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Sara Abelson, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor, Urban Health and Population Science
Senior Director, The Hope Center for Student Basic Needs

Sara Abelson
Contact Information

Contact Information



About Me

Research Interests

  • Adolescent and young adult mental health
  • Health equity
  • Social determinants of health
  • Structural and systemic drivers of health inequities and structural and policy interventions for advancing health equity
  • School settings as
    • 1) influencers of youth and young adult health and health equity and
    • 2) opportunities for intervening to promote health, health equity, and wellbeing
  • Psychological interventions for improving mental health and student success
  • Bridging research, policy, and practice in higher education to reduce inequities

Dr. Sara Abelson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban Health and Population Science at Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine and a Senior Director at The Hope Center for Student Basic Needs. She conducts applied research and leads education and training services focused on advancing upstream and structural approaches to enhance student success, mental health equity, and basic needs security in higher education. Current projects include efforts to 1) increase understanding and adoption of evidence-based interventions for improving student mental health and reducing basic needs insecurity, 2) document and serve the student mental health efforts and needs of community colleges and 3) help states and colleges strengthen and integrate their basic needs and mental health resources to enhance educational attainment.

An American Association of Colleges & Universities Cross Awardee and American College Health Association Barbato Award recipient, Dr. Abelson’s research and programmatic contributions have been featured in The New York Times, NBC Nightly News, NPR, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. Her chapter “Mental Health in College Populations: A Multidisciplinary Review of What Works, Evidence Gaps, and Paths Forward” was recognized with the 2022 Weiss Writing Prize as “the year’s pivotal publication in college mental health.” She has consulted and collaborated with the American Council on Education, Center for Community College Student Engagement, Association of Public & Land-grant Universities, Association of College and University Educators, National Center for Institutional Diversity, Steve Fund, and hundreds of colleges and universities to advance wholistic, equitable supports for student wellbeing.

Prior to The Hope Center, Dr. Abelson served as a Co-Investigator and Lead for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Projects with the Healthy Minds Network and as Vice President of the national nonprofit, Active Minds (2008-2016). She received her Ph.D. and MPH from the University of Michigan and her BA from Cornell University.

Education, Training & Credentials

Educational Background

  • PhD, School of Public Health University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • MPH, School of Public Health University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI


  • Association of American Colleges & Universities, Future Leaders Society
  • American Public Health Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • American College Health Association
  • Consortium of Higher Education LGBTQ Resource Professionals
  • American Educational Research Association
  • Association for the Study of Higher Education

Honors & Awards

  • K. Patricia Cross Future Leader Award, American Association of Colleges & Universities
  • Angus Campbell Scholar Award, Institute for Social Research
  • Best Paper in Child Health Policy, Child Health Evaluation & Research Center
  • Lewis Barbato Award, American College Health Association
  • Susan Lipschhutz Award, University of Michigan
  • George Orley Mental Health Advocate Award
  • Quantitative Methods of Social Research Training Award, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
  • Margaret Dow Towsley Scholar Award, Center for the Education of Women+
  • Cornell University David Moriah Leadership Award

Digital Bibliography

View Digital Bibliography