Dr. West is an Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work and a medical sociologist with over a decade of experience examining the social, economic, physical and policy factors underlying inequities in health among marginalized and criminalized populations, both globally and domestically.
Utilizing mixed method, network, and intervention approaches, her research is situated at the intersection of social science and public health, centering primarily on the social determinants of HIV/STI and substance use, as well as reproductive health and violence exposure. Specifically, her work has examined the conditions in which health risks occur, making contributions to the health of substance-using populations, women in sex work, and other stigmatized groups.
Dr. West’s use of innovative methodologies is exemplified by her current work as PI on a NIDA K01 Career Development Award (K01DA041233). This project examines the intersection of venue-based risk and networks for substance-using women in Tijuana, Mexico. In this study, she combines information on the social and built environment of venues (e.g., type, policies, safety) where sex and drug use occur, with data on venue network affiliations (i.e., individuals’ network connections to multiple venues), to elucidate the sociostructural drivers of substance use, exposure to community violence and HIV/STI transmission. The integration of place-based and network methods, both of which have wide applicability for addressing health disparities in urban settings, will inform the development of targeted high impact interventions that reshape environments to create safer spaces.
Dr. West has also conducted research on risk environments for injection drug using Malaysian fishermen, changes over time in the HIV epidemic among injection drug users in 96 of the largest US cities, and the social determinants of substance use and HIV with female sex workers in India and migrant marketplace workers in Kazakhstan. Currently, West also collaborates with an international NGO to evaluate a provider-based family planning and abortion program in Kenya and South Africa, to evaluate a sexual health social media campaign in the US, and is developing a new project with the NGO to pilot a family planning commodities supply chain management app for private sector providers in Zambia.