Unlike the vast majority of contributors to this volume, I originally trained in sociology rather than psychology. The path from my early academic studies on social altruism to my current interdisciplinary work in psychiatric epidemiology was circuitous, and was guided over thirty-five years by an interdisciplinary set of mentors and colleagues. I entered graduate school at New York University in the early ’70s with an interest in survey methodology and mass communications. My first substantive research involved designing blood drives at the New York Blood Center and evaluating recruitment success using general market research techniques.
Afterwards, I was hired in the market research department at the NBC television network, primarily to study effects of television violence on children. The study's numerous design and analysis challenges, however, also stimulated in me a lasting interest in modeling quantitative change over time in ways that might help inform the design and evaluation of real-world applications. About the same time, I was also involved in a study of teenage drug use at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. This twin focus on imitative violence and addiction got me wondering more seriously about the broader field of psychiatric epidemiology. Knowing that I needed more training, I embarked on a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in psychiatric epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin before joining the Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor in 1979.
I was hired at Michigan to teach Medical Sociology in an emerging subspecialty known as “the sociology of mental illness” – what public health professionals would today refer to as social psychiatric epidemiology. By then, although I had five years’ post-doctoral experience, all of it was obtained outside sociology departments, in settings where I focused largely on refining my skills in survey methods and applied statistics. This expertise grew exponentially over the next decade due to interactions with the methodology group at the Survey Research Center at Michigan's Institute for Social Research.