hero image
Hortensia Amaro - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Los Angeles, CA, US

Hortensia Amaro Hortensia Amaro

Dean's Professor Social Work and Preventive Medicine | USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Expert in substance abuse disorder treatment, HIV prevention and other urgent public health challenges.


Hortensia Amaro has dramatically advanced the understanding of substance abuse disorder treatment, HIV prevention and other urgent public health challenges through a distinguished career that has spanned scholarly research, translation of science to practice, top-level policy consultation and service on four Institute of Medicine committees. She has authored more than 130 scholarly publications, many widely-cited, and she has made landmark contributions to improving behavioral health care in community-based organizations by launching addiction treatment programs that have helped thousands of families and informing practice in agencies around the world.

Over the last 30 years, Amaro has forged vital connections between public health research and practice. Her studies have focused on alcohol and drug use and addiction among adolescents and adults; the development and testing of behavioral interventions for HIV/AIDS prevention, including innovative HIV prevention models targeted to Latina and African American women; substance abuse and mental health treatment for Latina and African American women and incarcerated men; alcohol and drug use among college populations; and behavioral interventions for HIV medications adherence.

Her groundbreaking studies on clinical strategies for treating women with co-occurring drug addiction, mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder have provided strong evidence supporting integrated treatment for these conditions. Most recently, Amaro partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of an integrated system of health and behavioral health care for at-risk children.

Over the last two decades, Amaro founded five substance abuse treatment programs for women in Boston: MOM’s Outpatient Treatment Program; Entre Familia Residential Treatment Program; Moving on to Recovery and Empowerment (M.O.R.E.), an intensive outpatient treatment program for low-income women of color with co-occurring disorders; Safe and Sound Return Treatment Model for Incarcerated Women; and Boston Consortium of Services for Men in Recovery, a family-centered system of substance abuse treatment.

Education (3)

University of California, Los Angeles: PhD 1982

University of California, Los Angeles: MA 1977

University of California, Los Angeles: BA 1975

Areas of Expertise (5)

Behavioral Health Substance Absue HIV/AIDS Health Policy and Human Rights Mental Health Public Health

Industry Expertise (2)

Research Education/Learning

Accomplishments (6)

Ernest R. Hilgard Lifetime Achievement Award, Division 1 (General Psychology), American Psychological Association (professional)


Presidential Citation for Outstanding Contributions and Service to Psychology, American Psychological Association (professional)


Honorary Degree in Humane Letters, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (professional)


Women of Courage Award, La Alianza Hispana, Boston, MA (professional)


El Planeta Powermeter 2009-2010, Top 100 Most Influential People for the Hispanic community in Massachusetts (professional)


James Jones Lifetime Achievement Award, American Psychological Association (professional)


Affiliations (12)

  • MOM’s Outpatient Treatment Program: Founder
  • Entre Familia Residential Treatment Program: Founder
  • Moving on to Recovery and Empowerment (M.O.R.E.): Founder
  • Safe and Sound Return Treatment Model for Incarcerated Women: Founder
  • Boston Consortium of Services for Men in Recovery: Founder
  • American Psychologist: Associate Editor
  • American Journal of Public Health: Associate Editor
  • National Hispanic Psychological Association: Founder
  • National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse Research: Founder
  • National Trauma Consortium: Founder
  • Latino Health Institute: Founder
  • Multicultural AIDS Coalition: Founder


Media Appearances (3)

Study to explore gang life’s long-term effects on Hispanic women

USC News  online


As teenage girls, they were enmeshed in the dangerous world of gangs in some of San Antonio’s rougher neighborhoods. Now, some 15 years later, what effect has that experience had on the lives of these young Hispanic women?
Researchers at the USC School of Social Work will explore that question in a new $3 million study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

view more

Report: As USC student housing increases, affordable housing harder to find for residents

89.3 KPCC  radio


The development of the Figueroa corridor, which bridges downtown Los Angeles to Exposition Park, has also brought with it increased economic activity.
"Increased economic development activities coming from downtown and ... through many sources — that area is becoming a priority area for development," said Dr. Hortensia Amaro, associate vice provost for community research initiatives. "People are very concerned about what that is going to mean for them because rent usually under those conditions tends to go up."
One of the report's leading researchers, Amaro took on the assessment after joining USC around two years ago. She said an assessment of this kind had not been done since 1992.

view more

Mentorship comes full circle for USC leader

USC News  online


Over her 35-year career, Hortensia Amaro has taken the time to mentor a large cadre of scholars and researchers, helping them grow into change agents whose work has touched people across the globe.

view more

Articles & Publications (5)

Video-Based Grocery Shopping Intervention Effect on Purchasing Behaviors Among Latina Shoppers American Journal of Public Health

Hortensia Amaro, Dharma E Cortés, Samantha Garcia, Lei Duan, David S Black


Objectives: To compare changes in food-purchasing knowledge, self-efficacy, and behavior after viewing nutrition education videos among Los Angeles, California Latinas responsible for household grocery shopping.

view more

Longitudinal predictors of intimate partner violence perpetration and victimization in latino emerging adults Journal of Youth and Adolescence

Carolina Villamil Grest, Hortensia Amaro, Jennifer Unger


Despite the prevalence of intimate partner violence in emerging adulthood, literature focused on this life stage among Latinos remains limited. This longitudinal study examined acculturation; traditional gender role attitudes; use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco; and depressive symptoms in 10th grade as predictors of intimate partner violence perpetration and victimization among Latino emerging adults .

view more

Racial, ethnic and gender disparities in substance use at discharge Drug & Alcohol Dependence

Erick Guerrero, Karissa Fenwick, Yinfei Kong, Hortensia Amaro


The aim of this study was to identify racial and ethnic and gender group differences in substance use at discharge by comparing (a) Latino, African American, and Asian clients with Caucasian clients; and (b) women in each racial and ethnic group with Caucasian men.

view more

Social and Structural Challenges to Drug Cessation Among Couples in Northern Mexico: Implications for Drug Treatment in Underserved Communities Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment

Angela R Bazzi, Jennifer L Syvertsen, María Luisa Rolón, Gustavo Martinez, Gudelia Rangel, Alicia Vera, Hortensia Amaro, Monica D Ulibarri, Daniel O Hernandez, Steffanie A Strathdee


Available drug treatment modalities may inadequately address social and structural contexts surrounding recovery efforts.
This mixed methods analysis drew on (1) surveys with female sex workers and their intimate male partners and (2) semi-structured interviews with a subsample of 41 couples (n = 82 individuals, 123 total interviews) in Northern Mexico. Descriptive and content analyses examined drug cessation and treatment experiences.

view more

Advancing the science and practice of place-based intervention American Journal of Public Health

Brian Smedley, Hortensia Amaro


Publicity properly applied will save more lives than any other single agency employed by health workers. It should be entered into the Public Health Pharmacopoeia as an accredited remedy for human ills. It is being applied to individuals in capsule doses of public health education. It is also being applied to masses of people over whole areas of [the] country as public health agitation for far-reaching reforms and for needed new health laws or regulations and for the enforcement of laws already on the books.

view more