Tag Archives: translational research

elderly abuseBy H. Roger Segelken and Jeff Young
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, November 10, 2014

After nationwide concern about elder abuse by family members – and by nursing home staffers suspected of harming residents – a Cornell University-Weill Cornell Medical College study finds a high level of resident-to-resident elder mistreatment.

Nearly one in five nursing home residents in 10 facilities across New York state were involved in at least one aggressive encounter with fellow residents during the four weeks previous to the study.

“These altercations are widespread and common in everyday nursing home life,” said Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Human Development who also serves on the Weill Cornell faculty. “Despite the acute urgency of the problem, resident-to-resident mistreatment is underreported. Increased awareness and the adoption of effective interventions are greatly needed.”

The epidemic of resident-to-resident hostile behavior was reported Nov. 8 at the 2014 Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, D.C., by Pillemer and his Weill Cornell colleague, Mark S. Lachs, M.D., professor of clinical medicine and medical director of the New York City Elder Abuse Center.

The researchers say theirs is “the first study to directly observe and interview residents to determine the prevalence and predictors of elder mistreatment between residents in nursing homes,” and involved more than 2,000 residents. Data sources included staff interviews and reports, direct observation and a research-based questionnaire taken by residents and staff.

The research also suggests that individuals who are most likely to be involved in a mistreatment incident are younger, less cognitively and physically impaired, and prone to disruptive behavior, compared to fellow residents. There was no significant difference between men and women. African-Americans were less likely to be involved than non-Latino white and Latino residents. (The investigators noted that the study did not distinguish victims from perpetrators of resident-to-resident elder mistreatment.)

People who typically engage in resident-on-resident abuse are somewhat cognitively disabled but physically capable of moving around the facility, Pillemer told the gerontology conference. “Often, their underlying dementia or mood disorder can manifest as verbally or physically aggressive behavior. It’s no surprise that these individuals are more likely to partake in arguments, shouting matches, and pushing and shoving, particularly in such close, crowded quarters.”

Collaborating on the study was Jeanne Teresi, M.D., of the Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale, New York. The study was funded by grants from the National Institute on Aging, the New York State Department of Health and the National Institute of Justice.

How are you hurting?

Nursing homes provide care for about 1.5 million frail older Americans. It may come as a surprise that violence and verbal aggression are also a part of nursing home life.

Inappropriate, disruptive or hostile behavior among nursing home residents is a sizable (19.8 percent) and growing problem, according to the new Cornell research.

Specific types of mistreatment include verbal incidents, such as cursing, screaming or yelling at another person (16 percent); physical incidents, such as hitting, kicking or biting (5.7 percent); and sexual incidents, such as exposing one’s genitals, touching other residents or attempting to gain sexual favors (1.3 percent).

A fourth category, which involved 10.5 percent of people, included unwelcome entry into another resident’s room or going through another resident’s possessions.

“We urgently need strategies to address this underrecognized problem, which affects fully one-fifth of all residents, erodes their quality of life and is stressful for staff to manage,” said Lachs.

Jeff Young is a writer in the Weill Cornell Medical College Office of Public Affairs.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, October 9, 2014

Teaching adolescents to think more simply and categorically about risks helps them make healthier choices, finds a recently published, randomized experiment by Cornell psychologist Valerie Reyna. Her research shows that adolescents can be taught to think in these more protective, adult-like ways even though their brains are still developing, she says.

“We found that emphasizing bottom-line meaning was more effective than the standard approach for reducing risky sexual behaviors because such gist messages are preserved over longer periods and are key memories used in decision-making,” said Reyna, professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, reporting results from her extensive study testing interventions to reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy among adolescents.

“The goals of most risk reduction interventions are to enhance risk perceptions in order to overcome adolescents’ belief that they are invulnerable and to turn intuitive adolescent decision-makers into analytical, unbiased adults – but ironically, these aims are misguided,” Reyna said.

“Most adults reason more categorically than adolescents and base their decisions on the gist of information; they barely consider engaging in many high-risk behaviors because they intuitively grasp the risks and call up their experience and values more quickly,” she explained.

“Adolescents, on the other hand, take more time to weigh the benefits and risks, and often decide in favor of the benefits.”

Reyna and coauthor Britain Mills, Ph.D. ’09, developed a new risk-reduction program by incorporating her research on how adolescents reason into the proven sex education curriculum, Reducing the Risk (RTR). The main difference between the two curricula is that Reyna’s adaptation emphasizes framing typical sexual decisions in categorical ways that should promote risk avoidance (i.e. “even low risks add up to 100 percent if you keep on doing it”). Both curricula communicate the same facts about risk, but their gist-enhanced program, RTR+, promotes gist extraction, automatic retrieval of relevant personal values and automatic application of those values, Reyna and Mills say.

The effectiveness of the new curriculum was compared to the original and to an unrelated curriculum in a random, controlled trial design involving more than 700 youth in Arizona, Texas and New York. Participants took part in 14 hours of classroom instruction and activities, with follow-up surveys at completion and every 3 months up to a year after the intervention.

Reyna and Mills found that RTR+ produced improvements for 17 outcomes, whereas RTR produced improvement for 12. Effects of RTR+ were greater than RTR for nine outcomes and remained significantly greater than controls at one-year follow-up for 12 outcomes. Only RTR+ had a significant impact on measures of sexual behavior. Participants in the RTR+ group delayed initiation of sexual activity longer, had a lower increase in number of sexual partners, fewer unprotected sexual acts, less favorable attitudes toward sex and greater perception of risks of sex compared to the other two groups.

Their results suggest that by emphasizing gist representations, which are preserved over longer periods and are key memories used in decision-making, the enhanced intervention produced larger and more sustained effects on adolescent sexual risk taking, the authors say.

The study, “Theoretically motivated interventions for reducing sexual risk taking in adolescence: A randomized controlled experiment applying Fuzzy-Trace-Theory,” funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(4).

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

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Valerie Reyna
The paper
College of Human Ecology

By Sherrie Negrea
Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, September 23, 2014

span> Human development professor Robert Sternberg speaks at a Sept. 18 panel honoring Urie Bronfenbrenner, whom he said stands out among developmental psychologists from his era as “the one person whose views are still accepted.” - Lindsay France/University Photography

Human development professor Robert Sternberg speaks at a Sept. 18 panel honoring Urie Bronfenbrenner, whom he said stands out among developmental psychologists from his era as “the one person whose views are still accepted.” - Lindsay France/University Photography

As one of the world’s leading developmental psychology scholars, Urie Bronfenbrenner, a co-founder of the national Head Start Program, was often tapped by national leaders to inform public policy on children and families.

But when those requests conflicted with his work with students, it was clear who came first to Bronfenbrenner, a professor in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology for more than 50 years who died in 2005.

At a symposium on his legacy held Sept. 18, Stephen Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology, recalled visiting Bronfenbrenner’s office one day when his assistant knocked on the door to say that Vice President Walter Mondale was on the phone.

“He said, ‘Would you ask Fritz to call me back later? I’m with my students,’” Ceci said. “Urie prioritized students over everyone. There was never anyone more impressive or more interesting or engaging to Urie than students.”

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory redefined the social sciences by proposing that human development is influenced by a framework that encompasses not only psychology, but also includes cultural, social, economic and political structures. The interaction of these systems, which are shaped into policies and programs, could either thwart or nurture optimal development.

His research legacy was to encourage developmental psychologists to consider the importance of the individual’s environment when studying behavior. Robert Sternberg, professor of human development, noted that Bronfenbrenner is unique in the field because, of all other developmental psychologists, he is “the one person whose views are still accepted.”

Urie Bronfenbrenner in 1993

Urie Bronfenbrenner in 1993 - File photo

Sternberg said Bronfenbrenner’s work influenced his own research in environmental factors that shape human intelligence. When developing college admissions tests, for example, Sternberg said that measuring practical and creative skills in addition to analytical skills can double predictions of academic performance and reduce ethnic and socio-economic group differences by more than half.

Another key impact of Bronfenbrenner’s work was its influence on public policy. Elaine Wethington, professor of human development and of sociology, recalled her work with a group of faculty on Bronfenbrenner’s book, “The State of Americans: This Generation and the Next” (1996). Covering crime, the economy, changing family structures, poverty and education, the book presented lawmakers with findings to address core problems plaguing American society.

“Urie was way ahead of his time,” Wethington said. “He wrote that behavioral scientists need policymakers more than policymakers need behavioral scientists.”

While his colleagues believed that he had a “natural ability to communicate with policymakers, Bronfenbrenner said, ‘It wasn’t natural, I worked at it,’” noted Stephen Hamilton, professor of human development.

Bronfenbrenner, who received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell in 1938 with a dual major in psychology and music, was a gifted teacher who would meticulously prepare lecture notes, even if he had taught the class 20 times. “What he would try to do as part of class is to engage students in problem solving,” said Gary Evans, the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology, who was a student of Bronfenbrenner’s.

Over his five decades teaching at Cornell, Bronfenbrenner influenced generations of students across campus. One of those students was former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ’60, said John Eckenrode, director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

“When Janet Reno was on campus a few years ago as a visiting professor,” Eckenrode recalled, “she said, ‘People have often asked me throughout my career how it is that I’m as concerned and knowledgeable as I am on children and families, being a chemistry major at Cornell and a lawyer. And I always tell them it’s because I took Human Development Studies 115 with Professor Urie Bronfenbrenner.’”

Sherrie Negrea is a freelance writer.

Related Links:

College of Human Ecology
Urie Bronfenbrenner
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research

By Caitlin Harder
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, October 20, 2014

Pawan Angara discusses his spotted wing drosphila research with College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Kathryn Boor. - Mark Vorreuter

Pawan Angara discusses his spotted wing drosphila research with College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Kathryn Boor. - Mark Vorreuter

On Oct. 7, 26 students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and College of Human Ecology (CHE) gave one-minute “lightning” presentations on topics ranging from helping New York farmers adapt to climate change to market testing alternative sap products and offering classes to second-time parents.

The presentations were followed by a poster session that outlined what the students learned through research conducted during the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program.

Human Ecology Dean Alan Mathios and faculty member Gary Evans mingle with the Cornell Cooperative Extension interns. -Mark Vorreuter

Human Ecology Dean Alan Mathios and faculty member Gary Evans mingle with the Cornell Cooperative Extension interns. - Mark Vorreuter

Pawan Angara ’16 conducted research on spotted wing drosophila, an invasive species that lays its eggs in otherwise viable fruit, creating significant losses for organic farmers in the Hudson Valley. Angara spent his summer developing a gel that attracted the insects to a location where they could be exterminated.

Angara discovered that field research doesn’t always go as planned. “You have to adapt and work with the tools you have on hand, rather than what you wish you had,” he said. “I definitely was inspired by all the innovation I saw in the lab and the quick thinking that went on. When you’re in the field, you can’t just drive back to the lab to get something you forgot.”

This was his second summer participating in the program. “Every year I see more and more people doing great things for the community and great things for the world through research,” he said.

Lindsay Dower ’15 updated a curriculum on nutrition and fitness and taught modules to middle school children in Canandaigua. Applying the research of Valerie Reyna, professor of human development, Dower tested a theory that learning by understanding overarching ideas is more effective than memorizing facts. “I learned so much about the research process and, beyond that, how to work with different groups and types of people … and I definitely strengthened my leadership skills,” Dower said.  She is continuing her research in Reyna’s Laboratory for Rational Decision Making this academic year.

Food science major Susana Jimenez ’15 spent her summer in Wayne County working to increase participation of traditionally underrepresented Latino children in local educational opportunities. Building on the research of CHE senior lecturer Pilar Parra, Jimenez conducted interviews and focus groups and learned that parents and caregivers in the rural area showed high interest in extension programs. She identified and evaluated sites, learning that hosting programs in familiar spaces with established community leaders, such as Catholic churches, increased program participation. She said these groups wanted to learn about nutrition and food safety, but they were open to many of kinds of programs. “It’s not so much what you teach, but where and how,” she said.

Since its establishment in 2007, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program has expanded from five student projects to 26.

Caitlin Harder is a writer intern for Cornell Cooperative Extension.


By Sara Birmingham
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, July 2, 2014

Janis Whitlock, BCTR research scientist; Denyse Variano, family and consumer sciences issue leader, CCE Orange County; and Suzan Sussmann, parenting educator, CCE Orange County discuss their partnership to create support groups and educational materials for teens who self-injure. Photo by Mark Vorreuter

Janis Whitlock, BCTR research scientist; Denyse Variano, family and consumer sciences issue leader, CCE Orange County; and Suzan Sussmann, parenting educator, CCE Orange County discuss their partnership to create support groups and educational materials for teens who self-injure. Photo by Mark Vorreuter

When Natalie Bazarova, Cornell assistant professor of communication, wanted to study how and what people share on social networks, she turned to experts on the ground – Cornell Cooperative Extension parent educators – to connect with local families. Not only did these practitioners shape her research design, Bazarova said, at project’s end she had a network of partners to help “increase social media literacy and Internet competency in local communities.”

Tasha Lewis, assistant professor of fiber science and apparel design, presents her research priorities to the group. Photo by Mark Vorreuter

Tasha Lewis, assistant professor of fiber science and apparel design, presents her research priorities to the group. Photo by Mark Vorreuter

At the Research Navigator Initiative workshop on campus June 25-26, Bazarova and nine other faculty members joined 19 extension educators from eight counties to explore how to broaden pathways between research and the real world. The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), part of the College of Human Ecology, sponsors the trainings to bridge the “two cultures” of research and practice, according to Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor of Human Development, who helped found the workshops, which have reached 100 CCE educators and executive directors since 2010.

“There are tremendous benefits for both our researchers and outreach specialists from working together,” Pillemer said. “Researchers can ground their studies in the real-world experience of extension educators, and field staff participate in creating new knowledge that they can use in their daily work in communities.”

Jennifer Tiffany, Ph.D. ’04, executive director of CCE New York City, BCTR director of outreach and community engagement, and CCE associate director, called the workshop “a think-tank type context, in which we all could work creatively on developing more systematic, bidirectional translational research practices.”

Throughout the workshop, researchers and practitioners repeated a common goal: to initiate ground-up projects driven by community needs as well as more traditional top-down research originating from campus. “We usually see things as flowing from the research to the practice,” said John Eckenrode, BCTR director and professor of human development. “We want to reverse the arrows.”

At a panel discussion, CCE Orange County educators Denyse Variano and Suzan Sussmann and BCTR research scientist Janis Whitlock demonstrated a successful research-practice partnership. Three years ago, after a presentation by Whitlock about her findings on adolescent self-injury, Variano and Sussmann reached out to her for help educating families about the issue. The partnership has led to continuing programming on nonsuicidal self-injury, including support groups and educational outreach.

Such successes demonstrate the ability of campus researchers and community practitioners to bridge the gap between their worlds, Pillemer said. “We try to put into practice something that is often discussed, but less frequently acted on: connecting scientists on campus with community partners to conduct research that is truly relevant to practice needs,” Pillemer said.

Faculty presenters included Tasha Lewis, Ph.D. ’09, assistant professor of fiber science and apparel design; Carol Devine, Ph.D. ’90, professor of nutritional sciences; and Marianella Casasola, associate professor of human development.

Sara Birmingham ’15 is a student communications assistant for the College of Human Ecology.

Related Links:
College of Human Ecology
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research
Translational Research Tools

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, October 15, 2013

Jeanne Tsai, associate professor of psychology at Stanford University, speaks at the 2013 Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference - Jason Koski/University Photography

Recent scientific advances demonstrate the profound effects of emotion on physical health, even how long we live and what diseases we die from. Likewise, there is growing evidence for the effects of aging on our emotions. Both streams of research shed light on root causes of disease and pathways to lifelong health, which is why researchers gathered on campus Oct. 3-4 to better understand the interplay between emotions and health across the lifespan.

The Fourth Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference, “New Developments in Aging, Emotion and Health,” drew scholars from as far away as Europe to share research on the nature of age differences in emotions, how emotions influence health, the underlying biological and behavioral mechanisms, and possibilities for leveraging these discoveries to promote healthy aging.

“We convened a temporary think tank of long-standing and rising leaders in the two fields to create some unlikely encounters and novel ideas,” said Corinna Loeckenhoff, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology and director of the Cornell Healthy Aging Laboratory. “We expect the intellectual exchange and networking will lead to new conceptual developments as well as policy and translation opportunities with real-world implications,” she said. Loeckenhoff co-organized the conference with Anthony Ong, associate professor of human development.

Many of those who participated are pioneers in their fields. Laura Carstensen, a professor of psychology and the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, for example, is best known for her theory about how people’s motivations change as they age. She reviewed her recent research on leveraging older adults’ preference for the positive to improve health behaviors. Positive messages about the benefits of exercise, it turns out, are more effective than negative messages about risks of inactivity in motivating older adults to walk regularly. Such insights could revolutionize efforts to help America’s growing population of older adults remain active, she said.

Cornell neuroscientist Adam Anderson, associate professor of human development, said that his research suggests that positive emotions are associated with increased cognitive flexibility and creative problem solving, and this may be due to neural changes that impair selective attention. The aging brain, he says, exhibits this same “leaky filter” pattern. More information can slow down thinking, but there’s an upside as well, he proposed – the rose colored glasses of positivity broaden our field of view and help us see remote connections.

Alex Zautra of Arizona State University, who studies resilience and interventions that help people bounce back from stressors and adversity, shared his recent research on the crucial role of social ties in “unlocking” resilience and his initiative to develop online social intelligence training to help people build and maintain social ties.

Participants (who included other renowned scholars such as George Bonanno, Columbia University; Michaela Riediger, the Max Plank Institute for Human Development; and Laura Kubzansky, Harvard School of Public Health) also debated core assumptions about emotional regulation and personality, the effects of culture, environment and technology, and their implications for policy and practice.

The American Psychological Association plans to publish a book based on the papers presented at the conference, which was sponsored by Cornell’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Institute for the Social Sciences and Department of Human Development; the Scientific Research Network on Decision Neuroscience and Aging; Constance F. Ferris; and Liese Bronfenbrenner.

Conference videos

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

The new field of translational neuroscience uses brain science to inform applications that improve health and well-being. This means using (or improving) our understanding of the brain in order to develop new strategies for intervention. Until recently, translational neuroscience has supported medical interventions that are clinic-based, as in pharmacological, surgical, or behavioral treatments for neural and neuropsychiatric disorders. New on the horizon, however, is the use of neuroscience perspectives to inform social and behavioral interventions that are ecologically-based and can be delivered in the home or school setting. The target of these interventions has expanded to include developmental health outcomes, school readiness, and health promotion, in addition to brain-based disorders. This new approach takes translational neuroscience out of the clinic and puts it to work in our communities.

This series of short articles by Barbara Ganzel, Research Scientist in the Department of Human Development, will present some of the possibilities inherent in this new perspective on translational neuroscience. We invite you to join us in exploring the promise of this approach. Read the full story.

By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, February 28, 2013

Karl Pillemer, workshop organizer and Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development. Photo by Mark Vorreuter

The emerging field of palliative care -- which offers treatments to alleviate pain, suffering and stress for patients diagnosed with serious illness, but distinct from hospice care -- is taking hold in U.S. medicine. While it wins praise for its patient-centered approach and potential cost savings, the field remains largely unstudied, leaving practitioners with little evidence to improve methods.

Addressing these gaps, a team of researchers from the College of Human Ecology, the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) and Weill Cornell Medical College met with local palliative and hospice care professionals in a workshop Feb. 15 at Cayuga Medical Center (CMC). The meeting, co-sponsored by the CMC Palliative Care Program and Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County, followed a consensus workshop model, an approach invented by Cornell scientists that places researchers alongside practitioners to share their knowledge on a topic before voting on a research agenda.

Jane Schantz, nurse practitioner, Cayuga Medical Center Palliative Care Committee, with Josh Swiller, Ithaca-based writer and therapist. Photo by Mark Vorreuter

"Our belief is that if you want to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners, you have to create these micro-environments where the two sides can come together," said workshop organizer Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development. "Simply receiving our written recommendations or listening to a formal presentation is not nearly as powerful as sitting down together to hash out the big questions regarding palliative care."

Prior to meeting, the Cornell team studied more than 200 journal review articles on palliative care and interviewed more than 50 academic thought leaders from the field. They distilled their findings into 14 specific topics to research.

"We are looking at a lot of research that's produced -- some of it is valuable and some of it is more esoteric," said Dale B. Johnson, executive director of Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County. "I saw nothing off base in the Cornell group's recommendations, and they touched on the whole range of issues we face."

Deb Parker Traunstein, coordinator for the CMC Palliative Care Program, noted a sharp increase in palliative care consultations by the hospital in recent years. Among her recommendations, she urged researchers to consider how to tailor treatments to a diverse patient base and how to best deliver care in a variety of community settings.

Workshop participants included doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers, administrators and others who play a role on palliative care teams. "We invited as broad a range of professionals as possible so that everyone would have a chance to make their voices heard and enhance our understanding of the problems," said Dr. M. Cary Reid, associate professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Though researchers cautioned that the workshop results are not final, a few recommendations stood out:

  • Adapt palliative care programs for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities;
  • Assess public awareness of the dying process and end-of-life care to build better education programs; and
  • Examine family communication practices related to end-of-life planning.

The Cornell team will merge the results of the Ithaca workshop with recommendations from a similar gathering with palliative care professionals they hosted in January in New York City. Eventually, they will publish their recommendations in an academic journal and distribute them to major funding agencies to help steer an agenda for the field.

The workshops were funded by the Lawrence and Rebecca Stern Family Foundation, which provided $200,000 to the College of Human Ecology to support research on a national model for palliative care. Once the workshop recommendations are final, the gift will also fund a number of pilot projects by Cornell researchers on the most pressing topics.

Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

By Karene Booker

Jessie Boas


Meghan McDarby


Two Cornell undergraduates have been pursuing their respective passions for working with older adults and solving problems in underserved communities by tackling the burden of chronic pain among minorities.

Over the past year, Meghan McDarby ’14 and Jessie Boas ‘13 delved into the research on how persistent pain affects different racial, ethnic and age groups under the guidance of sociologist Elaine Wethington, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology and co-director of Cornell’s Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life (TRIPLL).

Their conclusion - minorities are at greater risk and are less likely to receive adequate care, and the problem may grow as America’s population ages and becomes increasingly diverse. The causes of the inequities are not simple, they found, ranging from factors like individual differences in pain sensitivity and beliefs about medical care, to provider factors like less effective pain assessment and communication with patients, to systemic factors like differing access to health care.

 “I think I have learned more about being a successful physician from this research than I have from any pre-med prerequisite,” said McDarby, a human development major and aspiring geriatrician. McDarby discovered her passion for older adults in high school through a chance volunteer experience at her local hospital and has pursued this passion through her coursework and activities at Cornell.

“This project sparked my interest in policy and public health issues,” she said. “I’ve realized that the sociological aspects of the practice of medicine are just as important as the biological and psychological principles.”

The students prepared their findings for a Pain Disparities Consensus Workshop, convened in December by TRIPLL, which brought researchers and practitioners together to develop strategies to address inequities in pain care in New York City.

“Our paper served as a springboard for collaborative and interactive discussion on pain disparities and related issues,” said Boas, a sociology major in the College of Arts and Sciences who hopes to join the Peace Corps when she graduates. “I want to have the skill set to effectively research the problems that plague communities, and be able to initiate programs to ameliorate them.” “Meghan and I were fortunate enough to attend this conference and to discuss pain disparities with top experts in the field.”

Now the students are writing an article with Wethington and TRIPLL Director Dr. Cary Reid at Weill Cornell Medical College highlighting their findings as well as the recommendations generated by the conference.

After spending months on the literature review, the highlight of the project came when she met Dr. Carmen Green from the University of Michigan, upon whose work the literature review was based. “Meeting strong, dedicated women like Dr. Green and Professor Wethington has given me the courage to move forward full-force into the healthcare field,” said McDarby.

 “Meghan and Jessie are outstanding examples of how involvement in research is one of the major advantages of a Cornell undergraduate education and a “win-win” for faculty and students,” Wethington said.  “They have brought incredible energy and intelligence to this project and their involvement has helped them apply what they have learned in the classroom to real world issues. Dr. Reid and I have benefited from their commitment and dedication and they have laid the groundwork for their future careers.”

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Ted Bocia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, May 10, 2012

Translational book coverTranslational research is often described as a bridge between academia and the outside world, connecting researchers, policymakers and community practitioners to improve human health and development.

Now there's a roadmap to help social and behavioral scientists further close the gap -- a new book by College of Human Ecology professors with models and real-world case studies for improving education, health care access and delivery, disease prevention and more via translational research.

Co-edited by Elaine Wethington, professor of human development and of sociology, and Rachel Dunifon, associate professor of policy analysis and management, "Research for the Public Good: Applying the Methods of Translational Research to Improve Human Health and Well-Being" (American Psychological Association Books, released May 15 includes chapters by experts in psychology, child development, public policy, sociology, gerontology, geriatrics and economics. The book grew out of the second Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference, a cross-disciplinary gathering of leading experts in the social sciences and medical fields held at Cornell in October 2009.

In recent years, Wethington said, translational research has been closely associated with medicine, where billions are spent annually to develop new treatments and interventions to combat sickness. But increasingly the National Institutes of Health and other major funding agencies are calling for social scientists to address issues relevant to human health and to collaborate with medical scientists to improve application of basic findings to communities.

"Translational research has gained prominence in biomedical research, where there's an emphasis on speeding lab findings into practice," she added. "It also goes back to the work of Urie Bronfenbrenner and his colleagues, however, who were ahead of their time with an ecological approach to human development that brought together research, policy and practice. This book defines the term in that context and provides practical insights for doing translational research."

Graduate students and early-career scientists unfamiliar with translational research methods should find the book valuable, Wethington said. "There is a surge of interest in the field right now, so the book should be a great resource," she said.

Numerous Cornell professors contributed chapters and editorial expertise to the book, as well as two students. Helena Herman '11 and Eric Zember '10, M.A. '11, provided research and are co-authors on separate chapters.

The book is the second in a set of five planned in connection with Cornell's Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference series. The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, College of Human Ecology, Institute for the Social Sciences and Cornell Cooperative Extension provided funding support.

Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.