Deborah Polk, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Dental Public Health in the School of Dental Medicine and has a secondary faculty appointment in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Polk obtained her PhD in Clinical Psychology with a minor in Community Psychology at Indiana University, where she studied under Ken Heller. After completing a clinical internship at the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis consortium, she obtained postdoctoral training in Health Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, where she trained with Tom Kamarck, and Carnegie Mellon University, where she trained with Sheldon Cohen.
To a large extent, behavior at the individual level is determined by broader social factors. Dr. Polk studies the relationship between these broader social factors and both health behaviors and indicators of health, including disparities in health. Examples of social determinants she is interested in include socioeconomic status, social norms, and public policies. Examples of health behaviors include smoking and oral hygiene behaviors. And the health outcomes she studies include dental caries and periodontal disease. In addition, she identifies social and behavioral contexts in which genetic variants increase the probability of disease.