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Researcher | Research Overview

Dr. Weitzman’s investigations use a multidisciplinary and mixed methods approach grounded in a biopsychosocial model of disease to advance understanding, prevention, and care of youth at risk from chronic illness and/or substance use through improved interventions. She is deeply committed to supporting robust research relationships with cohorts. As such, use of participatory research methods is a throughline of her work, which explores three main areas:

  1. Substance use. From early work examining patterning of drinking behaviors among college-aged youth to recent efforts to integrate substance use and behavioral health services into schools and primary care practices in Massachusetts, Dr. Weitzman has led research focused on preventing and reducing substance use among adolescents and young adults. To advance understanding of a radical new approach for preventing morbidity and mortality from adolescent substance, she has partnered with the BCH Precision Vaccines Program to explore the acceptability of a fentanyl vaccine to prevent opioid overdose.
  2. Chronic illness. Dr. Weitzman’s research seeks to understand and ameliorate the experience of chronic illness (including type 1 diabetes, rheumatic conditions, and gastroenterological conditions) among youth through studies of patient-reported outcomes, substance use and behavioral health, and social media engagement among youth with chronic conditions.
  3. Participatory research and informatics. A unique emphasis in Dr. Weitzman’s work is the use of participatory and informatics enabled approaches for understanding health phenomena and engaging public health and clinical cohorts. Past studies have taken a “citizen science” approach and involved asking participants to use a novel app to share data about their disease, gauging interest in and preferences for return of genomic research results for pediatric biobank research and quantifying the effects of returning aggregated research results to study participants.

Researcher | Research Background

Dr. Elissa Weitzman is Director of Research in the Division of Addiction Medicine, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Associate Scientist in the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine and Computational Health Informatics Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her graduate training at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was in health policy, behavioral sciences, and psychiatric and social epidemiology, and she completed post-doctoral training in medical ethics and public health in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and was a mid-career fellow in medical ethics at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Weitzman also serves as a mentor to physician-scientists, researchers, and post-doctoral fellows at Boston Children’s Hospital and beyond. She co-directs the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine Research and Mentoring Forum and directs research training for Boston Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Addiction Medicine Fellowship.

Researcher | Publications