Laura A. Schmidt is a Professor of Health Policy in the School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. She holds a joint appointment in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine. Dr. Schmidt is also Co-Director of the Community Engagement and Health Policy Program for UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She received her PhD training in sociology at UC Berkeley and while there, completed doctoral coursework in public health, and also holds a masters degree in clinical social work.
Dr. Schmidt has dedicated her career to intervening on the social determinants of health, and to understanding how lifestyle risk factors, such as alcohol and poor diet, influence chronic disease and health inequality. In service to the UN/WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health, Priority Public Health Conditions Programme, she led a worldwide review of alcohol and inequality, which contributed to a book awarded the British Medical Association’s 2011 “Best Book in Public Health.” Dr. Schmidt has served on WHO’s field trials to assess the cross-cultural applicability of diagnoses for substance abuse disorders in the International Classification of Diseases, and currently serves on the Global Advisory Board for the European Commission’s Addictions and Lifestyle in Contemporary Europe. She has also been a leader in US efforts to address the broad spectrum of health behaviors linked to addiction, having served as an advisor and reviewer for the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research.
The hallmarks of Dr. Schmidt’s substantive research and teaching are the use of mixed methods and translational approaches for evidence-based policymaking. In the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Advancing Recovery Initiative, she works with policymakers in twelve US states and cities to promote diffusion of best practices in substance abuse treatment at the systems level. Her work in the Greater New Orleans Area has focused on primary care rebuilding and transformation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. As Principal Investigator for the Welfare Client Longitudinal Study (WCLS), supported by over $8 million in NIH grants, she tracked a cohort of welfare mothers in California over six years to study the impact of welfare reform on health. She is currently engaged in efforts to address obesity and alcohol problems in the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnerships. The goal is to improve the health of all San Franciscans, while reducing health disparities, through partnerships of academics and CBOs that deploy evidence-based interventions, ranging from local controls on alcohol sales, to sugar taxation, to supported housing for the homeless.