Courtney Boen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. She joined IAPHS in 2017. Learn more about Courtney on her website and follow her on twitter: @CourtneyBoen
Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, where did you go to graduate school, what makes you jump out of bed each morning?
After finishing my PhD in sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I moved to Philly to begin a position as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where I am also a Research Associate in the Population Studies Center and the Population Aging Research Center. I’m originally from the Boston area and made my way back to sociology after working in public health policy for several years, primarily as a Policy Analyst for the City of Boston’s health department focused on developing policy solutions for reducing racial health disparities in the city. That experience continues to play a tremendous role in shaping my current research agenda, as I always think about whether and how my work can contribute to reducing population health inequities. My work continues to be motivated by my commitment to racial and social justice.
How do you define yourself as a population health professional?
I think of my work as attempting to apply insights from critical race theory and sociological theories of social stratification to the study of population health. I try to take a “structures to cells” approach in my research by examining how macro-level structural inequalities and systems—namely racism and capitalism—shape the everyday lived experiences of people across the life span in ways that affect individual health and pattern population health trends. I increasingly use measures of physiological stress response and biological aging to better understand how social inequalities “get under the skin” through stress-related processes to affect disease emergence and progression. A tremendous amount of my time and energy is spent thinking about the ways in which population health scientists can better measure and intervene on racism as a means to promoting health equity.