Dr. Russell has been at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation since 1999. A chronic disease epidemiologist trained at Yale University, she did early work on alcohol-related birth defects, now considered part of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and developed a brief questionnaire, the TWEAK, to screen for risk drinking in pregnant women. She also conducted longitudinal studies on stress, alcohol use, and blood pressure in Black and Whites.
From 1993 to 1998, Dr. Russell served as Principal Investigator for a NIAAA Research Center on the Clinical and Medical Epidemiology of Alcohol. In that role, she directed the development of the Cognitive Lifetime Drinking History (CLDH), a computer-assisted assessment of lifetime drinking patterns, which is used in case-control studies of chronic disease, including coronary heart disease and breast cancer, as well as alcohol disorders. She subsequently collaborated with Paul Gruenewald to develop methods of analyzing lifetime drinking patterns and their relations to these chronic health problems.
Discovery of the hepatitis C virus (HCV), led her to propose a case-control study of alcohol and drug, intimate partner violence, and risky sexual behavior in clients of a sexually transmitted disease clinic. Funded by NIDA, it was the first to demonstrate a significant relation between bleeding associated with intimate partner violence and positive hepatitis C antibodies.
As a follow-up to this work, she investigated factors contributing to intimate partner violence among adolescents in South Africa, with a view towards developing a curriculum to reduce its prevalence. She also collaborated with physicians at Kaiser Permanente to conduct research on the effects of lifetime alcohol and drug use on response to anti-viral therapy in patients with chronic HCV infection.