Karen Renee Albright

Associate Professor

What I do

My primary research interests focus on health behaviors among socioeconomically disadvantaged populations and on the barriers to their care. I am particularly interested in how disadvantaged populations interact with the U.S. health care system in both the private and public health domains. Much of my work has been concerned with exploring not only individuals’ experiences with the health care system, but also potential solutions for improving care. My work also includes research on the psychosocial and cultural consequences of community trauma. I believe strongly in, and am actively engaged with, the translation, dissemination, and implementation of social scientific methods, theory, and practice. I have served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology, an international organization dedicated to advancing sociological application and practice both within and beyond academia, since 2012 and am currently President Elect. I am also the Co-Director of the Qualitative Research Consortium at DU and previously directed the Qualitative Research Methods Forum, an inter-institutional forum for health researchers in Colorado and beyond. I have extensive experience with a variety of qualitative research methods as well as expertise in mixed methodological research design, and have directed qualitative data collection and analysis on multiple implementation studies in addition to serving as the PI or Co-PI on numerous grants of my own.


public health; minority health; mental health; social inequality; poverty; sociology

Professional Biography

Karen Albright is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology & Criminology and Affiliated Faculty in the Graduate School of Social Work. Her research explores the intersection of social inequality and health. After earning a PhD in Sociology from New York University, Dr. Albright received postdoctoral training in social scientific health research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley, and as a National Institute of Mental Health Fellow at the Center for Culture and Health at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Albright was previously an Assistant Professor in the Colorado School of Public Health's Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, where she also directed the Qualitative Research Core in the Adult and Child Center for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science, a Center within the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital Research Institute.


  • Ph.D., Sociology, New York University, 2004

Professional Affiliations

  • Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology
  • American Sociological Association
  • American Public Health Association


For the past 15 years, my primary substantive research interests have focused on the social determinants of mental and physical health, particularly those influencing the health behaviors and outcomes of socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. I have a strong record of external funding. In the past eight years, I have been or am currently the Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on seven research grants. I have also served (and/or am serving) as a Co-Investigator on 14 other grants and as a methodological consultant on another three. I have studied and written about the health behaviors and outcomes of a number of populations, including homeless Veterans, low-income American Indians, low-income Latinos, and residents of underserved rural areas, and am particularly interested identifying barriers to the care received by such populations. Indeed, identifying barriers to care is a high priority in my work. A substantial number of my publications investigate the perspectives of health care providers, health care staff, patients, and/or patients’ parents (as applicable) toward particular health care approaches, technologies, and experiences in order to identify barriers to their care; many of these publications explicitly compare perspectives across role (e.g., providers vs. patients’ parents) in order to identify areas of miscommunication and misunderstanding. I am particularly interested in how disadvantaged populations interact with the U.S. health care system, in both the private and public health domains. Much of my work has been concerned with exploring not only individuals’ experiences with the health care system, but also testing potential solutions for improving care, including (but not only) collaborative efforts between public health entities and private practices, policy change across silos of care within the Department of Veterans Affairs, school based health centers, technological interventions, and efforts to improve health literacy.

Key Projects

Featured Publications

  • What Does Effectiveness Mean? A Qualitative Assessment of Two Child Protection Systems
  • Attitudes about Adult Vaccines and Reminder/Recall in a Safety Net Population
  • Patient Perspectives on a Text Messaging Program to Support Asthma Management: A Qualitative Study
  • Reasons for Non-Initiation and Non-Completion of the HPV Vaccine Series Among Socioeconomically Disadvantaged English- and Spanish-Speaking Parents of Adolescent Girls
  • School-Based Health Centers as Medical Homes: Parents’ and Adolescents’ Perspectives


  • Clinical Sociology: The Application of Sociological Insight in Intervention Design
  • A Qualitative Comparison of Two Child Protection Systems
  • Dis/Trust in Science in the Context of Energy Extraction in Colorado and Kentucky
  • Age Well: The Social Determinants of Health
  • Dimensions of Health System Distrust Among the Socioeconomically Disadvantaged


  • Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Fellowship Award, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Instructional Development Award, University of Denver, Joseph I. Moreland Fund for Information Literacy
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Applied Social Science