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Katherine Leith, PhD

Making Change Happen

Dr. Katherine Leith finds great professional and personal satisfaction in working with aging populations. Originally from Germany, Dr. Leith says that after arriving in the United States in the late 1980s, she was inspired to find ways to change the systems that sometimes let the elderly slip through the cracks.

Through her career, Dr. Leith has pursued this goal, researching the health—both mental and physical—of older adults and collaborating with colleagues to develop policies and projects that improve older adults’ lives. With an academic background in psychology, social work, and public health, Dr. Leith has worked in a variety of positions. These positions have ranged from direct service as a licensed medical social worker to designing, implementing, and evaluating federally and state funded projects and policy initiatives. Currently, she is Director of the Certificate of Graduate Studies in Gerontology Program at USC and Coordinator of the MSW Dual Degree Programs (MSW/MPH; MSW/MPA; MSW/JD).

While Dr. Leith is passionate about research, she is also passionate about sharing knowledge with students. She believes that making change happen involves both research and practice. Effective change rests, in part, on equipping students with the expertise necessary to become knowledgeable and capable professionals. Dr. Leith sees a great affinity between the fields of social work and public health, and research related to social and health issues can have an impact far beyond the immediacy of the projects themselves. Thus, Dr. Leith continually strives to make her research and teaching accessible and comprehensible.

Research Background

Trained as a clinical social worker, Dr. Leith uses qualitative research methods, mixed methods, and community-based participatory strategies in her evaluation work. Her work focuses on evidence-based prevention practices in the areas of chronic disease and mental health. In particular, Dr. Leith concentrates on implementation fidelity, systems capacity, and collaborative partnerships to enhance the dissemination and sustainability of these practices. She uses a range of mixed methods, including descriptive and inferential quantitative methods as well as qualitative focus group and personal interview methods.

Leith K
Contact Information
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Phone: 803.777.1382
  • Hamilton 113B
  • Curriculum Vita
Major Classes Taught
  • SOWK732 - Social Work with Communities and Organizations
  • SOWK741 - Social Welfare Problems and Policies
  • SOWK742 - Social Welfare Policy Analysis
  • SOWK791 - Social Work Research Methodologies
  • SOWK793 - Evaluation of Policies and Programs


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