NIAAA presents the 12th Annual Jack Mendelson Honorary Lecture

View the virtual presentation online at



George F. Koob, Ph.D.
Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Sandra A. Brown, Ph.D.
"Discerning Risks and Effects of Alcohol in the Midst of Adolescent Development"

Lecture Booklet [PDF]

Sandra A. Brown, Ph.D., is Vice Chancellor for Research and Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). She is an internationally recognized scientist whose research has substantially increased our understanding of how alcohol and other substances impact adolescent development and contribute to outcomes that persist into adulthood. Her pioneering research has yielded important information about the neurocognitive consequences and developmental trajectories associated with adolescent substance use and their implications for prevention and treatment.   Photo of Dr Brown

Dr. Brown received her doctoral training in clinical psychology from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, with a minor specialization in health systems research. She later joined the faculty of UCSD, where she has spent the majority of her academic, research, and administrative career. During her tenure at UCSD, she has directed the development of clinical, educational, and research activities as the Chief of Psychology at the Veterans Affairs Health Services System in San Diego. She also co-directed a NIAAA Clinical Research Training Program for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars at UCSD and San Diego State University. 

Throughout her research career, Dr. Brown has focused on understanding the etiology, progression, and remission of substance use disorders in the broader context of development. Early in her career, she showed that alcohol expectancy, or motivation for drinking, during adolescence is a cognitive risk factor for alcohol-related problems in adulthood. Using longitudinal methods to chart functioning across developmentally important brain domains, she was among the first researchers to demonstrate that adverse neurocognitive outcomes observed in youth with alcohol and other substance use disorders may persist after long-term abstinence. These findings led to studies evaluating the effects of alcohol on the brain and cognition during adolescence, demonstrating both neurocognitive and neurofunctional effects associated with binge drinking. Using developmentally and culturally tailored interventions, she demonstrated that voluntary early alcohol interventions could be successful in diverse school environments. Her studies of adults have included evaluating the effectiveness of interventions for those with long-term alcohol or other substance use disorders and co-occurring depression and trauma. 

Dr. Brown has been instrumental in advancing prevention and treatment for substance use disorders. As an expert on the NIAAA Steering Committee of the Underage Drinking Research Initiative, she helped lead the effort to establish national screening and early intervention guidelines for youth and to develop NIAAA’s Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner’s Guide, a manual designed to help health care professionals quickly identify youth at risk for alcohol-related problems. She also helped craft the World Health Organization treatment standards for alcohol and other substance use disorders. She has been an advocate for developmentally tailored interventions for youth and adults, and the development of novel technologies for research assessments in the natural environment. 

Dr. Brown has played major roles in establishing and spearheading two nationwide research consortia that are investigating the neurobiological and behavioral changes that occur during adolescence and into emerging adulthood. Since 2012, she has co-directed the NIAAA-supported National Consortium on Alcohol and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA), a longitudinal study investigating the effects of alcohol use on adolescent brain development and behavior in over 800 youth ages 12-21. Since its launch in 2015, she has served as Co-Principal Investigator of the NIH-supported Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. ABCD is following nearly 12,000 children ages 9-10 through their adolescent years into early adulthood at 21 research sites across the country. 

During her distinguished career, Dr. Brown has published over 300 peer-reviewed publications and a book. She has received continuous funding from NIH for 35 years and is a recipient of the NIH New Investigator Research Award and two NIH MERIT Awards from NIAAA. Dr. Brown has also been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse; the National Cancer Institute; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; the National Institute of Mental Health; and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  

Dr. Brown’s dedication to training the next generation of addiction scientists is evident. She has mentored over 70 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, many of whom now lead successful independent research or academic careers. For her mentorship, she received the Alan G. Marlatt Young Investigator Mentorship Award from the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA).

Dr. Brown has received many additional accolades throughout her stellar career. She served as President of the Society of Addiction Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA), and on the Board of Directors of APA and RSA. She is a fellow in three Divisions of APA, where she received the Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award and Distinguished Professional Contribution Award. She is also a recipient of the UCSD Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Research Excellence Award and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ first annual "Women Making a Difference Award." 


About Jack Harold Mendelson, M.D.Photo of Dr. Jack Mendelson

Dr. Jack Mendelson’s decades-long research career was instrumental in establishing the view of alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a medical problem and in laying the foundation for multidisciplinary research to understand, prevent, and treat AUD. 

After graduating from the Johns Hopkins University in 1951, Dr. Mendelson earned his medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1955. He then served his medical internship at Boston City Hospital and his residency in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. From 1966 to 1970, Dr. Mendelson was Chief of the National Center for Prevention and Control of Alcoholism within the National Institute of Mental Health, the predecessor to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). In 1970, he became Chief of the Department of Psychiatry at Boston City Hospital and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. From 1973 until his death in 2007, he directed the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Research Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA. 

Dr. Mendelson published almost 500 articles and books and was the recipient of numerous scientific and professional awards. He also mentored and inspired young investigators who have become today’s leaders in alcohol and drug research. 

As a tribute to his remarkable scientific contributions to the field of alcohol research, NIAAA has established the Jack Mendelson Honorary Lecture series. The purpose of this lecture series is to honor an outstanding investigator who has made significant contributions to our understanding of susceptibility to AUD, alcohol’s effects on the brain and other organs, and the prevention and treatment of AUD. NIAAA is pleased to present this series of scientific lectures to acknowledge the advances that are being made in alcohol-related areas of clinical research, and to honor the memory of an individual whose exciting and pioneering research remains relevant today.



Prior Honorees 

View previous lectures in the Jack Mendelson Honorary Lecture Series


The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol use disorder and alcohol problems. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences.