Christine A. Bachrach, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology
Maryland Population Center
University of Maryland
College Park, MD
Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science (IAPHS)
Dr. Bachrach received her B.A. in Social Relations from Harvard College in 1972, her M.A. in Sociology and Demography from Georgetown in 1974, and her Ph.D. in Population Dynamics from Johns Hopkins in 1979. Dr. Bachrach is perhaps best known for her long and distinguished career in the federal government. From graduate school she went to work at the National Center for Health Statistics as a statistician/demographer from 1979 to 1988. She then joined the Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch (DBSB) of the Center for Population Research at the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at NIH as statistician/demographer in 1988 and became Chief of the Branch four years later in 1992. In 2008 she was tapped by the NIH Director to become the Acting Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at NIH, a role she assumed for two years, ending an outstanding and impactful career in government service in 2010. Since 2010 she held a Visiting Professor position at Duke University and the University of North Carolina in addition to the current position at the University of Maryland, co-directed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health and Society Scholars Program, and helped to found the professional organization IAPHS, for which she currently serves as Executive Director.
Dr. Bachrach is particularly well-known for her leadership at NIH and for her strong, invaluable support for demographic research at NICHD. For 16 years Dr. Bachrach oversaw support for research, training, and infrastructure related to population sciences in such areas as fertility and family planning, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, family and household demography, mortality and health, and population composition, change and movement. During her time at DBSB, she expanded funding for the population sciences from $31 million to $117 million and she led NIH-wide efforts to promote the integration of the social sciences into NIH funded research on health and health disparities. One of the first projects for which Dr. Bachrach assumed NIH leadership was Add Health, the same year she became DBSB Chief in 1992. At the time, Add Health was a budding program project on the role of social context for adolescent health and health behavior. Dr. Bachrach worked with Add Health investigators to promote the scientific opportunities in Add Health within NIH so that it became a trans-NIH project with high visibility and cofunding support from 23 other NIH institutes and agencies. Dr. Bachrach’s scientific acumen solidified Add Health’s reputation at NIH and within the field such that it continues today as the former adolescents are now in their 30s. Dr. Bachrach also played an instrumental role in the NICHD Family Change Project, collaborating with Family Change investigators to develop a new signature theory in the 2011 award-winning book, Understanding Family Change and Variation.
Dr. Bachrach has been a forceful advocate for demographic and behavioral research within NICHD, NIH, and throughout the government. She served on many influential committees at NIH, including committees on data sharing, minority health, and she worked with Center for Scientific Review for a major reorganization of the peer review process for behavioral and social sciences at NIH. She was instrumental in obtaining support for hundreds of research projects and dozens of new data set initiatives. She dedicated her time in support of junior researchers, mentoring their research ideas and connecting them within her vast network of population scholars. She has been a champion for the significance of population research findings for U.S. policy and fought tirelessly to keep population issues on the national political agenda. Her leadership at the Office of the Behavioral and Social Sciences helped to elevate the status and respect for the social sciences within NIH.
Dr. Bachrach is an excellent population researcher with numerous scholarly contributions beyond her scientific achievements through her NIH leadership. Not many scholars put in a full career with the government in multiple leadership roles and keep an active research agenda going. From the early seeds she planted while working at NCHS, she published every year while working in the government on fertility, family formation, marriage and divorce, adoption, sexual behavior, contraceptive practice, and survey design. She has over 30 publications in professional and academic journals and chapters in about a dozen books. Dr. Bachrach was active in organizing conferences on substantive research trends, and bringing researchers together to discuss new ideas that she recognized as important. Dr. Bachrach’s intellectual leadership in both her published research and within the demography community gave her the scientific vision that was so impactful at NIH.
Dr. Bachrach has also been an outstanding lifelong contributor to the PAA, serving as its President, Vice-President, on the Board of Directors, and on almost all important committees (Nominations, Membership, Population Statistics), beginning in 1997 and having served until just recently on the Government and Public Affairs Committee. Her strong leadership skills, already evidence at NIH, carried through to the benefit of PAA while she was President, guiding the Association through a challenging organizational and financial period with vision and insight. In 2009, Dr. Bachrach received the Robert J. Lapham Award from the PAA in recognition of contributions that blend research with the application of demographic knowledge to policy issues, a fitting honor for her lifelong career accomplishments.
We are pleased that we have had the opportunity to honor this distinguished population scholar and leader in the field.