Research Team

Dr. Bridget Freisthler, Principal Investigator UCLA Department of Social Welfare and California Center for Population Research

Dr. Freisthler is an expert in the application of population-based geospatial research methods to the exploration of relationships between drug distribution systems, alcohol and drug abuse, and child abuse and neglect. She has extensive experience studying how changes in alcohol outlet densities affect various social problems, including child maltreatment, violence, and juvenile delinquency. The MMD project extends her expertise in understanding the effects of the substance use environment to the distribution of marijuana through dispensaries. Her expertise includes the development of geographic information systems (GIS), and applications of spatial statistics and spatial econometrics to (1) understanding how social problems vary across geographic areas, such as neighborhoods, (2) identifying those areas in a community which are at risk for developing or already experiencing high levels of social problems related to specific social and environmental exposures, and (3) examining how locations of social service facilities may ameliorate the growth of problems in neighborhood areas. She is applying her expertise in these areas in the current project to aid in the assessments of the impacts of marijuana dispensaries upon neighborhood conditions.

Dr. Paul J. Gruenewald, Co-Investigator Prevention Research Center

Dr. Gruenewald has more than two decades of experience (1) conducting population studies of drinking, drug use, and problems associated with alcohol outlets and related policies, (2) fielding surveys and analyzing survey data from studies of risks associated with multiple contexts, (3) formulating theoretical models of community systems and their relationships to alcohol and drug problems, (4) advancing methods for spatial and multilevel statistical analyses of ecological and survey data, and (5) directing, as PI, an NIAAA P60 Research Center grant examining ecological correlates of drinking risks across 50 communities in California. On the MMD project, Dr. Gruenewald assists in the management of all survey activities with Dr. Freisthler, guides development of project geographic information systems and spatial descriptive analyses, and assists in the production of presentations, manuscripts and reports from the project.

Crystal Thomas, Graduate Student Researcher California Center for Population Research

Crystal Thomas received her BA in International Development Studies from UCLA in 2007 and she received her MSW from UCLA in 2011. As an undergraduate student, Crystal worked at the UCLA Sloan Research Center on Everyday Lives of Families where she assisted in research on working middle-class family life. Post-graduation, she re-located to New York City where she worked in the Mayor’s Office under the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services first as a New York Urban Fellow and, subsequently, as Special Assistant to the Deputy Mayor. Her current research interests involve examination of the environments in which at-risk youth succeed academically.

Alexis Cooke, Graduate Student Researcher California Center for Population Research 

Alexis Cooke is a doctoral student in the Fielding School of Public Health. She received her BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill and she received her MPH from the University of California, Berkeley. Alexis' research interests are related to health inequities in urban populations. Her research and professional interests revolve around understanding the interplay between residential/social environments, and municipal policies/decisions in shaping health. Alexis' work is focused on understanding urban environments as dynamic systems that influence social differences in health and identifying ways communities and decision makers can impact this process.

Alex Creek, Student Researcher 

Alex Creek is the Webmaster and a Research Assistant for the UCLA Spatial Analysis Lab and UCLA Medical Marijuana Research Project. Mr. Creek is in the Honors Science and Math programs at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, CA. He plans to pursue a degree in a STEM field.