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Nicki Bush, PhD

TitleAssociate Professor
SchoolUCSF School of Medicine
DepartmentPsychiatry
Address3333 California Street
San Francisco CA 94118
Phone415-476-7655
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    Collapse Overview 
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    Dr. Bush is an Associate Professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics.
    She is the Associate Director of Research for the Division of Developmental Medicine.

    She is an M-PI for the ECHO National Children's Study PATHWAYS cohort (NIH) and a site PI for the ECHO NYU Center cohort (NIH), the Co-Scientific Director of the CANDLE study (Urban Child Institute; NIH) the PI of the SEED prenatal programming study (R01), the UCSF PI of the TIDES multi-site prenatal programming study (R01), the PI of the PAWS-Genetics Substudy (RWJF), and the PI of the CTRP-HEALTH Trauma and Biomarkers study (CTSI; RWJF).

    Dr. Bush’s research focuses on the manner in which early social contexts interface with individual differences to affect developmental trajectories across the life course. She examines how socioeconomic, parental, and environmental risks for maladaptive behavior and developmental psychopathology are modulated by individual differences in children’s temperamental, neurobiological, and genetic reactivity to stress. She also investigates the ways in which contextual experiences of adversity become biologically embedded by changing children’s developing physiologic systems and epigenetic processes, thereby shaping individual differences that mediate and moderate the effects of context on trajectories of development and mental health.

    Biography Summary:

    Nicole (Nicki) Bush joined the faculty after completing a postdoctoral fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the UCSF/UCB site. Prior to that, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in children’s physiologic stress reactivity at UC Berkeley. She received her PhD in Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Washington and completed her child clinical training internship at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She has a background in basic research as well as clinical and community intervention with families from high-stress contexts, and she is actively involved in policy-oriented projects.

    Her research has examined relations among biobehavioral predispositions (e.g., temperament and physiology) and stressful life circumstances (e.g., poverty, parenting, and neighborhood) in the prediction of a broad range of children's mental health outcomes. In recent years, Dr. Bush has expanded her examination of contextual risk effects by infusing her models with a new understanding of biology (physiology, genetics, epigenetics) throughout early development, including the prenatal period. Her work integrates insights from social epidemiology, sociology, clinical psychology, and developmental psychobiology to elucidate the interplay of biology and context in youth development, as physiological systems mature and social environments change. Her examinations of how social disadvantage interacts with and alters children’s biological stress response systems aim to clarify the etiology of children’s mental and physical health outcomes and subsequent adult health.

    Clinical Expertise:

    Disruptive behaviors in early childhood; adolescent mood and anxiety; adolescent delinquency; family therapy; dialectical behavioral therapy; individual adult therapy; community intervention in high-risk neighborhoods and schools; unlicensed wilderness therapy programs.


    Collapse Research 
    Collapse Research Activities and Funding
    Prenatal and Early Childhood Pathways To Health:  An Integrated Model of Chemical and Social Exposures, Biological Mechanisms, and Sex-Specific Effects on Neurodevelopment and Respiratory Outcomes
    NIH UG3OD023271Sep 21, 2016 - Aug 31, 2018
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Preventing Inter-generational Transmission of Obesity and Cardiometabolic Risk
    NIH R01HL116511Aug 1, 2013 - Jul 31, 2018
    Role: Principal Investigator

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