Current Research and Scholarly Interests
My research is directed towards decreasing the gap between health care demand and supply. On the demand side, I work to empower communities to be healthy. On the supply side, I try to increase access to behavioral health resources for depressed older adults and to prevent burnout among health care providers.
Stanford Youth Diabetes Coaches Program (SYDCP)
Over the past 13 years since I started SYDCP, it has gained nationwide prominence as an evidence-based training program that improves the teen participants’ health knowledge, behaviors and self-assets. In 2021, it was selected to be included in the national “toolkit” programs by SNAP-Ed, the education program associated with what was formerly known as the “food stamp” program. Active in settings across the country, SYDCP provides the curriculum and help with implementation to its many community partners including Area Health Education Centers, Family Medicine residency programs, and public high schools in under served areas of the country.
In 2023, our focus is on implementation and dissemination research. We have new community partners in the Central Valley of California, under resourced communities on Oahu, Hawaii, and the Mississippi Delta. None rely on us for any operational costs. Rather, we provide program evaluation to demonstrate the “return on investment” for communities that partner with us. Understanding this helps programs to be sustainable.
PEP (Positive Experience Program) for Depressed Older Adults
At the beginning of the pandemic, colleagues and I developed a program in which primary care providers (PCPs) could help depressed older adults with brief behavioral activation therapy. This evidence based behavioral approach to treating depression in the elderly has been shown to be better than medication. The reason that it is not generally available is that historically it has required weekly 90-minute sessions for at least 10 weeks with a therapist. In PEP, we have created "scripts" that PCPs can read during a series of three weekly 30-minute standard patient care visits. The pilot studies showed that the elderly patients benefited from this and that most were no longer depressed after the three sessions of treatment. An unexpected outcome was that participating providers enjoyed these visits with their patients and found them easy to complete. This has tremendous potential to help the increasing numbers of depressed older adults who currently have no access to behavioral mental health care.
ASCEND (Acts of Self Compassion ExperieNced Daily)
There is a mental health crisis among health care professionals (HCPs). Self-compassion training has been taught to HCPs and found to be effective at improving quality of life, burnout components of emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment and at reducing clinical stress. Despite its benefits, HCPs may not attend self-compassion training that is offered and even after being trained, may not practice self-compassion. We aim to learn more about how to increase the number of HCPs who practice self-compassion on a regular basis.