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Debra Furr-Holden

Debra Furr-Holden

C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health

Debra Furr-Holden is an epidemiologist with expertise in drug and alcohol dependence epidemiology and prevention science.

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Area of Expertise

Health Equity Prevention Science Drug and Alcohol Dependence Epidemiology Public Health Psychiatric Epidemiology


Debra Furr-Holden is the the Associate Dean for Public Health Integration and Director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions, funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD; #U54MD011227). She also served as the MSU Co-Director of the Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center. She is an epidemiologist and classically-trained public health professional with expertise in drug and alcohol dependence epidemiology, psychiatric epidemiology, and prevention ... science. She attended Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (BA Natural Sciences and Public Health, 1996) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (PhD, 1999).

In 2005, she initiated the Drug Investigations, Violence, and Environmental Studies Laboratory (The DIVE Studies Lab) at The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. In 2007, the group moved to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In January 2016, she moved back to Flint and became one of the C.S. Mott Endowed Professors of Public Health at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Flint Campus. When she came to the Division of Public Health, she immediately began working with grassroots community partners as well as academic partners and other stakeholders within and outside Michigan State University.

Furr-Holden says the move to MSU and back to Flint has been exciting and rewarding. As a returning Flint resident, she has a commitment to Flint that began early in adolescence. Her work in Flint is focused on behavioral health equity and policy-level interventions to promote health equity. Her action-oriented research is embedded with the principles and practices of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), so she conducts her research with her community and other research partners and not “to” them or “for” them. She fundamentally believes there is a seat for everyone at the table and she is honored and humbled to work with such an amazing and committed group of people. A working list of core community partners can be found here.

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Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health: Ph.D., Drug & Alcohol Dependence, Epidemiology | 1999

Johns Hopkins University Kreiger School of Arts & Sciences: B.A., Natural Sciences & Public Health | 1996

Selected Press

5 Epidemiologist and Public Health Moms on Their Children’s Back-to-School Plans

Working Mother | 2020-08-17

Debra Furr-Holden, director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions at Michigan State University: “When my daughter's college informed the students and parents that they were opening and receiving students on campus, I was sure my recent high school graduate, Olivia, would make the ‘right choice.' She's heard me on Zooms and national media advocating against school re-opening. In my professional opinion, we are not ready. There are too many unknowns and a lack of community-wide testing in school-aged children, including college students. But I trusted that Olivia was able to make this decision for herself. On decision day, she simply said, ‘I'm going.' I was shocked. How could she come to this conclusion? She told me the testing protocol at her college and reminded me that despite being around people who tested positive, she had not contracted the virus. She gave back my own words: ‘Honor the protocols.' She reassured me if the promises made by her college were not honored and enforced, she would return home.”

Epidemiologist says time isn’t right for travel’s restart

Travel Weekly | 2020-07-20

And that’s just as well, according to epidemiologist Debra Furr-Holden, associate dean for public health integration at Michigan State University. She said that because coronavirus is not under control in the United States, the country isn’t ready to resume travel...

Ask the Expert: Covid-19 Testing

MSU Today | 2020-06-03

We continue to hear that widespread testing is key to safely reopening states/communities. Why are states reopening without requiring mass public testing?

A: We do need community wide testing of asymptomatic people before we can effectively get a handle on exposure and do appropriate contact tracing. States are re-opening without this widespread testing because the governors are responding to people’s demand to reopen and states don’t have sufficient testing strategies and capacity to do regular, community-wide testing. In addition, testing sites are coming on and offline and the best sources of testing are at the local level and change at least weekly.

Curran: 'Communities of color have been devastated by this crisis'

Newsday | 2020-05-12

Debra Furr-Holden, a member of Michigan's Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, has researched the issue of health care inequalities. “The first thing we need to understand is how we got here. What are the things that give rise to pre-existing health conditions?" said Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist who is associate dean for public health at Michigan State University..