USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute

Katherine A. Lester

Katherine A. Lester

Lecturer of Spatial Sciences

  • Ph.D., Environment Science, Human Ecology Track, University of North Texas
  • M.S., Applied Geography, Health and Medical Geography Track, University of North Texas
  • B.A., Geography, University of North Texas

Katherine A. Lester, Ph.D., is a lecturer with the Spatial Sciences Institute in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California.

As a medical geographer, she investigates the spatial relationship between suicide, mental illness and race and ethnicity. With a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship, she developed a novel framework to identify suicide risk among minority populations. Dr. Lester also explores GIS applications to spatial patterns of disease and health. She employs numerous spatial statistical programs to conduct her analysis.

Prior to joining the USC Spatial Sciences Institute, she was at the University of North Texas, where she was a research assistant, collaborating on the production of a book on world regional medical geography and on a project analyzing Uber data to identify changes in traffic and spending associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the University of North Texas, Dr. Lester was also an adjunct faculty member and teaching assistant for courses in world regional geography, geohealth and environmental science.

She has served as a member of the City of Denton Community Services Advisory Committee, as the creator and primary researcher of COVID by Numbers in Denton, Texas, as co-founder of Won’t You Be My Neighbor Denton and as education coordinator for the Denton County Medical Reserve Corps.

Selected Works

“HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis.” Book Chapter in The International Encyclopedia of Public Health. Joseph R. Oppong and Katherine A. Lester, 2017.

“African Perspectives: HIV/AIDS in Africa.” Book Chapter in Ethics, Science, and Engineering: An International Resource, 2nd Edition. Joseph R. Oppong and Katherine A. Lester, 2014.

“Context or Composition?: A closer look at race, ethnicity, and suicide in the United States.” International Medical Geography Symposium, Edinburgh, UK, June 20, 2022.

“A Simulation Approach to Selecting a Rate Adjustment Method: Comparing cancer and suicide.” International Medical Geography Symposium, Queenstown, New Zealand, July 5, 2019.

“Armed and Vulnerable: The geography of suicide, homicide, and firearms in the United States.” International Medical Geography Symposium, Angers, France, July 4, 2017.

“Taming the Chaos: A factor analysis approach to describing the mental health system in the United States.” International Medical Geography Symposium. Angers, France. July 5, 2017.

“Using Geospatial Methods to Navigate Shifting Patterns of Urban Vulnerability.” Forum on Health, Homelessness, and Poverty, Washington, D.C., November 15, 2015.

“Vulnerable Places in the Mental Health Geography Literature.” International Medical Geography Symposium, East Lansing, MI, July 7-12, 2013.

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