Marilyn Thomas, PhD, MPH

Title(s)Postdoctoral Scholar, Psychiatry
SchoolSchool of Medicine
Address550 16th Street
San Francisco CA 94158
Phone--
ORCID ORCID Icon0000-0003-3245-6363 Additional info
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    Other Positions
    Title(s)UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences


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    Research Interests:
    - Structural Racism as a Social Determinant of Health
    - Racial Inequities in Accelerated Aging, Cognitive Decline, Mental Illness, and Mortality
    - Social Policy, Educational Attainment, and Causal Inference

    I am a social epidemiologist investigating the mechanisms by which structural racism contributes to Black–White and other racial inequities in chronic disease risk, premature aging, mental illness, and mortality. My research evaluates policy effects and emphasizes methods for causal inference in the absence of randomization.

    In the US, substantial racial differences in health persist despite efforts to reduce overall morbidity and mortality, and to address social determinants of health. Structural racism—the ongoing interactions between macro-level systems and institutions that constrain the opportunities, resources, and power of minoritized racial groups—is considered a fundamental cause of racial disparities in health. Unfortunately, adequate measurement to capture the mechanisms of structural racism remains a considerable challenge in public health research. My work helps to address this gap by measuring and evaluating the policies and processes contributing to structural racism.

    My research centers Black experiences (i.e., factors that distinctively characterize Black lives in the US). To date, my research focused on three domains of Black experiences: policing, negative racial sentiment or race-based discrimination, and education. My research on policing addressed two issues—racial patterns in risk of being killed by police and police agency characteristics and policies related to police killings—and introduced innovative approaches that can examine intersectional social and environmental experiences in racism-related epidemiological research and the effectiveness of law enforcement policies that purport to save Black lives. My work has also addressed how experiences of area-level anti-Black bias, interpersonal racial discrimination, and culturally-specific coping strategies influence health, providing evidence that institutional racism contributes to physiologic stress-regulation and accelerated aging, whether perceived or not, and that improved socioeconomic position and racial identify may buffer the biological consequences of racism.

    My research has subsequently evolved into a deeper examination of structural racism in higher education, either as public policy or through individual-level educational attainment, as a potential causal driver of Black-White inequities in health. Higher educational attainment offers indirect social and health benefits through access to social privilege and prestige, higher income, healthier behaviors, ability to cope with stressors, and increased utilization of health care. Consequently, education is a strong predictor of cardiometabolic risk, mental illness, dementia, and mortality. Though structural racism is implicated as a fundamental cause of higher education gaps, little to nothing is known about if, and to what extent, uniquely Black college experiences influence health in Black adults. As such, I aim to explore the long-term health effects of education policies that govern Black experiences in institutions of higher learning, specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

    As a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, I received a K99/R00 Award from the National Institute on Aging to study the impact of HBCUs on late-life cognition in Black adults with Drs. M. Maria Glymour, Rita Hamad, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Justin White, and Christina Mangurian. I also co-lead the SF BUILDing Bridges Program, an NIH funded program to enhance diversity of the biomedical research workforce by transforming the teaching and research environments at San Francisco State University. Last, I am an active participant in the Glymour Research Group (https://glymourgroup.ucsf.edu/team), UCSF PReMIUM Group (https://integration.ucsf.edu/staff), SPHERE Research Group (https://sphere.ucsf.edu/our-research-team), and HEARTS Research Group (https://publichealth.berkeley.edu/research/hearts-research-group/).

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    Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities on Late-life Cognition in Black Adults
    National Institute on Aging 1K99AG076973-01
    Role: PI
    Description: The goal of this study is to evaluate the impact of attending, living in close proximity, and the funding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on late-life cognition, vascular risk factors of dementia, and mortality in Black adults.

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    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help. to make corrections and additions.
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    Altmetrics Details PMC Citations indicate the number of times the publication was cited by articles in PubMed Central, and the Altmetric score represents citations in news articles and social media. (Note that publications are often cited in additional ways that are not shown here.) Fields are based on how the National Library of Medicine (NLM) classifies the publication's journal and might not represent the specific topic of the publication. Translation tags are based on the publication type and the MeSH terms NLM assigns to the publication. Some publications (especially newer ones and publications not in PubMed) might not yet be assigned Field or Translation tags.) Click a Field or Translation tag to filter the publications.
    1. Postsecondary Education and Late-life Cognitive Outcomes Among Black and White Participants in the Project Talent Aging Study: Can Early-life Cognitive Skills Account for Educational Differences in Late-life Cognition? Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2022 Jul-Sep 01; 36(3):215-221. Thomas MD, Calmasini C, Seblova D, Lapham S, Peters K, Prescott CA, Mangurian C, Glymour MM, Manly JJ. PMID: 35791067; PMCID: PMC9420770.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    
    2. Superwoman Schema, Racial Identity, and Cellular Aging Among African American Women. Gerontologist. 2022 05 26; 62(5):762-772. Thomas MD, Mendez RM, Zhang Y, Wang Y, Sohail S, Chae DH, Márquez-Magaña L, Sellers R, Woods-Giscombé CL, Allen AM. PMID: 35084030; PMCID: PMC9154235.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Humans
    3. Occupation and Educational Attainment Characteristics Associated With COVID-19 Mortality by Race and Ethnicity in California. JAMA Netw Open. 2022 04 01; 5(4):e228406. Matthay EC, Duchowny KA, Riley AR, Thomas MD, Chen YH, Bibbins-Domingo K, Glymour MM. PMID: 35452107; PMCID: PMC9034406.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Humans
    4. Lessons Learned From a New Reverse-Integration Model to Improve Primary Care Screening in Community Mental Health Settings. Psychiatr Serv. 2022 08 01; 73(8):942-945. Mangurian C, Thomas MD, Mitsuishi F, Goldman LE, Niu G, Handley MA, Riano NS, Hwong A, Essock S, Dilley J, Newcomer JW, Schillinger D. PMID: 35138129; PMCID: PMC9357142.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    
    5. Hepatitis C Screening Among Medicaid Patients With Schizophrenia, 2002-2012. Schizophr Bull Open. 2022 Jan; 3(1):sgab058. Thomas MD, Vittinghoff E, Crystal S, Walkup J, Olfson M, Khalili M, Dahiya P, Keenan W, Cournos F, Mangurian C. PMID: 35059641; PMCID: PMC8763570.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:
    6. A descriptive analysis of 2020 California Occupational Safety and Health Administration covid-19-related complaints. SSM Popul Health. 2022 Mar; 17:101016. Thomas MD, Matthay EC, Duchowny KA, Riley AR, Khela H, Chen YH, Bibbins-Domingo K, Glymour MM. PMID: 34977326; PMCID: PMC8714613.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1  
    7. Geospatial Distributions of Lead Levels Found in Human Hair and Preterm Birth in San Francisco Neighborhoods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 12 22; 19(1). Okorie CN, Thomas MD, Méndez RM, Di Giuseppe EC, Roberts NS, Márquez-Magaña L. PMID: 35010345; PMCID: PMC8751210.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Humans
    8. A descriptive analysis of 2020 California Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19-related complaints. medRxiv. 2021 Dec 09. Thomas MD, Matthay EC, Duchowny KA, Riley AR, Khela H, Chen YH, Bibbins-Domingo K, Glymour MM. PMID: 34909780; PMCID: PMC8669847.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:
    9. Racial Discrimination and Telomere Length in Midlife African American Women: Interactions of Educational Attainment and Employment Status. Ann Behav Med. 2021 06 28; 55(7):601-611. Thomas MD, Sohail S, Mendez RM, Márquez-Magaña L, Allen AM. PMID: 33289498; PMCID: PMC8240134.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:HumansCells
    10. US law enforcement policy predictors of race-specific police fatalities during 2015-16. PLoS One. 2021; 16(6):e0252749. Thomas MD, Reeves AN, Jewell NP, Michaels EK, Allen AM. PMID: 34161363; PMCID: PMC8221500.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    11. Whites' County-Level Racial Bias, COVID-19 Rates, and Racial Inequities in the United States. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 11 23; 17(22). Thomas MD, Michaels EK, Darling-Hammond S, Nguyen TT, Glymour MM, Vittinghoff E. PMID: 33238526; PMCID: PMC7700363.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 4     Fields:    Translation:HumansPHPublic Health
    12. After "The China Virus" Went Viral: Racially Charged Coronavirus Coverage and Trends in Bias Against Asian Americans. Health Educ Behav. 2020 12; 47(6):870-879. Darling-Hammond S, Michaels EK, Allen AM, Chae DH, Thomas MD, Nguyen TT, Mujahid MM, Johnson RC. PMID: 32911985; PMCID: PMC7488172.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 20     Fields:    Translation:HumansCellsPHPublic Health
    13. Black and unarmed: statistical interaction between age, perceived mental illness, and geographic region among males fatally shot by police using case-only design. Ann Epidemiol. 2021 01; 53:42-49.e3. Thomas MD, Jewell NP, Allen AM. PMID: 32835768; PMCID: PMC7736192.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    14. Everyday Racial Discrimination and Hypertension among Midlife African American Women: Disentangling the Role of Active Coping Dispositions versus Active Coping Behaviors. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 11 27; 16(23). Michaels EK, Reeves AN, Thomas MD, Price MM, Hasson RE, Chae DH, Allen AM. PMID: 31783683; PMCID: PMC6935759.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 5     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    15. Differential associations between everyday versus institution-specific racial discrimination, self-reported health, and allostatic load among black women: implications for clinical assessment and epidemiologic studies. Ann Epidemiol. 2019 07; 35:20-28.e3. Thomas MD, Michaels EK, Reeves AN, Okoye U, Price MM, Hasson RE, Chae DH, Allen AM. PMID: 31235363; PMCID: PMC7179332.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 17     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    16. Racial discrimination, educational attainment, and biological dysregulation among midlife African American women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 01; 99:225-235. Allen AM, Thomas MD, Michaels EK, Reeves AN, Okoye U, Price MM, Hasson RE, Syme SL, Chae DH. PMID: 30286445; PMCID: PMC6289261.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 36     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    17. Relative Roles of Race Versus Socioeconomic Position in Studies of Health Inequalities: A Matter of Interpretation. Annu Rev Public Health. 2018 04 01; 39:169-188. Nuru-Jeter AM, Michaels EK, Thomas MD, Reeves AN, Thorpe RJ, LaVeist TA. PMID: 29328880.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 51     Fields:    Translation:HumansPHPublic Health
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