About Me

I’m a social epidemiologist, visual artist, and an Assistant Professor in Community Health Sciences at the University of California Berkeley. I’m also a Fulbright Scholar, and I direct Berkeley’s Center for Cultural Humility and Research Lateral, or ReLateral, a community lab focused on health disparities and community engagement. You can see my C.V. here.


I was born and raised in the Flint, Michigan metropolitan area. I attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and earned a BA in anthropology in 2008. Being particularly interested in the intersection between culture and health, I decided to enter the field of public health. I ended up attending the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, earning an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences in 2010. During my time at Columbia, I developed a strong passion for health disparities research, with an emphasis on mental health.

My MPH thesis–a qualitative examination of practices and barriers around improving the physical health of racial/ethnic minorities with serious mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.)–was my first formal foray into empirical research. I gathered data from my thesis through my research assistantship at the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) and its Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence. During my time at NYSPI, I co-authored my first publication, a systematic literature review on interventions addressing the physical health of racial/ethnic minorities with serious mental illness, and I later turned my associated thesis into a publication.

While completing my MPH, I also took on research positions at Columbia, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and New Destiny Housing (an amazing nonprofit focused on providing housing to low-income survivors of intimate partner violence), experiences that exposed me to the broad racial/ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and economic diversity present in America.

Shortly after graduating from Columbia and leaving New York, I took a position as an epidemiologist at Henry Ford Hospital, a nonprofit hospital in Detroit. Here, I got into the world of government-funded research, serving as a project manager for several NIH-funded studies addressing maternal and child health.  In later years, I would enter the social services world, working as a program evaluator for four years at the Children’s Trauma Assessment Center (CTAC), a clinical treatment lab at Western Michigan University focused on understanding the consequences of psychological trauma on adolescent behavior.

In 2016, a year after moving to Chicago,  I enrolled in the doctoral program in sociology at the University of Chicago, graduating in 2020. Throughout my tenure at the University of Chicago, I continued to engage in applied research; this includes conducting qualitative research in Chicago on behalf of West Health Institute, a San Diego-based nonprofit focused on healthy aging, and doing program evaluation for Umoja, a nonprofit focused on providing restorative justice programming in Chicago Public Schools. Related to this, I am a current Fulbright Scholar, where my work has focused on understanding the implementation of restorative justice in juvenile courts in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

I currently run the Center for Cultural Humility at the University of California Berkeley and Research Lateral, or ReLateral, a “community lab” that concentrates on health disparities. I also collaborate with the University of Chicago Department of Medicine on the Delta Rural Health Study, an NIH-funded study focused on opioid use in rural areas. As part of this ongoing project, I serve as the leader of the qualitative core.

My present research focus and personal passion is health in post-industrial, “Rust Belt” cities. Connecting back to my Michigan roots and my interest in psychological trauma, my dissertation focused on the psychosocial and economic impacts of the Flint Water Crisis on the city’s residents.


*Denotes a graduate student / ** denotes an undergraduate student


  1. Ezell JM. The Health Disparities Research Industrial Complex: Remastered. Social Science & Medicine. 2024 May.


  1. Ezell JM, Rains AR*, Tapan P, Miller K, Ajayi BP**, Goddard-Eckrich DA, Scales D. Drug Use and AI: Weighing Concerns and Possibilities. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2024 Mar 1;66(3):568-72


  1. Fredericksen RJ, Baker R, Sibley A, Estadt AT, Colston D, Mixson LS, Walters S, Bresett J, Levander XA, Ezell JM, Leichtling G, Davy-Mendez T. Motivation and context of concurrent stimulant and opioid use among persons who use drugs in the rural United States: a multi-site qualitative inquiry. Harm Reduction Journal. 2024 Apr 1;21(1):74.


  1. Hascher K, Jaiswal J, LoSchiavo C, Ezell JM, Duffalo D, Greene RE, Cox A, Burton WM, Griffin M, John T, Grin B. Lack of Informed and Affirming Healthcare for Sexual Minority Men: A Call for Patient-Centered Care. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2024 Feb 2:1-0.


  1. Ezell JM, Simek E*, Ajayi BP**, Walters SM, Pho MT. Exploring strengths-based approaches in substance use research and practice: How do people who use drugs express their attributes and capacities? Harm Reduction Journal. 2024 Feb.


  1. Ezell JM. Rethinking and Reinforcing Cultural Humility Against the Culture Wars: A Framework For Addressing Receptivity to Diversity Initiatives. Medical Education Online. 2024 Feb.


  1. Ezell JM, Ajayi BP**, Rains AR*, Augustine Erin, Miller K, Kinnard E, Lofwall M. A Social History of Opioids’ Crimedical Cycle. Addiction Research & Theory. 2024 Jan 5:1-9.


  1. Ezell JM, Goddard-Eckrich DA, Ajayi BP**, Pho MT, Bluthenthal R. Opioid use, prescribing and fatal overdose patterns among racial/ethnic minorities in the United States: A scoping review and conceptual risk environment model. Drug and Alcohol Review. 2024 Jan.


  1. Ezell JM. The Health Disparities Research Industrial Complex. Social Science and Medicine. 2023 Oct 19:116251.


  1. Ezell JM. Opioid Use Among Rural Sexual and Gender Minorities: Current Knowledge and Future Directions. International Journal of Drug Policy. 2023 Oct 4;121:e104211-.


  1. Ezell JM, Abouelrous N*, Ajayi BP**, Araia M, Green A*. Black girls don’t cry? Mental health, gender, and violence on the racialized periphery. Qualitative Psychology. 2023 Dec 21.


  1. Ezell JM. Moving Health Policy Research Toward A Community-Engaged Research Standard. Health Affairs Forefront. Sep 2023.


  1. Ezell JM. Climate Change and the Opioid Epidemic. Journal of Addiction Medicine. Sep 2023:10-97.


  1. Ezell JM, Pho M, Jaiswal J, Ajayi BP**, Gosnell N**, Kay E, Eaton E, Bluthenthal R. A Systematic Literature Review of Strengths-Based Approaches to Drug Use Management and Treatment. Clinical Social Work Journal. 2023 Sep;51(3):294-305.


  1. Shelton J*, Chase EC*, Ajayi P**, Armstrong J**, Ezell JM. The cultural dimensions of collective action during environmental hazards: Assessing race, gender, and social support network dynamics in the Flint Water Crisis. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 2023 Feb 1.


  1. Ezell JM, Araia M, Abouelrous N*, Van de Kieft A**, Borrero N, Olson B**. Reconsidering the “violence-as-a-disease” model: Examining violence psychopathologies in urban adolescents. Psychology of Violence. 2022 Dec 22.


  1. Ezell JM, Olson B**, Ghosh A, Chase EC*. Theorizing on neo public assistance: How do race and class impact resource uptake following environmental disaster? Social Science and Medicine. 2022 Nov.


  1. Ezell JM, Chase EC*. Forming a Critical Race Theory of Environmental Disaster: Understanding social meanings and health threat perception in the Flint Water Crisis. Journal of Environmental Management. 2022 Aug.


  1. Stewart R*, Ezell JM. Understanding Perceptions, Barriers, and Opportunities around Restorative Justice in Urban High Schools. Urban Education. 2022 Aug 9:00420859221119110


  1. Ezell JM, Walters SM, Olson B**, Kaur A*, Jenkins WD, Schneider J, Pho MT. “You’re friends until everybody runs out of dope”: A framework for understanding tie meaning, purpose, and value in social networks. Social Networks. 2022 Oct 1;71:115-30.


  1. Ezell JM, Olson B**, Walters SM, Friedman SR, Ouellet LJ, Pho MT. A Sociology of Empathy and Shared Understandings: Contextualizing Beliefs and Attitudes on Why People Use Opioids. Rural Sociology. 2022 Apr.


  1. Friedman SR, Williams LD, Jordan AE, Walters S, Perlman DC, Mateu-Gelabert P, Nikolopoulos GK, Khan MR, Peprah E, Ezell JM. Toward a theory of the underpinnings and vulnerabilities of structural racism: looking upstream from disease inequities among people who use drugs. International journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022 Jun 17;19(12):7453.


  1. Ezell JM, Alsmadi I*, Gosnell N**, Kaur A*. The racial and cultural ecology of Home and Community-Based Services coordination for diverse homebound older adults. Journal of Aging Studies. 2022. 61,101023.


  1. Ezell JM, Torres-Beltran A*, Hamdi S*. Defining and finding an endgame in education on race. Power and Education. 2022 Mar.


  1. Ezell JM. The medicalization of freedom: how anti-science movements use the language of personal liberty and how we can address it. Nature Medicine. 2022; 28(2), 219.


  1. Ezell JM, Barhwaj S**, Chase EC*. Child lead screening behaviors and health outcomes following the Flint Water Crisis: A cross-sectional analysis. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. 2022 Jan.


  1. Levander XA, Foot CA, Magnusson SL, Cook RR, Ezell JM, Feinberg J, Go VF, Lancaster KE, Salisbury-Afshar E, Smith GS, Westergaard RP. Contraception and Healthcare Utilization by Reproductive-Age Women Who Use Drugs in Rural Communities: a Cross-Sectional Survey. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2022 Jun 15:1-9.


  1. Friedman SR, Williams LD, Guarino H, Mateu‐Gelabert P, Krawczyk N, Hamilton L, Ezell JM, Khan M, Dilorio J, Yang LH, Earnshaw VA. The stigma system: How sociopolitical domination, scapegoating, and stigma shape public health. Journal of Community Psychology. 2022 Jan. 50(1), 385-408.


  1. Ezell JM. Environmental health capital: A paradigm for environmental injustice prevention and truth and reconciliation. Local Environment. 2022; 27(2), 131-141.


  1. Ezell JM. “Trickle-Down” Racial Empathy in American Higher Education: Moving Beyond Performative Wokeness and Academic Panels to Spark Racial Equity. Journal of Education. 2021 Dec.


  1. Ezell JM, Hamdi S*, Borrero N. Approaches to Addressing Nonmedical Services and Care Coordination Needs for Older Adults. Research on Aging. 2022; 44(3-4), 323-333.


  1. Ezell JM, Griswold D*, Chase EC*, Carver E. The Blueprint of Disaster: COVID-19, The Flint Water Crisis, and Unequal Ecological Impacts. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2021; 5(5), e309-e319.


  1. Ezell JM, Ompad D, Walters S. How Urban and Rural Built Environments Influence the Health Attitudes and Behaviors of  People Who Use Drugs. Health & Place. 2021; 69, 102578.


  1. Ezell JM, Chase EC*. A population-based assessment of physical symptoms and mental health outcomes among adults following the Flint Water Crisis. Journal of Urban Health. 2021; 98(5), 642-653.


  1. Ezell JM, Salari S, Rooker C*, Chase EC*. Intersectional Trauma: COVID-19, the Psychosocial Contract, and America’s Racialized Public Health Lineage. 2021; 27(1), 78-85.


  1. Ezell JM. Empathy plasticity: decolonizing and reorganizing online spaces to address racial equity. Ethnic and Racial Studies. 2021; 44(8), 1324-1336.


  1. Muncan B*, Walters SM, Ezell JM, Ompad DC. “They look at us like junkies”: influences of drug use stigma on the healthcare engagement of people who inject drugs in New York City.Harm Reduction Journal. 2020 Dec;17(1):1-9.


  1. Jenkins WD, Bolinski R, Bresett J, Van Ham B, Fletcher S, Walters S, Friedman SR, Ezell JM, Pho M, Schneider J, Ouellet L. COVID-19 During the Opioid Epidemic-Exacerbation of Stigma and Vulnerabilities.The Journal of Rural Health. 2020; 37(1), 172-174.


  1. Ellis K, Walters SM, Friedman SR, Ouellet LJ, Ezell JM, Rosentel K, Pho MT. Breaching trust: A qualitative study of healthcare experiences of people who use drugs in a rural setting. Frontiers in Sociology. 2020 Nov 5(98),593925.


  1. Ezell JM, Walters SM, Friedman SR, Ouellet LJ, Jenkins WD, Link BG, Pho MT. Stigmatize the use, not the user? Attitudes on opioid use, drug injection, treatment, and overdose prevention in rural communities. Social Science and Medicine. 2020; 268, 113470.


  1. Ezell JM. Understanding the situational context for interpersonal violence: A review of individual- level attitudes, attributions, and triggers. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse. 2019; 22(3), 571-587.


  1. Bolinski RB, Ellis K, Zahnd WE, Walters S, McLuckie C, Schneider J, Rodriguez C, Ezell JM, et al. Social norms associated with nonmedical opioid use in rural communities: A systematic review. Translational Behavioral Medicine. 2019; 9(6), 1224-123


  1. Ezell JM, Pasquale D, Poudyal S, Azhar S, Monk E, Vidula M, Yeldandi V, Laumann E, Liao C, Schneider J. Are skin color and body mass index associated with social network structure? Findings from a male sex market study. Ethnicity and Health. 2019; 26(6), 863-878.


  1. Ezell JM.First, do no harm to self: Perspectives around trauma-informed practice and secondary traumatic stress among rural child protective services workers. Journal of Child Custody. 2019; 16(4), 387-407.


  1. Ezell JM, Ferreira MJ, Duncan DT, Schneider J. The sexual and social networks of Black transgender individuals: Results from a representative sample. Transgender Health. 2018; 3(1), 201-9.


  1. Ezell JM, Richardson M, Salari S, Henry JA. Implementing trauma-informed practice in juvenile justice systems: What can courts learn from child welfare interventions? Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma. 2018; 11(4), 507-519.


  1. Ezell JM, Choi CJ, Wall MM, Link BG. Measuring recurring stigma in the lives of individuals with mental illness. Community Mental Health Journal. 2017; 54(1), 27-32.


  1. Joseph CL, Zoratti EM, Ownby DR, Havstad S, Nicholas C, Nageotte C, Misiak R, Enberg R, Ezell JM, et al. Exploring racial differences in IgE-mediated food allergy in the WHEALS birth cohort. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 2016; 116(3), 219-224.e1.


  1. Joseph CL, Baxa D, Kaljee L, Brar I, Scott C, Dakki H, Lubetsky S, Ezell JM, Zhang L, Schultz L, Markowitz N. Communication patterns among juvenile detainees: A high-risk population for transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases. Journal of Juvenile Justice. 2015; 4(2), 27-36.


  1. Ezell JM, Peters RM, Shill JE, Cassidy-Bushrow AE. Association between one-hour oral glucose tolerance test values and delivery mode in non-diabetic, pregnant Black women. Journal of Pregnancy. 2015; 2015, 835613.


  1. Ezell JM, Ownby DR, et al. Using a physician panel to estimate food allergy prevalence in a racially diverse longitudinal birth cohort. Annals of Epidemiology. 2014; 24(7), 551-53.


  1. Joseph CL, Havstad S, Bobbitt K, Woodcroft K, Zoratti EM, Nageotte C, Misiak R, Enberg R, Nicholas

C, Ezell JM, et al. Transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ1) in breast milk and indicators of infant atopy in a birth cohort. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. 2014; 25(3), 257–63.


  1. Ezell JM, Cassidy-Bushrow AE, et al. Prenatal dog-keeping practices vary by race – Speculations on implications for disparities in childhood health and disease. Ethnicity and Disease. 2014; 24(1), 104-09.


  1. Ezell JM, Wegienka G, et al. A cross sectional analysis of pet-specific IgE sensitization and allergic symptomatology and household exposure to pets in a birth cohort study. Journal of Allergy And Asthma Proceedings. 2013; 34(6), 504-10.


  1. Ezell JM, Siantz E, et al. Contours of usual care: Meeting the medical needs of diverse persons with serious mental illness. Journal of Health Care For The Poor And Underserved. 2013; 24(4), 1552-73.


  1. Ezell JM, Saltzgaber J, et al. Reconnecting with urban youth enrolled in a randomized controlled trial and overdue for a 12-month follow-up survey. Clinical Trials. 2013 Oct;10(5), 775-82.


  1. Havstad SL, Johnson CC, Zoratti EM, Ezell JM, et al. Tobacco smoke exposure and allergic sensitization in children: A propensity score analysis. 2012;17(7), 1068-72.


  1. Cabassa LJ, Ezell JM, Fernandez R. Lifestyle interventions for adults with serious mental illness: A systematic literature review. Psychiatric Services. 2010 Aug;61(8), 774-82.


Mastercard Diversity Grant

Atkinson’s Center for Sustainability Academic Venture Fund

President’s Council of Cornell Women Seed Grant

New York State Water Resources Institute Program Grant

Engaged Cornell Student-Community Engagement Grant

Cornell Center for Social Sciences Seed Grant

Cornell Rural Humanities Initiative Faculty Grant

Fulbright Scholarship: Port of Spain, Trinidad (2019-2020)

University of Chicago Social Sciences Division Travel Award

University of Chicago Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture Doctoral Grant

University of Chicago Graduate Council Travel Fund Award

Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation Kreisman Housing Fellowship           

Pozen Center for Human Rights Human Rights Doctoral Fellowship  

Duke University Social Networks & Health 2018 Fellowship

Pozen Center for Human Rights Human Rights Doctoral Research Grant

University of Chicago Social Sciences Division Doctoral Fellowship (5-year)

U.S. Office of Personnel Management Presidential Management Fellowship (Declined)

Columbia University  Mailman School of Public Health Merit Scholarship


University of Chicago Qualifying Exam for PhD in Sociology – Pass *Plus

Columbia University Master’s Thesis Award: Honorable Mention for “A qualitative assessment of practices, barriers and recommendations around physical healthcare service integration and coordination for individuals with serious mental illness: How do we bridge the quality chasm?” Sponsored by Dr. Bruce Link (Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology).

University of Michigan University Honors (Academic)

You can take a peek at my blog here and can get in touch with me by clicking this link.