member being either first or last author on the published manuscript.

COVID-19 related publication

  • Anne Wyllie: “Saliva or Nasopharyngeal Swab Specimens for Detection of SARS-CoV-2” published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Public health is by nature interdisciplinary. The Yale School of Public Health prides itself on its cross-departmental focus on some of the most pressing needs for research for our time.
  • Our six departments are intellectual homes for some 125 full-time faculty and research scientists as well as 50 postdocs.
  • Connecting research with communities around the world.