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Supporting highly multidisciplinary, collaborative research efforts.


In the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, we leverage the tremendous power of social science, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and economics, to create and apply innovations that improve the health of our community and our society equitably. We are leaders in outcome and measurement science, health equity, lifespan health promotion, mechanisms of health and disease, and implementation science.

Our vision as a department is to work collaboratively with faculty, trainees, and staff, both within MSS and across Northwestern University and Northwestern Medicine, to embed social science into the DNA of health and healthcare delivery to transform health and healthcare equitably.

Rinad S. Beidas, PhD
Chair, Department of Medical Social Sciences

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Our faculty members participate in classroom teaching and research training at Feinberg, as well as professional and public education efforts locally, nationally and internationally.

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Research Hubs

Our research portfolio is grouped into four defining scientific hubs; explore the hubs and our faculty members' diverse research interests.

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Core Services

We offer core services and expertise in outcomes research, including questionnaire and survey development and technical design. 

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How we Turn Research into Action

This article shows how we turn research into action by developing evidence-based programs to improve health and healthcare delivery.
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Our Institutes

The Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing and the Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences are university-wide institutes led by our faculty. These institutes serve as scientific and community hubs for cultivating talent, collaboration and innovation at the intersections of traditional disciplines.

Faculty Spotlight

Marquita Lewis-Thames

Marquita Lewis-Thames

Assistant Professor, Medical Social Sciences (Determinants of Health)

Dr. Lewis-Thames is a social-behavioral researcher with an interest in understanding the role of social determinants of health on cancer disease management for rural residents and African-Americans with an emphasis on using community-engaged approaches. Her current appointment is as a Research Assistant Professor in the MSS and the Center for Community Health (CCH). Her research focuses on improving survivorship outcomes through the examination of patient-provider communication with rural survivors, the implementation of survivorship care plans for rural and racial/ethnic minority cancer survivors,  and supplementing survivorship care with patient navigation for rural survivors. Through her community-engaged research in rural Southern Illinois, she brings a host of community and healthcare provider partners to continue to nurture and build community-academic partnerships. She received her PhD in Health Education/Health Promotion and completed a postdoc at Washington University through the Cancer Control T32 postdoctoral program.

Dr. Phillip Sherlock is a psychometrician and a national expert on child care accessibility, parent selection of child care, and research methodology related to the use of integrated data for research and policy purposes. He was previously with the South Carolina Department of Education and received his PhD in Educational Psychology and Research from the University of South Carolina. He is a strong advocate of research-practice partnerships and has many years of experience collaborating directly with State policymakers in both South Carolina and Florida to develop and implement a Child Care Access Index that measures the extent to which vulnerable children and families have reasonable access to high quality early education and care. As a developmental scientist, Dr. Sherlock is an expert in differential effect measurement via person-centered latent variable models, which are useful for understanding heterogeneity in populations with the aims of appraising and developing targeted interventions.

Emily Ho

Emily Ho

Research Assistant Professor, Medical Social Sciences (Outcome and Measurement Science)

We are pleased to welcome Dr Emily Ho to MSS! Dr Ho is a quantitative psychologist and psychometrician specializing in the development and validation of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and its impact on health outcomes. One of her psychometric areas of interest is equating and norming to increase score interpretation fidelity in a longitudinal setting. A secondary area of interest is focused on how people can make better decisions in various policy contexts such as climate change. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and The College Board. Dr Ho's work has been published in leading journals such as Nature Climate ChangeManagement SciencePsychological Assessment, and Behavioral Science and Policy, and she was named a Rising Star of Behavioral Insights by the Behavioral Exchange in 2018. Additionally, her work has been featured in outlets such as Scientific American, Salon, ​and Harvard Business Review.​ She received her PhD in Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology from Fordham University in the Department of Psychology.


Jessica Horowitz

Jessica Horowitz

Research Assistant Professor, Medical Social Sciences (Determinants of Health)

We are excited to announce that Jessica Horowitz, PhD is now the Associate Director of the Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences (DevSci). Dr Horowitz has spent most of her career in higher education and was Associate Dean for Student Services at the Graduate School of Loyola University Chicago for ten years, and served on the leadership committee of several local, regional and national graduate organizations. Her involvement with the creation of graduate research fellowships, professional development programs, PhD completion and dissertation writing support culminated in several grant awards for the Graduate School and the graduate community at Loyola. In addition, she served on the social/behavioral Institutional Review Board at Loyola and was Vice Chair for five years. Dr Horowitz continues to serve on the editorial board of the journal Innovative Higher Ed and present at conferences on graduate education. Her research interests include disabilities in higher education and mentoring.

Sarah Pila

Sarah Pila

Research Assistant Professor, Medical Social Sciences (Outcome and Measurement Science), Medical Social Sciences (Determinants of Health)

We are happy to announce Dr Sarah Pila as a recent addition to the MSS faculty. She holds a doctorate in Media, Technology, and Society from Northwestern University. She also holds a Master of Arts in Child Study and Human Development from the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University. Her research interests focus on the benefits of prosocial and educational media for young children, particularly in early childhood education. As a developmental scientist and researcher, Dr Pila is most interested in the intersection of technology and healthy child development. She has been published in such works as Computer & Education, Mobile Media & Communication, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Media. She is also proud to be the current Student & Early Career Representative for the Children, Adolescents, and Media division of the International Communication Association.
Xiaodan Tang

Xiaodan Tang

Research Assistant Professor, Medical Social Sciences (Outcome and Measurement Science), Medical Social Sciences (Implementation Science)

Dr. Xiaodan Tang is a psychometrician with a specialization on psychometric analysis of outcome measures and statistical modeling of test and survey data. Her current research primarily focuses on three areas: applying statistical modeling and psychometric techniques to health outcomes measurement and cognitive ability assessment, conducting instrument validation and implementation based on clinical trial data, studying the longitudinal trajectory of cognitive ability. She received her PhD in Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment and MS in Statistics from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she taught undergraduate- and graduate-level measurement and statistics courses. She also worked as a psychometric intern at various testing companies and a statistical consultant at UIC College of Education.
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