CUMC Professors Jennifer S. Hirsch and Claude Ann Mellins to Co-Lead SHIFT Research Study to Reduce Sexual Violence among Undergraduates

March 26, 2015

A major new research initiative has been launched under the leadership of two Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) professors from the Departments of Sociomedical Sciences and Psychiatry: Jennifer S. Hirsch, PhD, a medical anthropologist, and Claude Ann Mellins, PhD, a clinical psychologist.  The study is entitled the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation or “SHIFT.”

 “As we work to address gender-based misconduct, our highest priority remains to prevent sexual violence before it occurs,” noted University President Lee Bollinger, J.D., in his announcement of the initiative. “But to do this most effectively, we need to help remedy what is a national deficit in evidence-based information relevant to creating the most effective prevention programs and policies.  This study, focused on undergraduate life at Columbia, also will consider more broadly what can be done to promote healthy relationships and identify important risk factors that must be addressed in order to establish a safer and more protective environment.”

Dr. Hirsch is Professor and Deputy Chair of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, where Dr. Mellins has a secondary appointment. Dr. Mellins is Professor of Medical Psychology in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health in the Department of Psychiatry, and also Co-Director of the Office of Clinical Psychology at CUMC.  Both Drs. Mellins and Hirsch are also longstanding researchers with the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute; at the HIV Center, Dr. Mellins is Co-Director and Dr. Hirsch is an Investigator. Both have served as principal investigators of NIH-funded studies and have led training programs at Columbia. Dr. Hirsch is also incoming Co-Director, as of July 2015, of the NIH-funded Columbia Population Research Center.


Drs. Hirsch and Mellins (pictured from right to left), who are joint Co-Principal Investigators of the study, are assembling a research team from throughout the university comprised of a diverse group of faculty with expertise in gender, sexual health, sexual violence, young adult development, mental health, trauma, and the use of research to develop evidence-based programs and policies directed at behavioral change.  In addition, to account for the diverse experiences and perspectives of students, faculty, and administrators, they will consult regularly with the study’s Student and Institutional Advisory Boards.

 “We are fortunate to be able to assemble these intellectual resources from our own community,” added President Bollinger, “and to have the leadership of Professors Hirsch and Mellins, who possess a mix of intellectual acuity and energy for the project that, undoubtedly, will allow this initiative to make a substantial contribution to preventing sexual violence at Columbia and on campuses across the nation.”

(contributed by Raymond Smith, Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health)


InPsych - March 2015