Research Associate Professor, Health Behavior
Cancer Prevention and Control
Area of interest
As a behavioral scientist in the public health arena, I have generally applied my training in social/health psychology to study how psychosocial resources and risk factors influence people’s resilience and vulnerability to health-related stressors. Most often those stressors are related to cancer, but I also study chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis and patient decision making in the context of disease risk and treatment.
One of my interests involves individual-level psychosocial resources and risk factors that identify individuals and populations with unique risks and needs. My goal in this work has been to understand why people respond differently to a given health-related stressor in terms of their physiological, behavioral, psychological responses. Answers to this question can guide development of interventions that are efficacious and potentially more cost-effective because they target specific needs of identified subgroups within at-risk populations. I have studied dispositional characteristics, attitudes expectations, and contextual factors (e.g., life stress).
Another of my interests involves interpersonal psychosocial resources and risk factors that influence how people respond to health related stressors. My work in this area focuses on positive and negative aspects of social support that influence its effectiveness. Little is known about how social support operates in everyday life among people coping with health-related challenges, and this lack of knowledge has hindered development of psychosocial interventions that effectively harness potential benefits of naturally-occurring support. To address this gap my colleagues and I have developed the Social Support Effectiveness Framework, which describes features of support that predict the extent to which it delivers its intended beneficial emotional, informational, and practical resources.
My current research projects include:
- Development and evaluation of the Expressive Helping intervention for cancer survivors, designed to harness biopsychosocial benefits of helping peers
- Research to determine how survivorship narratives can be used in an empirically supported way to deliver emotional and informational peer support to people undergoing cancer treatment
- Development and evaluation of PainCOACH, an automated Internet-based (“eHealth”) pain coping skills training program that mimics features of the proven in-person intervention
- Research to clarify the motivations and skills that underlie effective partner social support in couples interventions for physical activity
- Patient decision making, including influences of family members, in the context of clinical and public health genomic sequencing
My work in these areas has been funded by the National Cancer Institute; National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; and the American Cancer Society. I have published findings in a number of peer-reviewed journals, including Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Health Psychology, Translational Behavioral Medicine, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Bone Marrow Transplantation, Psycho-Oncology, Journal of Health Communication, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Journal of Family Psychology, Psychosomatic Medicine, Pain Medicine, and the American Journal of Community Psychology.
Awards and Honors
American Psychological Association Advanced Training Institute on Structural Equation Modeling with Longitudinal Data Fellowship (2007)
National Institutes of Health Summer Institute on Design and Conduct of Randomized Clinical Trials Involving Behavioral Interventions Fellowship (2006)
Bertram R. Raven Award, Outstanding Contribution to the Study of Social Issues (1998)