New di­rec­tor cho­sen for Health Sciences Re­search In­sti­tute

Merced Sun-Star - - Local -

Pro­fes­sor Deb­o­rah Wiebe has been named the new fac­ulty di­rec­tor of UC Merced’s Health Sci­ence Re­search In­sti­tute. Wiebe will serve a five-year term as di­rec­tor, a role she served on an in­terim ba­sis for six months in 2016.

Wiebe has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in med­i­cal psy­chol­ogy, as well as an MPH in epi­demi­ol­ogy. Prior to join­ing the fac­ulty at UC Merced in 2013, Wiebe held aca­demic and ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions at sev­eral ma­jor uni­ver­si­ties, in­clud­ing Di­rec­tor of Re­search at the Univer­sity of Texas South­west­ern Med­i­cal Cen­ter and Di­rec­tor of Clin­i­cal Train­ing in psy­chol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Utah.

Wiebe’s re­search fo­cuses on self-reg­u­la­tion and the cen­tral role of so­cial re­la­tion­ships (e.g., par­entchild re­la­tion­ships; pa­tient-provider re­la­tion­ships) in prevent­ing and manag­ing chronic dis­eases such as di­a­betes, and how these as­so­ci­a­tions change across de­vel­op­men­tal and so­cio­cul­tural con­texts.

Brown has re­ceived na­tional recog­ni­tion for her re­search, most re­cently re­ceiv­ing the 2018 Den­nis Dro­tar Dis­tin­guished Re­search Award from the So­ci­ety of Pe­di­atric Psy­chol­ogy. Her re­search has been con­sis­tently funded by grants from the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, pri­mar­ily the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Di­a­betes and Di­ges­tive and Kid­ney Dis­eases.

Wiebe re­places Pub­lic Health Pro­fes­sor Paul Brown, who held the po­si­tion since June 2012. Brown over­saw HSRI’s growth from the ini­tial pro­posal to cre­ate an Or­ga­nized Re­search Unit to its sta­tus to­day as the largest ORU on cam­pus, with 110 mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing all three of UC Merced’s schools - En­gi­neer­ing, Nat­u­ral Sciences and So­cial Sciences, Hu­man­i­ties and Arts.

Un­der Brown’s lead­er­ship, HSRI grew its fund­ing port­fo­lio to 52 grants with a com­bined value of $15.5 mil­lion, in­clud­ing the new Nico­tine & Cannabis Pol­icy Cen­ter, led by Pro­fes­sor Anna Song.


When pon­der­ing faith and redemp­tion, the con­cept of “mak­ing good” on the past can be a cru­cial step in mov­ing for­ward.

Pro­fes­sor Ed­ward Orozco Flores’s new book, “Je­sus Saved an Ex-Con: Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tivism and Redemp­tion After In­car­cer­a­tion” ex­plores how for­merly in­car­cer­ated in­di­vid­u­als or­ga­nize to change their com­mu­ni­ties with a goal of “mak­ing good.”

The book, pub­lished with New York Univer­sity Press in Septem­ber, builds upon qual­i­ta­tive re­search Flores con­ducted from 2012 through 2015. Flores con­ducted par­tic­i­pant ob­ser­va­tion with Chicagob­ased Com­mu­nity Re­newal So­ci­ety (CRS) and Los An­ge­les-based LA Voice. While CRS sup­ported faith-based or­ga­niz­ing among the for­merly in­car­cer­ated through the FORCE project, LA Voice sup­ported the Home­boy In­dus­tries Lo­cal Or­ga­niz­ing Com­mit­tee.

The book builds off Flores’s first book “God’s Gangs,” which ex­am­ined faith-based re­cov­ery among for­mer gang mem­bers at Home­boy In­dus­tries and Vic­tory Out­reach. Flores said a com­mon theme in “God’s Gangs” was how these or­ga­ni­za­tions re­ori­ented peo­ple away from the streets through shifts in re­li­gious prac­tices and gen­dered dis­plays.

“Je­sus Saved an ExCon” turns the fo­cus to­ward how the for­merly in­car­cer­ated par­tic­i­pate in civic and po­lit­i­cal ac­tion.

“Dur­ing the re­search for my first book, I wanted to see per­sons in re­cov­ery do­ing some­thing in­ten­tional to change the con­di­tions un­der which they lived,” Flores said. “I thought that it would re­quire some sort of po­lit­i­cal awak­en­ing. I found I was to­tally wrong.

“Peo­ple who are for­merly in­car­cer­ated par­tic­i­pate in or­ga­niz­ing to change laws pre­cisely through ef­forts at redemp­tion and mak­ing good.”

“Je­sus Saved an ExCon” tracks how for­merly in­car­cer­ated per­sons or­ga­nized cor­po­rate and leg­isla­tive cam­paigns to reg­u­late the use of records in job hires, re­move ab­so­lute bars against peo­ple with records and reap­pro­pri­ate state fund­ing.

Flores said for­merly in­car­cer­ated peo­ple ex­pressed it was their op­por­tu­nity to give back to their com­mu­ni­ties and to pre­vent oth­ers from go­ing down the same path.

Flores is an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor in so­ci­ol­ogy and is part of the School of So­cial Sciences, Hu­man­i­ties and Arts. His ar­eas of spe­cial­iza­tion in­clude race, gen­der, re­li­gion and im­mi­gra­tion. Flores has been with UC Merced for five years.

UC Merced Con­nect is a col­lec­tion of news items writ­ten by the cam­pus’s Pub­lic Re­la­tions team. To con­tact the team, email [email protected]

Deb­o­rah Wiebe

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