Highlights from the PRISM Health Symposium 2021

All photos by Marco Sanchez from UCSF Documents and Media

On December 3, 2021, we safely gathered in-person for the time in two years for the 6th annual PRISM Health Symposium. This year’s symposium was hosted at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco. Over 55 attendees joined us throughout the day, representing a diverse group of academic researchers, industry partners, and learners.

Symposium co-chairs, Dr. Jon-Patrick Allem, Assistant Professor at USC, and Dr. Urmimala Sarkar, Professor at UCSF, opened the event with a land acknowledgement to recognize that UCSF sits on the land of the Ramaytush Ohlone people.

Attendees engaged with each other throughout the event to learn from our speakers engaged in social media and health research.

Poster Session

The event program began with a poster session that focused on research from trainees and junior faculty. These posters presented either research in progress or completed research. In total, we learned from 16 poster presentations. The full list of presenters can be found here.

Social Media & Health Interventions

Dr. Erin Bonar, Associate Professor at Michigan University, described her work leveraging social media to intervene in emerging adults’ substance use. She shared her results from two RCTs: one that delivered intervention health content that resulted in significantly higher ratings of satisfaction in the intervention group, and a second Snapchat-based intervention in progress.

Dr. Sean Young, Associate Professor at the University of California, Irvine, and Executive Director of the University of California Institute for Prediction Technology discussed how to use social data to predict future events, sharing examples from his work using the HOPE model.

Social media isn’t what works or doesn’t work. It needs to be tied to an intervention or psychology to change behavior.

Dr. Sean Young


Observational Social Media & Health Research

Dr. Jason Colditz, Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, spoke about his experience collecting data from Twitter and Reddit, including sharing the benefits, drawbacks, and challenges to collecting these data retrospectively and in real-time.

Julia Vassey, PhD student at the University of Southern California, discussed using social network analysis to understand how influencers are connected to each other and the tobacco products/brands they promote.

Dr. Erin Vogel, Senior Research Associate at the University of Southern California, reported findings from a study that suggests automated text analysis can be used on Tweets to identify emotions related to abstinence from smoking.

Ethical Dilemmas in Social Media & Health Research

After lunch, we were brought back together to learn from the ethics panelists.

Ruth Appel, PhD student at Stanford University, shared her expertise in ethical and privacy issues of psychological targeting.

In a collaborative presentation centering on a study conducted with Dr. Philip Massey, Dr. Michael Yudell, Professor and Vice Dean at Arizona State University, shared his insights on ethical issues and principles to guide research and practice of health communication on social media.

The most significant public health tension is where public health for an individual ends and public health for a community begins.

Dr. Michael Yudell

Following Dr. Yudell, Dr. Philip Massey, Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, described their project examining narrative-focused scientific exemplars for HPV vaccine communication. Delivered to parents on Twitter, the majority of respondents did not identify significant ethical concerns among the narrative exemplars.

Rapid-Fire Session

Rapid-fire presentations focused on research from trainees and junior faculty, presenting on either research in progress or completed research. In total, we learned from 5 rapid-fire presentations. The full list of presenters can be found here.

Funding Panel

We culminated our event learning from our funding panelists. They shared how their experience finding funding sources, applying for grants, and lessons learned that allowed them to succeed in their current roles.

Dr. Sunny Xun Liu, Associate Director of the Social Media Lab at Stanford University, shared her experience obtaining funding for social media research, identifying funding mechanisms, and reviewing grants that proposed social media data usage.

It’s not just about funding, it’s about partnership.

Dr. Sunny Xun Liu


Dr. Debra Oliver, Professor at Washington University of St. Louis, discussed her expertise in palliative care, describing key lessons and approaches learned to obtain funding for social media research, as well as important issues (e.g. Digital divide, ethics, privacy) to plan for in a proposal.

Social media is not the innovation. The innovation is in the intervention

Dr. Debra Oliver




Closing Remarks

To close out the event, Ben Lenail, MBA, Co-founder and Board Member of ALD Connect, reflected on learnings from the day, relating his own experience harnessing social media to power action and connections among members of the ALD community.

PRISM 2021 Awards

Best Rapid-Fire Presentation by a non-trainee: Dr. Silvio Amir

Best Rapid-Fire Presentation by a trainee: Michael Haupt

Best Poster Presentation by a non-trainee: Dr. Meredith Meacham

Best Poster Presentation by a trainee: Tarun Martheswaran

Special thanks to: our co-host Hopelab, sponsors (UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, Hopelab), steering committee (Dr. Urmimala Sarkar, Dr. Jon Patrick-Allem, Dr. Sylvia Chou, Dr. Valentin Danchev, Dr. Michael Deiner, Dr. Tim Mackey, Dr, Meredith Meacham, Dr. Thu Nguyen, Dr. Molly Waring), event staff (Marika Dy, Vlad Honcharov, Sarah Lisker, Kristan Olazo), and to our tech support, Dorothy Wang.

Thank You Sponsors

The PRISM Health Symposium would not be possible without our sponsors. A huge thank you to these organizations for their support!