Director – Ellen L. Idler, PhD

Ellen L. Idler is Director of the Religion and Public Health Collaborative, Samuel Candler Dobbs Chair of Sociology in Emory College, joint faculty in the Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, and a Senior Fellow at the Emory Center for Ethics. Dr. Idler came to Emory from Rutgers University, where she taught in the Department of Sociology and the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research.  A native of Pennsylvania, Dr. Idler received her BA in sociology from the College of Wooster. She studied for a year at Union Theological Seminary in New York on a Rockefeller Brothers Fellowship. She received her PhD from Yale University in 1985 with training in both public health and sociology. Her interdisciplinary training in sociology, religion, and public health strengthens the cross-discipline bridging relationships that characterize Emory’s Strategic Initiatives.  Dr. Idler’s vision for the RPHC encompasses research, teaching, and service to the community.

Dr. Idler is known for her research on religion as a social determinant of health, health perceptions, disability, and quality of life, particularly in aging populations.  Her current research interests and projects include the role of religion in adult mortality as compared to other social determinants of health; religion’s role in end of life decisions; the role of chaplains in palliative care; the impact of marital status on mortality following cardiac surgery; trends in suicide rates among middle-aged and older Americans; a comparison of patient and physician global ratings of health in primary care; patterns of religious practice in old age; and — with her Emory colleagues — an interdisciplinary investigation of religion as a social determinant of public health.  She has published two books and over 60 papers and chapters – research that has been supported by funding from the National Institute on Aging including a FIRST Award, the Fetzer Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Templeton Foundation.  Her work is widely recognized, and she is listed as a Highly Cited Scholar by the Web of Science.  Her 1997 article on self-rated health and mortality was listed as the third most frequently-cited paper of the decade by the Institute for Scientific Information; this paper currently has 6,399 citations on Google Scholar.

Dr. Idler teaches undergraduate courses in social gerontology, undergraduate and graduate courses in the sociology of health and illness, and graduate seminars in religion and public health and the epidemiology of aging.  Her goal is to make interdisciplinary religion and health opportunities available to undergraduate students, as well as graduate students, particularly by strengthening local and global fieldwork experiences.  She is a member of the Faith and Health Certificate Program open to students at both the Candler School of Theology and the Rollins School of Public Health, as well as the dual degree MDiv/MPH and MTS/MPH programs at Candler and Rollins.

Dr. Idler is an Advisory Board Member for the International Religious Health Assets Programme, University of Cape Town, South Africa; a member of the 2020 Health-Related Quality of Life & Well-Being (HRQoL/WB) Workgroup for the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; an External Advisory Board Member for the Morehouse College Building Research Infrastructure and Capacity Building (BRIC) grant; and a team leader for the Atlanta Regional Geriatric Education Center, a joint project of Emory’s Schools of Medicine and Nursing and the Physician Assistant Program, Georgia State’s Schools of Nursing and Social Work, and the Morehouse School of Medicine.  At Emory she has organized conferences on Beliefs and Barriers: Religion and Decision-making for the End of Life (2010); Religion, Social Capital, and Community Health in Changing Neighborhoods in Atlanta: A Conversation with John Wallace (2011); and, with the Center for Ethics, a lecture series on Public Health, Religion, and Ethics that has included President Jimmy Carter (2012) and CARE CEO Helene Gayle as its first speakers (2013).

Dr. Idler is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, and chair-elect of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Aging and the Life Course.  She has served on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Sociology, the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the Journal of Aging and Health, Sociological Forum, Kakovostna Starost, the Slovenian Journal of Gerontology, and the Rutgers University Press.