Lilah M. Besser, Ph.D., MSPH
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Lilah M. Besser, PhD, MSPH, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention at Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Besser’s research focuses on the intersection between neighborhoods, the built environment, aging, and health.
She is Chair of the Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee ( see Diversity and Inclusion Plan ) and Section Editor at the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Dr. Besser is principal investigator of a five-year National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging career development award (K01- AG063895), on “Longitudinal associations between neighborhood greenspace and brain aging in cognitively normal older adults ” (Total direct: $585,250, 5/2020-5/2025).
Dr. Besser’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a dual-degree Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) in Epidemiology and Environmental and Occupational Health, and a PhD in City and Regional Planning. She has researched and published studies on a variety of public health topics, but principally on the built environment and health, birth defects, and dementia/cognition. She conducted her prior work in public health while employed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Veterans Administration (VA) Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington, and at the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center in Seattle, Washington. While working at the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center, Dr. Besser collaborated with experts in the dementia field to conduct research on cognition in older age and on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADAD).
Dr. Besser’s PhD dissertation studied neighborhood built environment characteristics associated with cognition in non-demented older adults. Her research program builds upon her dissertation work to investigate social and built environments and brain health across the life course. The ultimate goal is to provide evidence to planners, architects, urban designers, policy makers, and public health professionals (among other disciplines) on neighborhood environments that can help maintain cognitive function into older ages, reduce ADAD risk, and allow for aging in place.
Abstracts of Dr. Besser’s published articles can be found here .