Ehrenthal named director of Social Science Research Institute

June 23, 2021

Dr. Deborah Ehrenthal has been named the new director of the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), effective Sept. 1. Dr. Ehrenthal succeeds Susan McHale, who is returning to her full-time faculty position after 14 years as director.

“We would like to thank Dr. McHale for her guidance over the years,” said Senior Vice President for Research Lora Weiss. “Susan’s dedication to bring together and support researchers across the University has positioned SSRI to boldly tackle interdisciplinary social sciences research challenges.”

Dr. Ehrenthal will be responsible for developing and nurturing collaborative research opportunities in the social sciences across the University. “We are excited to have Deb joining us,” said Weiss. “Her research and leadership expertise are an excellent match to support Penn State’s dedication to advancing social and behavioral sciences innovation and research impact.” 

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the Social Science Research Institute.” Dr. Ehrenthal said. “The University’s focus on interdisciplinary research creates a rich research and training environment that supports Penn State’s commitment to impact. SSRI has been instrumental in expanding interdisciplinary research across the University and leading signature initiatives. I look forward to working with Penn State’s incredible faculty and staff to continue to build on that momentum.” 

Dr. Ehrenthal is a professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research is focused on the social and health care factors that shape the health of women and children during the course of life. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other state and federal agencies.

Tom Gould, head of biobehavioral health said, “The department is thrilled to have Dr. Ehrenthal join as its newest faculty member and Penn State as the new director of the Social Science Research Institute.  Dr. Ehrenthal’s leadership in population public health research and expertise in health disparities and the developmental origins of adult disease greatly aligns with the research and educational mission of the Department and brings further strength to the department and Penn State in these domains.  We look forward to working with her both as a colleague in Biobehavioral Health and as the director of the Social Science Research Institute.”

She currently holds appointments in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is principal investigator of the Health Disparities Research Scholars Postdoctoral Training Program, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and founding director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Prevention Research Center, funded by the CDC. The goal of this new center is to improve the health of low-income women, infants, and families by conducting health promotion and disease prevention research focused on maternal, infant and child health.

Dr. Ehrenthal received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Wesleyan University and medical degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She completed her internship and residency training in internal medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital and received a master of public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

Last Updated June 23, 2021