Institute for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention Research (IPR), University of Southern California University of Southern California
Maryann Pentz, Ph.D.
Professor of Preventive Medicine; Sidney R. Garfield Chair in Health Sciences; Director, Institute for Prevention Research

Phone: 3234428227
Location: SSB 302H

About Dr. Pentz
About Dr. Pentz

Dr. Pentz is Director of the Institute and Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine. For over 20 years, her research and program development have focused on community and policy approaches to preventing tobacco, alcohol, drug use, and violence in youth. Her findings contributed to the formulation of a U.S. Senate bill and use of evidence-based criteria for appropriating funds for prevention under the Safe and Drug Free Schools Act. Her recent translational research includes evaluating dissemination of evidence-based prevention programs and policies, translation of evidence-based substance abuse prevention to obesity prevention, and smart growth communities as a built environment intervention to promote health.

Two of her programs, Project STAR (a school and community-based program for drug abuse prevention) and TOPP (a tobacco and drug policy program for schools), have received awards from Congress and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and are on the National Registry of Effective Programs. Project STAR is the longest-running drug prevention trial in the U.S., having followed youth from early adolescence into mid-adulthood and their own school-age children. A recent program, Media Buzz (the first media literacy program designed specifically for drug abuse prevention), is expected to be considered for the National Registry next year. A new prevention trial, STEP, involves 24 cities in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Missouri. Findings are showing successful adoption and diffusion of evidence-based drug prevention in these cities.

In addition, Dr. Pentz has chaired the NIDA Epidemiology and Prevention study section, been a member of Attorney General Reno's Task Force on Methamphetamine and the NIH Peer Review Oversight Group.

Dr. Pentz’s Research Interests

Community approaches to cancer and chronic disease and drug abuse prevention, life span developmental approaches to co-morbidity, behavior epidemiology, smoking and drug abuse prevention policy, adolescent stress prevention.

Community and school-based tobacco and drug abuse prevention.
Smoking policy and adolescent smoking prevention.
Maternal marijuana use and childhood ANLL.
Alcohol policy and adolescent alcohol prevention.
Epidemiology of AIDS and drug use in homeless youth.
Effects of national alcohol warning label legislation on adolescent alcohol use.
Epidemiology and prevention of adolescent stress and smoking.

Recent Publications

Pentz, M. A., Shin, H., Riggs, N. R., Unger, J. B., Collison, K. L., & Chou, C. P. (2015). Parent, Peer, and Executive Function Relationships to Early Adolescent E-Cigarette Use: A Substance Use Pathway? Addictive Behaviors, 42: 73-78. PM ID: 25462657.

Tate EB, Unger JB, Chou CP, Spruijt-Metz D, Pentz MA, Riggs NR. (2014). Children’s Executive Function and High Calorie, Low Nutrient Food Intake: Mediating Effects of Child-Perceived Adult Fast Food Intake. Health Education & Behavior, doi: 10.1177/1090198114547811.

Sussman S, Garcia R, Boley Cruz T, Baezconde-Garbanati L, Pentz MA, & Unger JB. Consumers' Perceptions of Vape Shops in Southern California: An Analysis of Online Yelp Reviews. Tobacco Induced Diseases, 12(22). PM ID: 25484852.

Pentz, M. A. (2014). Integrating mindfulness into school-based substance use and other prevention programs. Substance Use & Misuse, 49(5): 617-9. PMID: 24611859.

Tate EB, Shah A, Jones M, Pentz MA, Liao Y, Fridlund G. (2014). Toward a Better Understanding of the Link between Parent and Child Physical Activity Levels: The Moderating Role of Parental Encouragement. J Phys Act Health. PMID: 25494399.

Selected Publications

Pentz, M. A., Brannon, B. R., Charlin, V. L., Barrett, E. J., MacKinnon, D. P., & Flay, B. R. (1989). The power of policy: The relationship of smoking policy to adolescent smoking. American Journal of Public Health, 79(7), 857-862. PMCID: PMC1349666.

Pentz, M. A., Dwyer, J. H., MacKinnon, D. P., Flay, B. R., Hansen, W. B., Wang, E. Y. I., & Johnson, C. A. (1989). A multi community trial for primary prevention of adolescent drug abuse: Effects on drug use prevalence. Journal of the American Medical Association, 261(22), 3259-3266

Pentz, M. A. (2004). Form Follows Function: Designs for Prevention Effectiveness and Diffusion Research, Prevention Science, 5(1), 23-29.

Professional History
Research Assistant Professor
Pennsylvania State University
Assistant Professor
University of Tennessee
1979 — 1983
Assistant Professor of Research
University of Southern California
1983 — 1993
Associate Professor (Tenured)
University of Southern California
1993 — 1998
Center for Prevention Policy Research
1995 — 2008
Professor (Tenured)
University of Southern California
1998 — now
Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research
2008 — now
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
2008 — now
Education History
Hamilton College
1969 — 1972
Syracuse University
1974 — 1976
Syracuse University
1976 — 1978
Courses Taught

HP 200, Introduction to Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

HP 290, Introduction to Research Apprenticeship

HP 490, Directed Research

PM 500, Foundations of Health Behavior

PM 599, Special Topics

PM 601, Basic Theory and Strategies in Prevention


National Merit Scholar, Semi Finalist, 1967

New York Regents Scholar, 1967-1972

Presidential Merit Scholar, St. Lawrence University, 1967-1969

Dean?s High Honor List, St. Lawrence University, 1967-1969

Sophmore Program Honors Society, St. Lawrence University, 1968-1969

Psychology Honors Program, Hamilton College, 1970-1972

Academic Scholarship, Hamilton College, 1970-1972

Gilda Gold Award for Dissertation Research, Syracuse University, 1978 ($800)

Ph.D. Letter of Distinction, Syracuse University, 1978

Director Nominee, National Institute of Drug Abuse, 1993

USC Medical School Nominee, Robert Wood Johnson Health Fellowship, 1993

Distinguished Scientist Alumni Achievement Award, Hamilton College, 1995

STAR Alliance for Drug Free Youth, Tenth Anniversary Impact Award, 1997

Appointed Member, U.S. Attorney General?s Talks Force on Methamphetamine Use, (Reno), 1999-2000

Congressional Exemplary Award for Prevention, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), 1999 and 2004

Chair, CDC Expert Panel on Development of National School Tobacco Policy Guidelines, 2001

Research Award Finalist, National Institute for Health Care Management, 2001

Presidential Appointee, National Institutes of Health, Peer Review Oversight Group (PROG), 2001-Present

Award for Program Excellence for the Tobacco Policy and Prevention (TOPP) program, 2003

Prevention Lectureship, Yale University Medical School, March 2006

Bennett Lectureship in Prevention Science, Pennsylvania State University, October 2006

Honors Presidential Scientific Achievement Award, Society for Prevention Research, 2011

USC Mellon Award, Excellence in Mentoring, April 2012

Institute for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention Research, University of Southern California • 2001 N Soto Street, 3rd Floor, MC 9239, Los Angeles, CA 90032 • (323) 442-8200