Director, Ellen L. Idler, PhD

Ellen L. Idler, PhDEllen 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 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 volume entitled Religion as a Social Determinant of Public Health (Oxford University Press, 2014). She has published two additional books and over 70 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 frequently cited, 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 nearly 7000 citations on Google Scholar.

Dr. Idler teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the sociology of health and illness, graduate seminars in religion and public health and the epidemiology of aging, and a summer study abroad program in comparative health systems. She is a faculty member for the Religion 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 Templeton Foundation’s Transforming Chaplaincy Project at Rush University, and Emory’s Senior Mentor Program, a joint project of Emory’s Schools of Medicine and Nursing, Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy Programs.  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); Practices, People, Partnerships, and Politics: Religion as a Social Determinant of Public Health (2014); and Religion and Public Health Partnerships in the Ebola Crisis (2017).

Dr. Idler is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America.  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, and the Rutgers University Press.