The editorship of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (JHSB), the ASA’s premier general medical sociology journal, will transition at the end of this year from Gilbert Gee to Richard Carpiano and Brian Kelly. Carpiano and Kelly, close colleagues, collaborators, and friends for the past 15 years since their days studying sociomedical sciences at Columbia, bring a tremendous amount of research expertise and editorial experience to the journal as well as well-deserved reputations for excellence in grant-writing and reviewing, service to ASA, generosity in mentoring, and off-color antics at ASA meetings. The two complement each other well in their talents, both in their research and on the dance floor.
Richard Carpiano, currently an Associate Editor of both JHSB and Society and Mental Health, has been on the faculty of the University of British Columbia since 2006, where he holds the rank of Professor. Formerly a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar, Carpiano actively develops and maintains numerous collaborations within and beyond the field of sociology while working toward the advancement of population health. Although his work has touched on topics that range from predictors of BMI in Danish women to HPV vaccinations in adolescence, he is best known for his work examining how various neighborhood and network characteristics affect the health of adults and children. As a scholar of the social determinants of health, he is driven by considering community as a factor that can both promote and inhibit health and well-being, both directly and indirectly. His research examines the ways that communities organize other facets of people’s lives, which influence their health and well-being.
His work on social capital has made important contributions toward re-centering applications of this conceptual framework from intangible forms of trust towards the potential to activate the actual resources that exist within one’s network and community. While population health as a subfield is often criticized for being atheoretical, Carpiano stands out in his efforts to bring theories of social capital to bear on health-related topics. For example, in one line of work, he developed a neighborhood-level theory of social capital based on Bourdieu that has been used by other scholars to generate new questions and hypotheses about neighborhood effects and health. Carpiano also stands out for his seamless use of mixed methods and his ability to move from “go-along” qualitative interviewing to running multilevel models without blinking an eye.
Not to be outdone by his partner in crime, Brian Kelly is also an Associate Editor for the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. He has an extensive history of involvement in Society for the Study of Social Problems and the ASA section on Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco, including as President from 2012-2013, and participates in numerous NIH grant review panels. Kelly, an Associate Professor at Purdue University, is the inaugural director of Purdue’s Center for Research on Young People’s Health. As one of medical sociology’s leading experts on club and prescription drug abuse and related risky sexual behavior, Kelly has received over $4 million in NIDA grants as principal investigator and many more as co-investigator.
His work has clear and meaningful substantive and policy implications, but it also bridges, theoretically and empirically, the social construction and social determinants areas of medical sociology. Although he employs mixed methods in his work, his heart is in enthnography, which he brings together with epidemiology in unique ways. Kelly embodies what Bruce Link calls “epidemiological sociology,” and his work is well-connected to other areas of sociology, such as culture, life course, sexuality, community, and urban sociology. More broadly, his interest in risk spans different populations—from youth on the brink of adulthood to sexuality minorities to general populations. As a scholar, he pushes sociology out into the mainstream to show its value in informing how we understand pressing health issues and how we can effectively address them.
Plans for the Journal
Carpiano and Kelly are interested in both preserving and continuing JHSB’s history of success in uniting key health issues with core questions and concepts in sociology and in connecting the work of medical sociologists to the work being done in other health-related disciplines. They also “envision a journal that publishes high quality medical sociology scholarship that pushes outward to inform health research, practice, and policy, but also remains connected to and engages with ideas from many other areas of sociology.”
Medical sociology has historically been well-connected to other health-related disciplines but has often stood on the edge of mainstream sociology, despite being one of the largest sections of ASA. Carpiano and Kelly seek to strengthen the “sociology” in medical sociology by pushing inward as well as outward. Steps the duo intend to take to make this vision a reality include encouraging the submission of thought pieces that advance the interface between medical sociology and the ideas, questions, and movements in mainstream sociology; encouraging diverse submissions such as qualitative and mixed-methods studies; and improving the review process by limiting new reviewers on R&R’s and repeated R&R’s. Further, they have plans to increase the journal’s presence on social media to push the findings of papers published in JHSB into the hands of a wider audience.
In sum, the transition of JHSB into the hands of Richard Carpiano and Brian Kelly represents an exciting new time for medical sociology—a time to reconnect to the core of the discipline and expand in innovative directions.