(617) 355-3538
(617) 730-0267
One Autumn Street, Room 541
Boston, MA 012215

Elissa R. Weitzman, SCD, MSC -- Faculty

Assistant Professor


Dr. Weitzman is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston. She received her Masters and Doctorate from the Harvard School of Public Health, and completed a post-doctoral training fellowship in Medical Ethics in the Division of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. A social behavioral scientist and psychiatric epidemiologist, Weitzman’s research focuses on intersecting epidemics of pediatric-onset chronic disease, mental health and substance use problems. Weitzman is also pioneering “citizen science” approaches to population health research. In studies situated within pediatric biobanks, registries and cohort investigations, she is exploring how use of patient-centered approaches to collecting health information coupled with return of processed and contextualizing information to cohorts may drive ongoing research engagement and health protecting behaviors. Her work has been featured in scholarly journals, in advisory roles to NIH, CDC and other public health authorities, and in reports by CNN, US News and World Reports, Psychology Today, and other media channels.


The principal focus of my research is to improve the health of adolescents and young adults, including those who are affected by chronic illness and who are at risk for complications related to their use of alcohol and other substances and experience of psychosocial problems. My studies employ multiple methods, from qualitative and narrative investigation to large sample multilevel statistics and experimental evaluations. My projects include:

  • Screening youth with chronic medical conditions for alcohol and other substance use: This project involves validating an empirically derived brief screening tool for detecting alcohol use risk among youth with chronic medical conditions (with NIAAA support). With five clinical cohorts of youth ages 9-18 years, we are establishing the psychometric properties of the tool and the epidemiology of substance use behaviors in relation to chronic disease measures
  • Population patterns of substance use among youth with chronic medical conditions: Using a nationally representative dataset, we are quantifying patterns of substance use behavior among youth with a range of chronic medical conditions including in relation to their healthy peers, and establishing the prevalence, correlates and longitudinal patterns of substance use in relation to measures of disease onset, healthcare utilization and cost (with BCH support)
  • Chronic Illness in College: Establishing national patterns of the capacity of college health centers to identify and care for college students with chronic medical conditions; and, characterizing the health outcome clinical implications of youth transition readiness and clinical support services for youth entering college with chronic medical conditions (with NIH and BCH support)
  • Social Networks and Health: Evaluating using a rigorous multi-site observational approach the quality and safety of online chronic illness-focused social networking communities for youth and young adults (with NIH support)
  • Participatory Research Approaches to  Comparative Effectiveness Research, Disease Discovery/Prevention: In two separate investigations, we are testing acceptability, utility and impacts on research engagement of enabling (a) participants in a national clinical pediatric disease registry to enter validated patient reported outcomes to the registry and to view aggregate data about disease symptoms and treatment derived from the registry (with NLM support), and by (b) enabling participants to set preferences for return of genomic research results in the context of pediatric biobank participation (with BCH and NHGRI support)
  • Health Information Technology for Health Care Transitions (HIT4HTC): Testing the model of using patient-facing health information technologies to support vulnerable chronically ill youth as they move across care settings, with a focus on improving quality, timeliness and comprehensiveness of health information available to guide self-care and clinical care decisions (with NIH and BCH support)
  • Building clinician capacity to address substance use among adolescents: Working in four advanced training sites for biomedical education, we are training faculty and students in state-of-the-art approaches to screening, brief negotiated intervention and referral to treatment and investigating structural barriers to sustainable institutionalization of these practices within healthcare settings (with SAMHSA support)

Clinical Interests

  • Substance use behaviors and mental health risk among youth with chronic medical conditions
  • Comprehensive care models for chronically ill youth
  • Health care transitions
  • "Citizen science" and participatory research
  • Social media surveillance of health behaviors


  • Children’s Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Children’s Hospital Boston
  • Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston
  • Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School