WILLIAM VEGA holds USC appointments in social work, preventive medicine, psychiatry and family medicine. He is also emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley and co-directs the Network for Multicultural Research on Health and Healthcare at UCLA.
An elected member of the Institute of Medicine, Vega has conducted community and clinical research projects on health, mental health and substance abuse throughout the United States and Latin America. His specialty is multi-cultural epidemiologic and services research with adolescents and adults -- work that has been funded by multiple public and private sources. He has published more than 170 articles and chapters, in addition to several books. The 2006 ISI Web of Science listed him in the top half of 1 percent of the most highly cited researchers worldwide in social science literature over the past 20 years.
Prior to joining the Roybal Institute, Vega was director of the Luskin Center on Innovation at UCLA. In 2002, he received the Society for Prevention Research's Community, Culture and Prevention Science Award and the National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse's National Award of Excellence in Research by a Senior Scientist.
Vega has served on numerous boards and task forces, including health disparities work groups of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Attorney General's Task Force on Methamphetamine, the Institute of Medicine Board on Population Health, the Committee on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment Effectiveness and the Institute of Medicine Health Disparities Roundtable. He is also a member of the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Research advisory committees.
Dr. William Vega is a man of many perspectives. In addition to social work, he holds appointments at USC in gerontology, psychology, family medicine, preventive medicine and psychiatry. He trained in sociology and criminology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is now an emeritus professor, and worked at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine. His research today extends to fields as disparate as economics and engineering. As he sees it, social work resides at the intersection of these crisscrossing disciplines, a unique vantage point from which practitioners and researchers can gauge and address the complex needs of society.
From studying mentally ill prisoners in California to conducting multicultural epidemiologic surveys across the nation, Vega has maintained his belief in an interdisciplinary approach to research. When he launched his career, many in the profession held the notion that a background in everything was really a background in nothing. But time has reversed that mentality, and Vega has watched with satisfaction as the field has become a model of academic and professional convergence.
A native of South Los Angeles, Vega developed an early interest in “society’s backwaters,” mostly minority communities with high rates of deviance and little hope of social mobility. Few studies had focused on these populations, so he set about conducting massive-scale epidemiologic studies on adolescents and substance abuse, pregnant women and drug use, and rates of mental illness among Hispanics in California.
Vega was one of the first researchers to show that the process of adapting to American society puts Mexican immigrants at much greater risk of developing mental disorders, and that living in the United States significantly increases the risk of developing drug addictions among Mexican women. Vega believes the cause of these problems is a breakdown in traditional conservative values when immigrants settle down in the United States, with families splitting apart and generational relationships changing. His research has redefined the field, and he has been listed among the most-cited researchers in social science literature worldwide during the past 20 years.
In recent years, he has focused less on documenting problems and more on solving them, bringing his polymath perspective to bear on clinical issues, such as extending quality care to traditionally underserved minority and aging populations. “I think it’s time for a revolution to take place,” he says. “This is the great challenge we’re facing right now, to make these things affordable, accessible and effective.”
Vega serves as executive director of the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, a research center based at the USC School of Social Work that seeks to improve care for aging minority groups. He also mentors like-minded students and junior faculty, and counts this role among his most important. He tries to involve students in all processes of research, “from A to Z, so they understand how all of it works,” he says. “It’s an apprentice business. You can’t get it from courses alone.”
Aguirre‐Molina, M., Borreall, L. & Vega, W.A. (in press). (Eds.) Latino male health, New Brunswich, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Vega, W. & Gonzalez, H. (in press). Latinos "Aging in Place": Issues and Potential Solutions. In J. Angel, K. Markides, Torres-Gil (Eds.) Social Disparities in Health and Health Care.: NY: Springer.
Vega, W.A. & Sribney, W.M. (in press). Understanding the Hispanic Health Paradox through a Multi-Generational Lens: A Focus on Behavior Disorders. In G. Carlo, L.J. Crockett & M. Carranza (Eds.) 57th Annual Symposium on Motivation: Health Disparities in Youth.: NY: Springer.
Breslau, J., Hinton, L., Tancredi, D., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Medina-Mora, M.E., Vega, W.A., Saito, N. & Kendler, K. (in press). Migration from Mexico to the US and conduct disorder: A cross-national study. Archives of General Hospital Psychiatry.
Interian, A., Ang, A., Gara, M.A., Rodriguez, M.A. & Vega, W.A. (in press). The long-term trajectory of depression among Latinos in primary care and its relationship to depression care disparities. General Hospital Psychiatry.
Vega, W.A. & Gil, A.G. (2009). Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs. In Aguirre-Molina, M., Borreall, L., Vega, W.A (Eds.) Latino Male Health.: New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Vega, W.A., Kopelowicz, A. & Lopez, S. (2009). Disabling Conditions. In Ruiz P, Primm A (Eds.) Addressing Mental Health Disparities: Clinical Considerations.: Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Vega, W.A., Borreall, L. & Aguierre-Molina, M. (2009). Epilogue to Latino Mens’ Health. In Aguirre- Molina, M., Borreall, L., Vega, W.A (Eds.) Latino Male Health.: New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Vega, W.A., Aguirre-Molina, M. & Borreal, L. (2009). Social and structural framework for the analysis of Latino Males’ Health. In Aguirre-Molina, M., Borreall, L., Vega, W.A (Eds.) Latino Male Health.: New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Vega, W.A. & Gil, A.G. (2009). Substance use in minority populations. In Loue, Sana (Eds.) Determinants of Minority Health and Wellness.: NY: Springer.
Vega, W.A. (2006). Cultural Elements in Treating Hispanic Populations: Dialogue on Science and Addiction. Bayamon: Puerto Rico: Caribbean Basin Addiction Technology Transfer Network Monograph Series.
Vega, W.A., Kessler, R.C., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Andrade, L., Bijl, R., Borges, G., Caraveo-Anduaga, J.J., Dewitt, D.J., Kolody, B., Molnar, K.R., Walters, E.E. & Wittchen, H.U. (2003). Cross-national comparisons of comorbidities between substance use disorders and mental disorders: Results from the International Consortium of Psychiatric Epidemiology. In W.J. Bukoski & Z. Sloboda (Eds.) Handbook for Drug Abuse Prevention Theory, Science, and Practice. (pp. 447-472).: New York: Plenum Publishing Corporation.More publications
- Master of Social Work