Heidi Moseson honored with first Vittinghoff Innovation Award

Heidi Moseson and Eric Vittinghoff

Heidi Moseson, a fourth year PhD candidate in Epidemiology and Translational Science, received the first Vittinghoff Innovation Award for her work on a novel method for measuring stigmatized health behaviors.

The award recognizes epidemiologic, clinical, or translational health research by trainees in any of programs in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (DEB). The prize recognizes:

  • The development or application of new research methods or the adoption of existing research methods to a new application in a new area
  • Innovative or high-impact applications of novel methods to strengthen research findings.

Moseson was first author on the paper, “Reducing underreporting of stigmatized health events using the List Experiment: results from a randomized, population-based study of abortion in Liberia,” which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in September 2015.

The paper details results of a pilot study in Liberia in which a new method, the List Experiment, was used to evaluate the percent of women who have ever received an abortion.  In Liberia, abortion is illegal and highly stigmatized, so typical measures of abortion are thought to severely underestimate how common it is.  In their pilot study, Moseson and colleagues showed that the frequency of abortion estimated with the List Experiment was much higher than previously thought.

The List Experiment is a simple new method for more accurately measuring various stigmatized health events (exposures or outcomes). Epidemiology has long struggled with how to handle misreporting of health exposures and outcomes, particularly when those events are highly stigmatized. “This paper provides evidence that the list experiment is a promising tool to do just that,” Moseson wrote in her application for the award. “We hope that this research will improve our collective ability as public health researchers to study and respond to sensitive and stigmatized health needs worldwide.”

The Vittinghoff Innovation Award is named for Eric Vittinghoff, MPH, PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics since 1998, in recognition of his vast contributions to the University of California, San Francisco in teaching, mentoring and especially research. 

In more than 400 peer-reviewed publications, Vittinghoff has contributed to fundamental discoveries in HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, women’s health, andmusculoskeletal disease. “Ever in demand by collaborators, Eric has brought the utmost rigor in statistical and research methods to these projects, while being generous with his time in working with trainees,” said Department Chair Robert A. Hiatt, MD, PhD.

At the award ceremony, Charles McCulloch, PhD, head of the biostatistics division, delivered comments on Vittinghoff’s long history of mentoring and teaching as part of the department’s commitment to rigorous research training in quantitative methods. Hiatt and Jeffrey Martin, MD, MPH, director of the Training in Clinical Research program, presented Moseson a plaque and a $500 prize.