Faculty Spotlight: Susan Everson-Rose, PhD, MPH

“I was trained as a psychophysiologist and as a social epidemiologist. I have been able to combine my background in psychology studying stress mechanisms of disease with the tools of social epidemiology to investigate how psychological and social factors can influence risk for chronic disease.”

Susan Everson-Rose, PhD, MPH, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine’s Division of General Internal Medicine. After years of research on mind-body relationships, Everson-Rose has recently taken over as the President of the American Psychosomatic Society (APS).

“This Society includes both basic and clinical scientists who are dedicated to improving human health through rigorous scientific methods and innovative applications of those methods,” she explains.

Investigators that are members of APS study a wide variety of topics ranging from psychological interventions and behavioral risk factors, to autonomic nervous system physiology and neuroscience, to human social genomics and more. “It’s an interdisciplinary society that tries to integrate scientific advances from each of these different fields to understand how it is that the brain influences the body. This includes microbiologists, behavioral science specialists, epidemiologists, internal medicine physicians, psychiatrists and more.” says Everson-Rose.

“Not everyone involved in APS works with patients,” she continues. “But the work is really meant to help people understand how it is that the mind or brain can influence health and disease.”

Everson-Rose has been involved with the Society for over 20 years now, and in that time has only missed two annual meetings. “I found it a very stimulating place to just share ideas and learn from the people that were well ahead of me in terms of their experience and knowledge,” she says.

This multidisciplinary group of scientists focuses on the intersection of exposures– more specifically, the physiological changes that can happen as a result of psychological and social factors.

“Scientifically, that’s always been very interesting and exciting to me,” explains Everson-Rose. Her studies have been from an epidemiologic standpoint for the past 20 years. “The opportunity to understand how these things are related really drives me.”

Her involvement with the American Psychosomatic Society began when she was nominated for an early career award in 1997. The awarded work focused on hopelessness and its relationship to a variety of health outcomes, including mortality.

“As a young scientist, you get to interact with a lot of established leaders in the field and it’s very exciting to have access to people that have done really great work in the area,” explains Dr. Everson-Rose.

The meeting is held once a year as a way for professionals to come together and share cutting edge science and their latest findings. “So a lot of the young people bring a lot of fresh ideas and enthusiasm around newer technologies,” explains Everson-Rose. “Which can really inform the work that we more seasoned investigators do.”

One of the biggest goals of this society is to increase awareness of the scientific study of mind-body or brain-behavior relationships, and in so doing, eliminate the negative connotations around the term psychosomatic. The Society also works to make sure that the knowledge generated through scientific inquiry is accessible for all clinicians so that it may be applied clinically to help improve human health.

“We want people to understand the rigor of science that underlies what is generally referred to as mind-body medicine. I think the general public understands at a gut level that how you’re feeling connects to how you are physically. However, knowing that there’s strong science behind it, and that we use rigorous methods to try and understand those connections is critical,” she explains.

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