Abenaa Jones, assistant professor of human development and family studies, has been named the Ann Atherton Hertzler Early Career Professor in Health and Human Development at Penn State.
Jones works to find solutions to complex, real-world problems, including substance use disorders, social and economic marginalization, and inequity in the criminal justice system. Her research evaluates structural and behavioral interventions to reduce substance use and associated health and social consequences. She is a faculty affiliate with the Criminal Justice Research Center and a cofunded faculty member of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State.
“The adverse effects stemming from the differential access to substance use treatment and related harm reduction services disproportionately impact minoritized populations, yet research on effective solutions to mitigate these effects is limited. My research takes a multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach to find optimal solutions for marginalized and minoritized people who use drugs.”
“Being a recipient of this professorship is a great honor. I am grateful for the recognition by the College of Health and Human Development, and the support it provides that will help propel my research forward,” said Jones. During the three-year appointment, she plans to use resources from the professorship to bolster her work in developing an intervention that will help women in the criminal justice system stay in substance misuse treatment.
According to Doug Teti, distinguished professor of human development and family studies, professor of psychology and pediatrics, and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) at Penn State, Jones “has developed a well-integrated and productive research program that has already received external funding from the National Institutes for Health and is producing a steady stream of peer-reviewed publications in highly visible outlets. Her work builds on the important focus in the department on combatting substance misuse, which is directly relevant to alleviating existing health disparities within disadvantaged groups and is especially impactful on women’s health.”
Jones joined the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University Park in 2020. Prior to her appointment, Jones was a postdoctoral scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a focus on drug dependence and epidemiology. She completed her doctorate in epidemiology at the University of Florida and was named a McKnight Doctoral Fellow in 2016. In 2021, Jones received the Outstanding Alumna Award from the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida.
Jones is currently the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research project entitled “Opioid Use Disorder among Criminal Justice-Involved Women: Integrating Trauma-Informed and Gender-Specific Care with Medication-Assisted Treatment,” She was also selected as a Bridge Fellow for the multi-site NIH and HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) project “INTEGRA: A Vanguard Study of Integrated Strategies for Linking Persons with Opioid Use Disorder to Care and Prevention for Addiction, HIB, HCV, and Primary Care.”
The Ann Atherton Hertzler Early Career Professorship in Health and Human Development, along with two other early career professorships in the College of Health and Human Development, were established by the late Ann Atherton Hertzler, who earned her degree in Home Economics from Penn State in 1957. Hertzler was a professor emerita of human nutrition, foods, and exercise at Virginia Tech University. The endowments provide faculty members in the first decade of their careers with funds to improve their research and teaching and support their professional development. Their impact extends to students too, as professors often use such funds to hire undergraduate and graduate students as research or teaching assistants or to cover students’ independent research or professional travel.