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About the Researchers

Lee Ann Kaskutas, DrPH
Principal Investigator
Senior Scientist and Co-director of Training Grant, Alcohol Research Group
Associate Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health University of California Berkeley


Dr. Kaskutas has been trained in the field of public health, and is interested in non-professional solutions to alcohol and drug problems. She did her dissertation on a mutual aid group for women alcoholics, Women For Sobriety, and has since studied the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous and the role of social networks in how AA works. She has conducted pioneering research on helping behaviors in recovery, and how helping others during treatment can lead to better long-term outcomes. Guided by her findings on the importance of social influences in recovery, she developed and tested a 12-step facilitation intervention called MAAEZ (Making AA Easier), that focuses on helping clients to be more comfortable with the people they will encounter in 12-step fellowships. The MAAEZ manual is available now and is an evidence-based treatment. Dr. Kaskutas received the R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Award at the ASAM Medical Scientific Conference in 2007 and the prestigious Research Society on Alcoholism’s Young Investigator Award in 1998, and received the 2012 Director’s Award for Innovative Research from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

Thomasina J. Borkman, PhD
Associate Scientist, Alcohol Research Group
Professor Emerita of Sociology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Dr. Borkman is internationally recognized for her research on self-help organizations, such as groups for people who stutter and Alcoholics Anonymous. She has also conducted cross-cultural research on peer-run mental health self-help organizations in England, Sweden, and the U.S. In her 32 years teaching at George Mason University, she specialized in the sociology of health and illness, organizational analysis and qualitative research. She is especially well known for identifying a distinctive aspect of self-help groups-- experiential knowledge (knowledge based on personal lived experience) as the basis of their authority which is featured in her book Understanding Self-Help/Mutual Aid: Experiential Learning in the Commons. Throughout her career she has integrated disparate and interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives (including learning theory, philosophical and spiritual concepts, social support networks, volunteerism and third sector research). Dr. Borkman is the current Editor of the International Journal of Self Help & Self Care.

Alexandre B. Laudet, PhD
Director, Center for the Study of Addictions and Recovery National Drug Research Institute

Dr. Laudet is a nationally recognized expert in addiction recovery. Her federally-funded research in the past 15 years has focused on elucidating what helps people with drugs and/or alcohol problems quit drinking or getting high and stay in recovery. A social psychologist, her main goals are to build the science of recovery and to help translate findings into services and policy that create opportunities for long-term recovery and improved quality of life for people with substance problems. Dr. Laudet founded and directs the Center for the Study of Addictions and Recovery and provides training and consultancy to government and community-based agencies including the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), New York State’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Betty Ford Institute, the Partnership at, Faces and Voices of Recovery, and Phoenix Multisports. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for two scientific journals, Substance Use and Misuse and the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

Jane Witbrodt, PhD
Associate Scientist, Alcohol Research Group

Dr. Witbrodt has a psychology and public health background. She has had two main career paths. The first was in alcohol and drug treatment where she worked directly with adolescent and adult clients in residential programs and, as well, as the director of an outpatient program that provided a continuum of specialty services to individuals of all ages and with varying degrees of problem severity. Building on her experiential knowledge with persons in treatment, she then moved to alcohol and drug research. She has worked for more than 15 years on research projects related to helping people overcome problems related to their alcohol and drug use. These projects have been funded primarily through the National Institutes of Health. Her PhD thesis focused on help-seeking and studied treated and untreated problem and dependent drinkers from the US and Sweden. The main motivation was to understand better, “Who seeks help?” and “Who benefits?” She has published study findings in leading peer-reviewed journals.

Meenakshi Subbaraman, PhD
Associate Scientist, Alcohol Research Group

Dr. Subbaraman's background is in statistics and epidemiology. Her primary research interests include substance abuse recovery; methods for understanding causal processes; causal mechanisms of treatments for substance use disorders; harm reduction; and how drug/alcohol policy affects individual-level substance use. Dr. Subbaraman was involved in ARG’s Making AA Easier (MAAEZ) study, and published two papers regarding how MAAEZ works through enhancing social support and comfort with 12-step groups. She has been invited to speak at several conferences, including the Research Society on Alcoholism’s (RSA) 2011 meeting. She was also granted the Society for Epidemiologic Research’s first-ever award for “Methodological Advances from the Next Generation of Epidemiologists” in 2012 and received a Junior Investigator Award from RSA in 2013 and 2014.

Lois A. Ritter, EdD
Adjunct Faculty, California State University, East Bay

Dr. Ritter has substantial experience in public health, health informatics, evaluation, and online survey research. She has designed and implemented research and evaluation studies for statewide and national projects. Dr. Ritter has presented at numerous international, national, and regional conferences. She is the published author of Conducting Online Surveys, Community Mental Health, and Multicultural Health. In addition to her work at the Alcohol Research Group, she is faculty in the graduate health care administration program at California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) where she teach courses such as Informational Technology in Health Care, Health Care Policy Analysis, Organization Theory and Behavior Management in Health Care, Strategic Planning in Health Care, Health Care Financing and Budgeting, and Health Care Management. Previously, she taught community health and research courses in the undergraduate health sciences program at CSUEB.

Christine E. Grella, Ph.D
Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP), Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, and Associate Director of ISAP

Dr. Grella's research focuses on the intersection of multiple service delivery systems, including substance abuse treatment, mental health, child welfare, health services, HIV services, and criminal justice. She has published her work widely in the areas of addiction, mental health, health services, and evaluation research. Dr. Grella directs the NIDA-funded pre- and post-doctoral training program at ISAP and is a Co-Investigator and Director of the Research and Methods Support Core of the NIDA-funded Center for Advancing Longitudinal Drug Abuse Research (CALDAR).

Aina Stunz
Research Associate II, Alcohol Research Group

Aina Stunz has been a Research Associate at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford; her work there included compiling and editing a two-volume work Man and International Relations, and preparing and editing a special volume “Unconventional Warfare” of The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. Aina subsequently co-founded two Bay Area start-up technology companies, in which she served as the Chief Financial Officer (Micro-Datamation, sold in 1980) and the Chief Executive Officer (The Very Last Word, sold in 1997). She has extensive experience as an editor of sociology books and articles focused on mutual aid and experiential knowledge. From 1994-2002, Aina served on the Board of Directors of International House at UC Berkeley. Other volunteer work includes docent and newsletter publisher at the Museum of Modern Art (1986-1989), the Boards of the American Trauma Society – California Division, and other local organizations.

In addition to the above investigators, the study benefits from the advice and perspectives of seven consultants who are in leadership positions in research and clinical practice. Together, the study team represents over a hundred of years of recovery.

Contact us at:

Alcohol Research Group
6475 Christie Avenue, Suite 400
Emeryville, California 94608
(510) 597-3440