Courtney S. Thomas Tobin

I'm trained as a medical sociologist and use mixed-method and transdisciplinary approaches to examine psychosocial sources of risk and resilience and their impact on the psychophysiological health of Black Americans across the life course. 

Summary of Research: A central focus of my research is the conceptualization and assessment of race-based stress and coping experiences among the U.S. Black population. In one study, I found that experiencing subtle or ambiguous discrimination increases Blacks’ risk of poor psychological and physiological functioning and may be more detrimental than more blatant discriminatory treatment. This work motivated the development of my “Racial Self-Awareness Framework of Race-Based Stress, Coping, and Health,” which clarifies environmental, sociocultural, and behavioral health processes by spotlighting “racial self-awareness” (RSA), the heightened sense of awareness of one’s racial minority status within a majority context. Results from a recent qualitative study suggest that (1) RSA represents additional cognitive effort that is physically and emotionally taxing, (2) RSA shapes Blacks’ perceptions of and responses to general and race-based stressors, and (3) Blacks employ a range of behavioral coping strategies to reduce the strain of RSA. I am currently developing new survey measures to assess the health consequences of RSA and other race-based stress and coping experiences within nationally-representative samples of Black Americans. 


  • PhD, Sociology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Areas of Interest

  • Psychosocial stress and coping
  • African Americans
  • Racial and SES health disparities
  • Aging and the life course
  • Mental-physical health comorbidities
  • Maternal and child health
  • Psychobiology of stress
  • Biomarkers