I was born on June 26, 1947 in Kansas City, Missouri. I was the fourth of five children of Chester and Maxine Duncan. My father was a stockman for John Deere and Co. and was also Financial Secretary of the United Auto Workers union in Kansas City. My mother, known to all as Max because that was how I said her first name when I was learning to speak, was a housewife. I was raised in KC until just before my thirteenth birthday and then spent my teen years living in Independence, Missouri and attending school in Raytown, Missouri. In the years since then I have lived in the District of Columbia, Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, New York, Rhode island, Texas, Belgium, Germany, and currently in Kentucky.

After graduating from Raytown Senior High School I first attended Metropolitan Junior College (junior college is the old name for what is now called a community college) and then the University of Missouri at Kansas City. At MJC I earned an Associate in Science degree with a double major in biological and social sciences and  earned my BA in psychology at UMKC. I also took courses through the American Institute of Criminology and Saint Paul's School of Theology. Moving to Texas, I completed all the course requirements for an MA in criminology from Sam Houston State University but never wrote the last two chapters of my thesis because I had decided that I didn't want to work in the field of criminal justice. After a couple of years practical experience I resumed my studies at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston and earned the degree of Doctor of Public Health (DrPH). This was an interdisciplinary degree in community health and involved doctoral level qualification in the areas of epidemiology, behavioral science (psychology), statistics, and program and policy evaluation. Two decades later, I spent three years at Brown University on a postdoctoral fellowship.


I have held a variety of jobs since my first employment as a part-time janitor while still in high school. I held positions in the criminal justice system in juvenile and adult corrections, law enforcement, and private investigations. My clinical experience includes individual, group and family therapy with substance abusers, crisis intervention, street outreach, and treating overdoses in an ER. I have directed a comprehensive drug abuse treatment center, a halfway house, a school for adolescents with learning disabilities, and a primary care center for the poor. I have taught at the University of Texas at Houston, State University of New York at Brockport, New York State School of Psychiatry, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, University of Cologne, German Academy of Public Health, Community College of Rhode Island, Graduate School of America, and Brown University. I am author or coauthor of five books and more than 200 other scientific publications.