Ester Villalonga Olives, PhD, MsC, is an associate professor in the Department of Practice, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research (P-SHOR) at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy

About Dr. Villalonga Olives:

Dr. Villalonga-Olives, associate professor, is a tenured social epidemiologist who holds a PhD in Biomedicine with specialties in Epidemiology and Public Health. She completed her BsC in Sociology and MsC in Sociology and Health at the University of Barcelona in Spain, including a long international stay at the Università degli Study di Trieste in Italy. She received her PhD with International Doctor Distinction from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and completed stays at the London School of Economics in the UK and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany. During her PhD studies, she performed on-site public health interventions serving non-governmental organizations in India and Cuba.

Dr. Villalonga-Olives held adjunct appointments at New York University and a joint appointment at the School of Medicine, University of Maryland Baltimore. She has also served as a teaching and research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and has been a guest lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health and at University of Tarapacá (Chile). She is a member of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center and of the International Expert Group on Operationalizing Social Capital Interventions in Forced Displacement Situations lead by the United Nations. She was part of the first cohort of the Early Investigators Advancement Program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was awarded a GLOBALtimore teaching fellowship by the University of Maryland Baltimore Center for Global Engagement, served as an elected member of the board of the International Epidemiology Association for 10 years, and received an award from the Spanish Society of Epidemiology to be trained at the European Epidemiology Program in Florence (Italy).


Research Interests:

Dr. Villalonga-Olives’ research interests are related to the study of social determinants of health, with an emphasis on social capital, health inequalities, structural racism and a focus on the design of health interventions. She has a background in psychometrics and has worked adapting and developing measurement instruments. Dr. Villalonga’s research program has recently secured over $4 million in extramural funding. Currently, she serves as the Principal Investigator for multiple awards, among them a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant aimed at creating an intersectional, multilevel, and multidimensional measure of structural racism. In this study, she leads a team comprising psychometricians and social epidemiologists, utilizing item response theory methods to develop this measure. Her work is also centered on implementing social capital interventions, and on the investigation of the relationship between social capital and health outcomes with a focus on underserved and vulnerable populations such as immigrants. In her other projects as a Principal Investigator funded by the Prevent Cancer Foundation and the Merck Investigator Studies Program, she is currently adapting cancer knowledge and health literacy instruments for Hispanics/Latinos living in the U.S., studying the presence of racial Differential Item Functioning in social indicators and implementing a social capital intervention to improve cancer screening rates of Hispanic/Latino immigrants in the Baltimore-Washington DC area. She is a co-investigator of two NIH R01. The first one evaluates the impact of individual- and neighborhood-level social connectedness on mental health in Black adults and is led by Dr. Ransome from Yale University. The second one is an R01 aimed at developing a measure for shared decision-making in maternity care through “Communicating CHOICes, CHildbirth Options, Information, and person-Centered Explanation,” led by Dr. Breman from the University of Maryland Baltimore.

She has used mixed methods, structural equation modeling, multilevel modeling and item response theory methods. Several articles published by Dr. Villalonga-Olives have received awards at international conferences. Her work has been published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, Social Science and Medicine, and the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, among others. She serves on the editorial board of the scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health as an associate editor. She has also served as a member of scientific and organizing committees at several international events.

Contact Information:

Ester Villalonga Olives, PhD, MsC
Associate Professor in the Department of Practice, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research
University of Maryland School of Pharmacy
220 Arch Street, 12th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-706-4930