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Eliza Pavalko to Serve as the Next Editor of JHSB

by Tom Gieryn, Indiana University-Bloomington

Eliza K. Pavalko has been selected to succeed Peggy Thoits as editor of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (JHSB), and her colleagues at Indiana University-Bloomington now have two reasons to congratulate her. At the Department’s annual award ceremony in April, Eliza was named the Allen D. and Polly S. Grimshaw Professor of Sociology.

Eliza and I share a common interest in horse manure, although her focus is more on the production end while mine is on its consumption. Eliza spends many hours riding and training horses. My roses benefit wonderfully from the manure that Eliza’s horses produce in abundance, but that is a story for another time. What Eliza does with her horses just might shed light on her dispositions and tendencies as the new editor of JHSB. Our colleague Jane McLeod describes Eliza as the perfect balance of kindness and firmness: “Her triumph in taming a cheeky horse is a sight to behold!” No doubt Eliza will face at least a few cheeky authors in the years ahead, and she will respond to them as she responds to her horses: kind and firm.

Early Career

Eliza Pavalko did her undergraduate work at Guilford College in North Carolina, and completed her doctorate in 1987 at Florida State University, with a dissertation on “Labor Processes and Welfare State Formation in the United States, 1900-1930.” Her MA thesis at Florida State tackled a different problem: “Measures of Self-Assessed Health: Comparing Health Indicators Among Older Males.” Traces of both early projects can be found throughout Eliza’s career of productive research. She has maintained an interest in macro-level and policy relevant aspects of health care, along with an interest in micro-environmental determinants of health and well-being. It seems most appropriate that Eliza’s first publication, based on her master’s thesis and coauthored with Melissa Hardy, appeared in JHSB in 1986, the first of six papers she authored in the prestigious journal that she now will edit (a paper from her dissertation project appeared three years later in the American Journal of Sociology(AJS) as well).

Eliza’s special interest in looking at health through a life course perspective was galvanized during her four years at the University of North Carolina, where she worked closely with Glen Elder. Eliza and Glen co-authored six journal publications and one book between 1990 and 1993 (sometimes with other collaborators), on subjects that stand at the intersection of family, work, gender, and health. Eliza learned a great deal about the value of good mentorship during her Carolina years, and she has become the consummate mentor since her arrival at Bloomington in 1991. Last year, the graduate students at Indiana presented Eliza with their annual Mentor Award; it is easy to see why. Of her most recent 16 publications, 12 have been co-authored with graduate students or post-docs. One of Eliza’s current students, Deidre Redmond, received a 2007 ASA Minority Fellowship.

An Experienced Editor

Eliza is well prepared for her new editorial responsibilities. Since 2005, she has been Deputy Editor of JHSB, and earlier in her career she served simultaneouslyas Consulting Editor at AJS and as Editorial Board member at the American Sociological Review, a testament to her capacity for hard work. Eliza has also been a member of innumerable panels and review boards to consider grant proposals and agendas for future research, including at the National Science Foundation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institutes of Health.

However, perhaps the best recommendation for Eliza’s “promotion” to editor of JHSB is the breadth of her research and its centrality for the big and enduring questions of our discipline. In the very best tradition of life course research, Eliza’s papers bring together a deep understanding of the structural contexts in which human lives unfold (workplace policies, for example), with a sensitive appreciation for the day-today realities of individuals who inhabit those contexts (such as the demands of family caregiving responsibilities). Her work weaves tight connections between theory, empirical evidence, nuanced interpretations, and policy implications. She has worked with a wide variety of data and methodologies, including quantitative analysis of large data sets, historical comparative analysis, and qualitative analysis of open-ended survey responses—and no doubt this diversity will be reflected in the array of papers the journal will soon publish. Eliza’s writing is consistently crisp and direct. Those who submit manuscripts to JHSB during the next three years will have no difficulty discerning why their work was accepted or rejected, as Eliza, ever the mentor, will provide wise and useful suggestions for improvement.

Planning for the Future

Although JHSB has recently achieved an ISI journal impact factor just below American Sociological Review and AJS(and well above Social Forces), Eliza is not the kind of person to cruise on past successes. She will shake things up, for the better. As an example, she hopes to expand the audience for JHSB by publishing works that will be of particular interest to practitioners and policymakers in the medical community on topics such as the organization and financing of health care (along with its globalization), the persistence of health disparities, and the geographical and temporal dimensions of health care. Eliza will reach out to other ASA sections—Family, for example, or Race, Gender, and Class—to encourage submissions from sociologists whose primary focus may be outside the conventional boundaries of medical sociology. She plans to reach undergraduate audiences by getting new papers from JHSB included in future editions of handbooks and syllabi sets. She wants to extend the reach of JHSB outside of the academy via highlights of its articles in ASA’s Contexts. Above all, Eliza starts out her new job with no agenda other than to publish the very best sociological research on health and social behavior.

Her colleague, Brian Powell, describes two of Eliza’s many virtues: she is calm under fire, and she has an unyielding sense of fairness. Jane McLeod adds: careful, reflective, and generous. These qualities are just as good for training horses as they are for editing a scholarly journal. We are confident that JHSB will thrive under Eliza Pavalko’s stewardship.