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John Ecknerode retires

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portrait of John Eckenrode

John Eckenrode

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Professor John Eckenrode, a social psychologist and founding director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), is retiring this spring after more than 35 years at Cornell.

Eckenrode made substantial contributions to the university throughout his entire tenure at Cornell.

In 1988, he was responsible for securing federal funding to establish the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect at Cornell and acted as its director for 30 years before stepping down as director recently. This resource makes data from many sources across the country available to researchers in order to better understand and address the problem of child abuse and maltreatment.

In 2011, Eckenrode helped to merge two separate centers – the Family Life Development Center and the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center – to create the BCTR. This combined center advanced the practice of translational research in the social sciences and helped the College of Human Ecology become a leader in using data and evidence to inform policy and practice in the real world.

“It’s virtually impossible to quantify just how much John has meant to the university, the college and the BCTR,” said Christopher Wildeman, the current director of the BCTR. “He has made fundamental contributions to the child welfare field and been the organizational glue for translational research at Cornell. More than that, however, he has also been the calm guiding force who has touched the lives of so many of us here and beyond.”

Eckenrode’s research focused on the prevention of child abuse and neglect by investigating the broad range of factors that affect vulnerable families. One of his most-known research efforts relates to his collaboration with Dr. David Olds on the evaluation of Nurse Family Partnership, a program that provides specially-trained nurses to visit disadvantaged mothers during their pregnancy and first two years of their child’s life.

In 2018, Eckenrode and his colleagues won the Outstanding Article Award from the journal Child Maltreatment for a publication that found the program prevents child maltreatment by helping mothers plan future pregnancies and become financially self-sufficient.

One of Eckenrode’s earlier studies on the program, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed mothers and children for 15 years after they participated in the Nurse Family Partnership. The study found mothers who participated in the program were less likely to abuse or neglect their children, rely on public assistance, abuse drugs and alcohol and get arrested.

The BCTR recognized Eckenrode this year at the annual John Doris Memorial Lecture in April.

“I am delighted that we were able to recognize John Eckenrode on the occasion of his retirement from Cornell and express our appreciation for his many contributions to scholarship, as well as the impact he has had on our lives,” said Jane Powers, a senior extension associate at the BCTR. “As the founder and first director of the BCTR, John has left a significant mark – one that will impact future generations of scholars, students, practitioners and policy makers who will continue to improve the lives of vulnerable children, youth and families in New York State and beyond.”

Eckenrode received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Tufts University and doctorate degree in social psychology, also from Tufts.

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Elaine Wethington retires


portrait of Elaine Wethington

Elaine Wethington

by Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Professor Elaine Wethington, a medical sociologist who made meaningful contributions to translational research at Cornell, retired in December after more than 30 years at Cornell University.

Wethington was a professor of human development, sociology and gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and an associate director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. She also served as a co-director and pilot core director of Cornell’s Edward R. Roybal Center, the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life (TRIPLL).

Wethington’s research focused on social relationships and isolation among older adults and the role of stressful life events in affecting mental and physical health across the life course. She also conducted ground-breaking research on developing measures of stressor exposure throughout her career.

“Elaine Wethington has been deeply engaged in the Bronfenbrenner Center since its inception, and her contributions range from garnering large grants, to mentoring countless students, to building bridges between Cornell’s Ithaca Campus and our Medical School in Manhattan,” said Karl Pillemer, professor of human development and gerontology and senior associate dean for research and outreach in the College of Human Ecology. “In addition, she has made major scientific contributions in a number of areas, including discovering better ways of linking research to solve problems in real-world settings. There are not many of us who deserve the term ‘irreplaceable,’ but Elaine is one of them.”

Wethington was known particularly for her interdisciplinary work. Over the course of her career, she held a variety of leadership and research positions at the College of Human Ecology and centers across Cornell. She is the author or co-author of four books. The most recent, Research for the Public Good: Applying the Methods of Translational Research to Improve Human Health and Well Being, demonstrates how social and behavioral scientists can use translational research methods to inform public policy and practice.

“I have had the fortune to work with Elaine for the past 15 years, and I would describe her as a masterful mentor and collaborator,” said Dr. Cary Reid, a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of TRIPLL. “She provides supportive feedback in a timely way. She is a team player in the truest sense of the word. She has exceptional abilities to see connections across disciplines, thereby enhancing the breadth of the work.”

BCTR Director Christopher Wildeman said Wethington’s personal qualities and dedication to her work helped advance the field of translational research.

“Elaine in many ways exemplifies what we hope the BCTR is and will continue be – smart, tough, fair and engaged in the weeds of the world in order to improve both the world and academic research,” he said. “Although we wish her well, losing her is absolutely devastating for us. She is, simply put, someone who cannot be replaced.”

Wethington joined Cornell in 1987 as assistant professor of human development. Over the course of her tenure at the university, she has served as acting director and co-director of the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, co-director of the Cornell Gerontology Research Institute, associate director and acting director of the BCTR and co-director of the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life. She served on the Cornell Institutional Review Board for Human Participant Research from 1995 until her retirement, chairing the committee from 2000 to 2006. She has also been the recipient of numerous teaching and advising awards at the university.

“I am very grateful for the support of my colleagues in Human Development, Sociology, and Weill Cornell Medicine,” she said. “I also drew inspiration from the students of Cornell University. Their enthusiasm for the work that I and other researchers on the sociology of health and aging has been a constant source of inspiration for me since I began teaching here.”

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Doing Translational Research podcast: Maria Fitzpatrick, Sunday, September 15, 2019

portrait of Maria Fitzpatrick View Media

Doing Translational Research podcast: Maria Fitzpatrick

The Well Being of Children and Older Adults
March 6, 2018

Maria Fitzpatrick
Cornell University


The Well Being of Children and Older Adults
March 6, 2018

Maria Fitzpatrick
Cornell University

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Boomers pioneer new retirement housing trends


Elaine WethingtonA recent article on Yahoo! Finance reports that, according to the National Association of Home Builders, almost one fourth of remodelers surveyed last year were doing work so that boomers could age in place. The BCTR's Elaine Wethington, co-director of the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life, was quoted in the article,

For many, the desire to age in place stems from the difficulty boomers have had in caring for their own elderly parents who lived far away. Such long-distance relationships have left many adult children feeling “stressed and powerless,” says Elaine Wethington, a sociology professor who directs the Translational Research on Aging Center at Cornell University. By remaining close to their own kids, boomers are hoping to make things easier as they age.

Boomers pioneer new retirement housing trends - Yahoo! Finance

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