Prather appointed director of the UCSF Center for Health and Community


New Center for Health and Community (CHC) Director Aric A. Prather, PhD, joined the faculty at UCSF in 2012 and has served as part of the CHC leadership team since 2014.

The UC San Francisco Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences has appointed accomplished clinician-researcher Aric A. Prather, PhD, as the new director of the Center for Health and Community (CHC), a local, regional, and national hub for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers committed to understanding and improving the social, psychological, and behavioral processes that drive health and health equity.

Prather, a professor and member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, has been serving as interim director of the center since the 2022 retirement of CHC founder Nancy Adler, PhD. He received his doctoral degree in clinical and biological health psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and has been a UCSF faculty member since 2012. Prather was named an associate director of the CHC in 2014 and currently also serves as the director of the UCSF Behavioral Sleep Medicine Research Program and co-director (with colleague Elissa Epel, PhD) of the UCSF Aging, Metabolism, and Emotion Center.

His research focuses on the impact of poor sleep on physical health and emotional well-being. Prather measures sleep habits to determine which study participants are vulnerable to sleep-related health problems and which are resilient, with the goal of developing new treatments. His work has been central to studies that have documented the effect of sleep and sleep deprivation on the human immune system, the prevalence of preterm births, and the potency of vaccines.

Prather is also a practicing psychologist who treats insomnia with individual cognitive behavioral therapy, including behavioral therapy designed to help patients adjust to using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) equipment. He recently published his first book, The Sleep Prescription: 7 Days to Unlocking Your Best Rest, which highlights many of the solutions he uses to help patients achieve restorative sleep.

He is a member of the Sleep Research Society, American Psychological Association (APA), American Psychosomatic Society (APS), and Society for Affective Science. Prather has received numerous honors and awards in recognition of his work, including the APS Herbert Weiner Early Career Award, the National Academy of Medicine’s Healthy Longevity Catalyst Award, the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society’s Robert Ader New Investigator Award, and the APA Society for Health Psychology’s Excellence in Health Psychology Research by an Early Career Professional Award.

“I can think of no one better equipped to continue and build upon Nancy Adler’s remarkable legacy,” said Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences chair and Oberndorf Family Distinguished Professor Matthew W. State, MD, PhD. “Aric has been an integral part of the CHC over the past decade and I am excited that he will continue to play a central role in furthering its important mission of advancing our understanding of and addressing the social determinants of health and health disparities.”

CHC committed to understanding and addressing health disparities

The Center for Health and Community was founded in 1998 by pioneering social scientist Nancy Adler, PhD, as an independent UCSF research unit. After working in close partnership with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences for a quarter of a century, the CHC became an official part of the department earlier this year.

Since its inception, the CHC has secured impactful cross-disciplinary research and multicenter grants while supporting and linking faculty across UCSF’s four professional schools — Dental, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy — whose work addresses a wide range of determinants of health. It also hosts a number of unique research programs focusing on key areas of interest, including the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotion (AME) Center; Consortium for Obesity Assessment, Study, and Treatment (COAST); Social Interventions Research and Evaluation Network (SIREN); Stress, Eating, and Early Development (SEED) Study; and the national program office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Evidence for Action Program.

The CHC and its members also play important roles in training the next generation of clinicians and researchers to recognize and address social, behavioral, and policy determinants of health. It has been instrumental in the UCSF School of Medicine’s development of innovative curricula for pre-clinical and clinical physician trainees that promote their understanding of the contributions of non-biological factors to health, disease, and recovery and prepares them to work in a complex socio-political professional environment that crosses traditional boundaries. CHC faculty have also been key contributors to the UCSF Health Psychology Fellowship Program, an NIHM-funded T32 postdoctoral training program dedicated to fostering young scientists seeking to conduct interdisciplinary research at the intersection of psychology and medicine.

About UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute are among the nation's foremost resources in the fields of child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric mental health. Together they constitute one of the largest departments in the UCSF School of Medicine and the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, focused on delivering world-class patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, teaching the next generation of behavioral health leaders, and fostering diversity, health equity, and community.

UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences conducts its clinical, educational, and research efforts at a variety of locations in Northern California, including the UCSF Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry BuildingUCSF Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital; UCSF Medical Centers at Parnassus Heights, Mission Bay, and Mount Zion; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland; Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; the San Francisco VA Health Care System; UCSF Fresno; and numerous community-based sites around the San Francisco Bay Area.

About the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

The UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, established by the extraordinary generosity of Joan and Sanford I. "Sandy" Weill, brings together world-class researchers with top-ranked physicians to solve some of the most complex challenges in the human brain.

The UCSF Weill Institute leverages UCSF’s unrivaled bench-to-bedside excellence in the neurosciences. It unites three UCSF departments—Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Neurology, and Neurological Surgery—that are highly esteemed for both patient care and research, as well as the Neuroscience Graduate Program, a cross-disciplinary alliance of nearly 100 UCSF faculty members from 15 basic-science departments, as well as the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, a multidisciplinary research center focused on finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

About UCSF

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF’s primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area.