Aging, Health & the Environment

Mark Luborsky, PhD
Director, Aging & Health Disparities
Medical Anthropology

As a professor of anthropology and gerontology, Dr. Luborsky contributes insights into how our responses to life's changes and the types of challenges we face as we age are shaped by cultural, environmental, and institutional factors. In the past two years, he has been principal investigator on federal and foundation grants, and a recent grant from Ford Motor Company and the United Way of Southeastern Michigan to improve Covid-19 health care programs, testing, personal protection use and vaccination.

As the IOG's Aging & Health Disparities research program leader, Dr. Luborsky works closely with the Michigan Center for Urban African American Research mentoring minority scholars to develop research and interventions to improve minority health. He worked with the CDC, EPA and the Michigan Department of Health to develop strategies to reduce harms from toxic industrial chemical for older anglers and their families who rely on fish from the Detroit River for food.  Internationally, he is dual-PI of a four university European consortium funded to advance patient-centered practice by professional care providers for frail older adults.

Dr. Luborsky leads NIH grants, teaches anthropology, advises several doctoral students, and is a member of the training faculty for the NIH-funded Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University Mixed Methods Training Program for the Health Sciences. Regularly invited to present at national and international conferences, Dr. Luborsky was selected to deliver a keynote address on "Life Span and Rehabilitation" at the 2021 Rehabilitation International World Congress in Denmark, postponed due to the pandemic.

Jessica Robbins, PhD
Medical & Sociocultural Anthropology

Dr. Robbins researches how some older people become valued and socially included, while others become devalued and socially excluded. Focusing on older adults in post-industrial urban contexts, Dr. Robbins conducts ethnographic research in Poland and Michigan, places where large-scale social change has occurred during the lifetimes of the oldest generations. She published a book, "Aging Nationally in Contemporary Poland," in 2021 that argues that practices of remembering and relatedness create, sustain, or transform moral personhood, or how older Poles come to live meaningful lives, from both their own perspective and that of society. Dr. Robbins was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2021.

Her two ethnographic projects in Michigan examine older adults' wellbeing in social, historical, and political context. The first is a study of gardening and wellbeing among older African Americans in Detroit. The second, a collaborative project with Co-PI Dr. Tam Perry (WSU School of Social Work), is a study of older adults' experiences of the Flint water crisis. Dr. Robbins receives excellent ratings for the courses she teaches in the Department of Anthropology, and frequently advises and mentors doctoral students. Her research has been published in leading anthropology and gerontology journals, including Medical Anthropology QuarterlyAgeing and Society, and Journal of Aging Studies. In the past two years, she has been a reviewer for five university presses and 10 academic journals.

Carrie Leach, PhD
Community-Engaged Research & Health Communication

Dr. Leach is an assistant professor (research) at the IOG, community engagement program manager for the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES), and adjunct assistant professor of public health. Her work centers on fostering meaningful community involvement with research and co-developing communication strategies to increase access to meaningful information that can lead to improvements in health. She has more than ten years of experience partnering with community stakeholders to translate scientific and assessment findings into actionable strategies that improve reception, understanding, and usability of health enhancing information.

She works to eliminate communication inequities through addressing digital exclusion and increasing community involvement with science. Through partnerships with community stakeholders, her work in community engagement at CURES has resulted in the dissemination of environmental health science to more than 5,000 residents at in-person events (Read her research publication on "Engaged Communication of Environmental Health Science"). This communication strategy has proven effective, given the myriad of reasons Detroiters experience digital exclusion, including having one of the lowest internet connectivity rates in the nation. Over the last year she has received funding address these issues, and distributed computer devices paired with digital literacy materials to more than 1,700 older Detroit residents. Dr. Leach was recently named Associate Director of Community Inclusion for WSU's new Center for Health Equity and Community Knowledge for Urban Populations (CHECK-UP), where she will continue to increase community stakeholders' capacity for university in-reach and ability to leverage WSU connections to Detroit's benefit. 

Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES)
Peter Lichtenberg, director of the community outreach and education core; Melissa Runge-Morris, M.D., PI. A portion of the three-year, $2.4 million grant from WSU's Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to develop and implement a model of community engagement, interaction and training for all ages in the detection of and protection from common environmental stressors. The grant supports community learning and discussion forums, the creation of a community advisory board, and communication and educational materials for residents of Detroit and nearby at-risk communities.


Diane Adamo, PhD, MS, OTR
Director of Research Physical Therapy

Patricia Morton, PhD
Sociology, Public Health, & Gerontology