Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
As a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist, Dr. Christy Denckla studies social determinants of health in the context of exposure to adversity and trauma, with a particular focus on bereavement. She works in national and international cohorts including the UK, Holland, Nepal, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda. Her research program focuses on explaining why some people experience psychopathology after bereavement or trauma, while others appear resistant to psychiatric burden. Her research concentrates on candidate mechanisms including neurocognition and gene-environment interplay, with the goal of identifying strategies that promote well-being across the life course. A second aim of her research program is to document the consequences of exposure to adversity, trauma and bereavement in global populations. Dr. Denckla’s work suggests that individual differences alongside complex biopsychosocial pathways impact adaptative processes following exposure to adversity. Her future work aims to identify the pathogenic and protective mechanisms implicated in post-loss psychopathology and use these findings to inform population-level intervention targets that prevent the development of downstream adverse health outcomes. A related emerging area of focus for Dr. Denckla is on the mental health consequences of trauma and climate change, where she led a Radcliffe Exploratory Seminar focused on this topic in 2020.
Dr. Denckla earned a BSc in geography from McGill University, an MA in geography from the University of Saskatchewan, an MA in counseling from Southwestern University, and a PhD in clinical psychology from the Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology at Adelphi University. She is a member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Member of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Dr. Denckla first came to the Harvard Chan School as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and, in 2019, received a 5-year K23 early career award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).