I am a clinical psychologist by training and my program of research is broadly focused on the development of psychosocial services to assist caregivers – family members and friends – of patients with cancer. My studies currently range from an examination of the utility of a distress screening process to connect caregivers with tailored support services, to trials of psychotherapeutic interventions that target common caregiving-related concerns, such as anxiety, insomnia, and existential distress, to a communication training program that will help caregivers to communicate more effectively with their loved ones and the medical team. I am the Founding Director of the Caregivers Clinic at MSK, and my research is very much inspired by the experiences of those seeking care our clinic. I want to do what I can to assist caregivers at every stage of their journey, so there is a lot of work to be done!
Since your work centers around caregivers, what would you tell someone whose loved one was recently diagnosed?
For a caregiver whose loved one was just diagnosed with cancer, I would remind them of the following: (1) you cannot do this alone, it is imperative to have a support network both for your loved one with cancer and for you; (2) in order to take the best care of your loved one, you must take very good care of yourself, and this includes recognizing and acknowledging your own limits; and (3) as a caregiver, you are a key member of the treatment team, you are on the front lines, so push yourself to speak up in medical appointments, get your questions answered and make sure your voice is heard.
Who introduced you to the T.J. Martell Foundation?
I was first introduced to the T.J. Martell Foundation in 2014 by Dr. Jimmie Holland, who received the Foundations’ Pioneer Award in 2015. Dr. Holland founded the field of Psycho-Oncology and the Department of Psychiatry at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, so she was a true trailblazer in medicine, and in life. I had the great honor of receiving mentorship from Dr. Holland during my first years on faculty at MSK, and it was her encouragement to examine the larger impact of cancer on families that led to my interest in cancer caregiving research.
You recently spoke at our New York Honors Gala Kickoff about the connection between music and medicine. Can you share that here?
My work with the T.J. Martell Foundation is very special to me, as I come from a family of musicians. My father was a world-renowned composer, arranger and orchestrator and my mother, a brilliant concert pianist. Music filled my childhood home and from an early age, the transformative and healing power of music was clear to me. Today, playing and listening to music is one of the ways that I ground and take care of myself, and I encourage my patients to do the same. Music is oftentimes the best medicine; even just a small dose can transport us to a different time and place and create within us a different emotional or physical feeling. So, my work with the T.J. Martell Foundation has in some ways brought things full circle for me and knowing that the spirit of the music industry is behind all of our science is incredibly powerful.
For details on the 44th Annual New York Honors Gala, please click here.