Cathleen Willging, PhD, is a Senior Scientist and Center Director at PIRE’s Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest (BHRCS) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Willging’s research and evaluation studies, largely funded by the NIH, center on public mental health and substance use services in the United States, health care reform, implementation science, and the advancement of culturally- and contextually-relevant programs to support marginalized groups affected by health and health care disparities.
Her current research focuses on implementation and sustainment of evidence-based interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents, and includes a study of 11 child welfare systems in California that is supported through a subcontract with the University of California at San Diego; she travels to Southern California frequently.
She is a Cultural and Medical Anthropologist and worked with American Indian communities since 1996 when she designed and implemented an 18- month ethnographic study of mental healthcare delivery within an Indian Health Service setting. She has worked on a project addressing culturally responsive diabetes prevention programs for urban American Indian women, and served as co-investigator of a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) study to build capacity of stakeholders to plan, execute, and assess culturally relevant interventions to reduce agricultural-related injuries on the Navajo Nation.
She has provided technical assistance to tribes in the conduct of CBPR, spearheaded a national, multi-tribal study of barriers and facilitators to development and implementation of comprehensive impaired driving prevention programs in American Indian communities, evaluated a university-based pipeline program for American Indian students interested in careers in medicine, and completed a mixed-method intervention study pertinent to American Indian women in prison.
Dr. Willging has also conducted studies on the implementation of large-scale mental health policy reforms and systems-change initiatives in California, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. She is especially concerned with culturally relevant interventions to ameliorate the effects of social injustice experienced by diverse populations, including youth and adolescents, incarcerated women, and gender and sexual minorities.