Associate Professor - Sociology
Co-Director Perinatal Health Research, Institute for Women's Health
College of Humanities and Sciences
Virginia Commonwealth University
Founders Hall, 827 West Franklin Street, Room 210
Richmond, VA 23284-2040

Phone: (804) 827-0523
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I am a medical sociologist whose research focuses on the life course and social determinants of health and health behaviors, and the ways that macro social factors affect individual-level health and well-being. Broadly, my research interests take a life course perspective in the areas of environmental gerontology, applied sociology, health /illness, and social psychology all within medical sociology, but my work spans various sub-disciplines, including behavioral health, health disparities, and social policy. I have a Ph.D. in Sociology from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and am currently an tenured Associate Professor of Sociology at VCU and co-Director of Perinatal Health Research at the VCU, School of Medicine, Institute for Women's Health. Prior to coming to VCU, I was a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Excellence Fellow at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. Among the courses that I teach are: Medical Sociology (undergraduate and graduate), Sociology of Aging and the Life Course (undergrad and grad), Sociology of Mental Disorder, and Senior Seminar. I also do active teaching and research annually in South Africa and in 2018 was named the VCU, College of Humanities and Sciences Distinguished Teacher. I am a Community Based Participatory Researcher (CBPR) and I mainly examine two distinct areas of the life course – maternal reproductive years (postpartum depression and breastfeeding) and older age (and the end-of-life). In both areas of my research, the projects on which I am working seek to illuminate the links between individual and environmental factors that affect health beliefs and behaviors.

Select publications:

2018 Alice Freeman, Susan Bodnar-Deren, RaShel Charles, Renatta Lewis, and Kay Hamlin. Collaboration to Develop Capacity for Neighborhood Based Breastfeeding Promotion and Reduce Breastfeeding Disparities. - Journal of Human Lactation.

2017 Susan Bodnar-Deren, Emma Benn, Amy Balbierez, and Elizabeth Howell. Stigma and postpartum depression treatment acceptability among black and white women in the first six-months postpartum. Maternal and Child Health. Accepted 1/2/2017 DOI 10.1007/s10995-017-2263-6 PMID: 28102504

2016 Susan Bodnar-Deren, Kimberly Klipstein, Eyal Shemesh, Madeline Fersh, and Elizabeth Howell. (2016). Suicidal ideation during the postpartum period. Journal of Women’s Health. PMID: 27227751 DOI: 10.1089/jwh.2015.5346

2016 Howard Leventhal, Susan Bodnar-Deren, Jessica Yu, and Elaine Leventhal. (2016) “Cognitive Mechanisms and Common Sense Management of Cancer Risk: Do Patients Make Decisions?” Handbook of Decision Sciences. M. Diefenbach Ed. Springer: New York. ISBN: 9781493934843

2016 Joann Hash-Converse, Susan Bodnar-Deren, Howard Leventhal. (2016). Chronic Illness with Complexity and Advance Care Planning. Omega, The Journal of Death and Dying. January 2016. 1:1-22. DOI:10.1177/0030222816675250.

2015 Amy Balbierez, Susan Bodnar-Deren, Elizabeth Howell. Postpartum Depression and Its Association with Parental Practices. Journal of Maternal and Child Health. 19:1212-1219. DOI 10.1007/s10995-014-1625-6.

2014 Elizabeth Howell, Susan Bodnar-Deren, Amy Balbierez, Pablo Mora, and Howard Leventhal. An Intervention to Reduce Postpartum Depressive Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Trial Archives of Women’s Mental Health. 17:57-63. DOI 10.1007/s00737-013-0381-8. PMCID: PMC3947932.

2013 Elizabeth Howell, Susan Bodnar-Deren, Amy Balbierez, and Michael Paridus. An Intervention to Extend Breastfeeding among Black and Latina Postpartum Mothers. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Editor’s Choice October, 2013. 210(3) 239e1-239e5. DOI 10.1016/j.ajog.2013.11.028. PMCID: PMC3938878.

2012 Howard Leventhal, Susan Bodnar-Deren, Jessica Breland, Joanne Hash-Converse, L. Alison Philips, Elaine Leventhal, and Linda Cameron. Modeling Health and Illness Behavior: The Approach of the Common Sense Model (CSM). In A. Baum, T. Revenson, and J. Weinman (Eds.). Handbook of Health Psychology. New York: Erlbaum. Print ISBN: 9780805864618, DOI: 10.4324/9780203804100.ch1.

2008 Biren Saraiya, Susan Bodnar-Deren, Howard Leventhal, Elaine Leventhal. End of Life Planning: Is it Relative for Patients and Oncologists. Decisions in Choosing Cancer Therapy and Palliative Care. Cancer. December 15; 113(12 Suppl): 3540–3547. doi:10.1002/cncr.23946