Staff & Colleagues
Sandie Sephton, Ph.D. (Co-director)
Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Senior Scientist, Brown Cancer Center
Dr. Sephton’s focus is on mindfulness as a promotor of mental and physical health in the larger context of health psychology. She seeks to understand biological mediators of psychosocial effects on health, including effects of dispositional mindfulness and mindfulness meditation-based interventions. Her contributions include data showing the diurnal cortisol rhythm is prognostic for early breast and lung cancer mortality. Her research has provided evidence that childhood trauma may result in adult neuroendocrine dysfunction, and that social support, emotional expression, and existential or spiritual coping styles may protect normal endocrine and immune function in individuals who have experienced trauma, cancer, or chronic illness. Dr. Sephton’s research group is co-directed by Dr. Paul Salmon (Psychology). The Mindfulness and Biobehavioral Research Laboratory has demonstrated in a randomized clinical trial that mindfulness meditation relieves depressive symptoms among women with fibromyalgia. Current research is exploring psychoneuroimmune outcomes of meditation training in undergraduate students and investigating circadian disruption as a mediator of psychosocial effects in cancer progression.
Paul Salmon, Ph.D. (Co-Director)
Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
University of Louisville
I joined the faculty in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in 1976 after graduating from DePaul University with a Ph.D. degree in Clinical Psychology, More recently, I obtained an M.S. degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Lousiville. I am a licensed psychologist, and and also certified as both a Health Fitness Specialist by the American College of Sports Medicine and a yoga instructor through the Yoga Alliance (RYT/200 level). In collaboration with Dr. Sephton, I co-direct the BioBehavioral Laboratory and Mindfulness Studies Program here at the University of Louisville. My research, clinical, and teaching interests center on mindfulness, in a variety of contexts including stress management, exercise, clinical practice, and environmental sustainability. I derive enormous satisfaction from collaborating with Dr. Sephton and a wonderful team of gifted and enthusiastic undergraduate and graduate students who share a common interest in mindfulness. The result of this fruitful collaboration has been a steady flow of research publications, conference presentations, and clinical initiatives over the years that continues to grow and flourish. Currently, I am finishing work on a text for clinical practitioners, Mindfulness in Motion.
Elizabeth Cash, Ph.D. (Co-Director)
Dr. Cash is the Director of the Research Program and Head & Neck Cancer Outcomes Research Program for the Department of Otolaryngology-HNS & Communicative Disorders. Her graduate training in Clinical Psychology and current role in multidisciplinary medical clinics informs her investigation into biological and behavioral correlates of cancer
progression. Her research program is based on a model of psychoneuroendocrine and immune effects in cancer progression (Eismann, Lush & Sephton 2010). Her research assesses relationships between psychological factors, circadian rhythms measured via actigraphy, endocrine rhythms measured via salivary cortisol, systemic inflammatory processes, and biomarkers of tumor progression, response to treatment, and prognosis among patients diagnosed with cancer.
Lab Office Address:
University of Louisville
2301 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40292
Current and former graduate students
Jennifer Altman is a clinical psychology graduate student currently working towards completing her Doctorate in the UofL Clinical Psychology program. Jenn holds a Masters degree in Kinesiology from California State University Long Beach, as well as undergraduate degrees in Exercise Physiology, Psychology, and Social Psychological Perspectives on Sport and Exercise from the University of Northern Colorado. She has been certified as a personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Jenn’s research interests include examining different theories of health behavior change and the role of mindfulness within those theories specifically as it relates to exercise adoption and maintenance in clinical populations; mindfulness within the context of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; the intersection of mindfulness and movement; and associated psychosocial variables, health outcomes and their biomarkers. Her future plans include continued research in these areas, joining the Mindfulness clinical team in the fall and leading Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction groups.
Lauren Zimmaro is a current graduate student in the clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of Louisville. She completed her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University with a major in psychology and a minor in biology. Her main research focus is the intersection of positive psychology with health psychology, with particular attention to mindfulness-based interventions in patients with chronic illnesses. She is interested in the cognitive, emotional, and physiological processes that are linked to positive coping mechanisms and health outcomes in the context of disease. Her work in the Mindfulness and Biobehavioral lab will begin with a concentration on patients diagnosed with cancer, and she is looking forward to her research and clinical work in the University Hospital.
Chelsea Siwik is a clinical psychology graduate student in the doctoral program at the University of Louisville. She completed her undergraduate degrees at the University of Wisconsin, Madison with a major in both Psychology and Spanish. Chelsea’s main research interests focus on the bidirectional relationships between biomarkers of stress, immunity, genetic variants, and psychological comorbidities among patients with chronic medical illness. She is particularly interested in the cognitive and physiological processes that are linked to chronic stress and their contributions to progression of disease. Her work in the Mindfulness and Biobehavioral Health lab began with examining the impact of different coping styles on psychological and physiological stress outcomes among women diagnosed with gynecological cancer. Her future efforts aim to focus on clarifying the relationships between chronic stress, psychological comorbidities, immune imbalance, and medical outcomes among cancer patients.
Melissa Ellsworth is a current graduate student in the clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of Louisville. She completed her undergraduate degree at University of Maryland with a major in psychology. Her main research focus is the connection between emotion, stress and physical health with a focus on trauma and chronic pain, and how mindfulness-based interventions can be used to improve health outcomes. She is also interested in how mindfulness-based interventions can be extended to community-health settings. In line with her interests, she will be leading a mindfulness-based relapse prevention program for individuals in recovery from addiction at Wayside Christian Mission in downtown Louisville, a community health-based shelter and training program for homeless individuals. Her future plans include continuing research in the application of mindfulness-based interventions for mental and physical health outcomes and how to make these interventions more accessible to community health settings.
René Bayley-Veloso is a doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology program at the University of Louisville. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.A. in psychology and began graduate work in 2012, receiving her M.A. from UofL in December of 2014. Her research interests center on three interrelated themes: 1) mindfulness as a clinical intervention; 2) the impact of trauma history on cancer outcomes; and 3) examining the potential role of mindfulness in buffering stress associated with the cancer experience. Her dissertation is examining the intersection of trauma, mindfulness and health-related quality of life in a sample of lung cancer patients with the aim of understanding both the vulnerability and protective factors that may impact health-related quality of life in this underserved and under-studied sample. René has a strong interest in working with the military, and has worked with active duty Army at Fort Knox for two years. She plans to combine her research and clinical interests during her predoctoral internship at the Dallas VA hospital in July of 2016. Here she hopes to work with hospice and palliative care patients with the goal of improving their quality of life in the face of terminal illness.
Whitney N. Rebholz
Whitney Rebholz is a graduate student completing her predoctoral clinical physchology internship at Central Texas VHCS in July 2016. She completed her undergraduate studies at UofL majoring in Psychology with a Natural Sciences concentration. Whitney's research interests include better understanding the role that circadian rhythms, endocrine activation, psychosocial variables, and immune function play in the cancer outcomes (medical and psychological). She also has a specific interest in ethnic/cultural differences in physiological variables, psychological variables, tumor progression, and quality of life among cancer patients. Her clinical experiences during graduate school involved working in the Psychological Services Center at UofL, a practicum in the Head and Neck Clinic at the Brown Cancer Center, and neuropsychological assessment. Experiences during her internship include consultation and brief solution-focused therapy in Primary Care Behavioral Health, consultation and therapy (individual and group) in the Health Behavior Clinic, and consultation and therapy (individual and group) in the Mental Health Clinic. Her future plans include furthering her research, conduction consultation and therapy with cancer patients and those with chronic disease, and teaching at the University level.
Lauren Vines is a doctoral candidate in the UofL Clinical Psychology program. She completed her undergraduate studies at William Woods University, with a double major in Psychology and Equestrian Science, and she has a MS in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University. Lauren's research interests include neuropsychological correlates of mindfulness, the role of mindfulness in acute stress situations, trauma and posttraumatic growth, and culturally sensitive interventions for military and veteran populations. She is currently a Clinic Assistant at the UofL Psychological Services Center, a member of the CBT clinical team, and a prior member of the Mindfulness clinical team. Additionally, Lauren is completing a year-long practicum at Fort Knox Department of Behavioral Health, where she teaches big, tough Army guys about lovingkindness meditation and how to properly eat a raisin. She is looking forward to starting her 2013 pre-doctoral internship at the Central Texas VA Medical Center and joining her husband at Fort Hood, TX. Her future plans include working as a civilian clinical psychologist for the Army, finishing her mindfulness-based workbook for military spouses, and wearing her cowboy boots as often as possible.
Allie Hicks is a current graduate student in the clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of Louisville. She completed her undergraduate degree at Belmont University in Nashville, TN with a major in psychology and a double minor in health and social justice. Allie was also a student-athlete on Belmont’s Women’s Soccer Team. Her main research focus is the complementary nature of gratitude and mindfulness with a special interest in how each of these may play a role in physical and mental health. She is also interested in the mechanisms with which positive psychology enhances exercise and competitive athletes. Her clinical experiences involve working at a group home for at-risk teenage boys and providing therapy at the Psychological Services Center at UofL on the Mindfulness team. Allie’s future plans include continued research in these areas as well as increasing the accessibility of mindfulness-based interventions in diverse populations.
Sam Dreeben is a Ph.D. candidate in the clinical psychology program at the University of Louisville. He graduated from Williams College in 2006 with a B.A. in psychology and began graduate work in 2009, receiving his M.A. from UofL in December 2011. His research interests have focused primarily on mindfulness-based interventions and mindfulness of the body. He has co-authored a book chapter on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and written a first author paper on the MBSR body scan (currently accepted for publication with minor revisions). His dissertation study focuses on the development of a new measurement of mindful body awareness, the Mindful Interoception Sampling Task (MIST). His clinical experiences have included work at a pain management clinic, a state prison, a VA hospital, and the Psychological Services Center. He will begin his predoctoral internship at the Dallas VA hospital in July 2013. Like Lauren, Sam would also like to spend more time wearing cowboy boots while serving at a Texas VA hospital during his internship year. Unfortunately, however, he wouldn't be able to safely walk through doors, so he is planning to continue wearing boring footwear.
Megan Jablonski graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2007. She is currently a second-year student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program. Megan’s research interests focus on the relationship between stress and physical/psychological health. She has a strong interest in how mindfulness can be used to reduce the harmful impact of stress and hopes to investigate the specific physiological effects of mindfulness on the body. She also plans to study how mindfulness-based therapies can be tailored to treat specific illnesses as well as improve overall health and well-being.
Scott Hanneman is a first year doctoral student at the University of Louisville. He received a B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa with distinction in May of 2008. At the University of Iowa Scott actively researched various topics in psychology including: psycho-physiological reactivity, psychopathy, and quality of life. In future research at the U of L, Scott hopes to explore the reciprocal relationship between the mind and the body using psycho-physiological instruments. He is also interested in researching how mindfulness-based exercises may decrease symptom severity in individuals suffering from medical disorders.
Dr. Inka Weissbecker, Ph.D., MPH
Global Mental Health and Psychosocial Advisor
Dr. Weissbecker is a health psychologist specializing in the psychobiological impact of natural and man-made disasters, humanitarian crises and civil unrest. Her goals are to shed light on interventions at the individual and public policy levels to alleviate the impact of disaster and trauma in the US and abroad. She also works on elucidating the effects of climate change on health, including mental health. Many of her projects revolve around developing mutually beneficial partnerships and projects between United Nations agencies, NGO's and academic institutions that incorporate research and education. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Louisville and she completed her clinical psychology internship at the University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI). Dr. Weissbecker is currently pursuing her MPH at Harvard University, specializing in International Health. Dr. Weissbecker is also an NGO representative of the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS) to the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council and part of the NGO Committee of Mental Health (Stress and Trauma Working Group), which advises the UN regarding mental health issues, research findings and policy decisions.
Dr. Eric Dedert, Ph.D.
Duke University Medical Center
Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Dr. Dedert is a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University Medical Center and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Clinically, he is interested in the promotion of behavioral health in underserved groups and patients with chronic illness, as well as the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His research interests are in trauma, smoking, cancer, and circadian rhythms. Eric is currently doing research on smoking cessation interventions in patients with PTSD.
Andrea Floyd, Ph.D.
Department of Behavioral Science
University of Kentucky College of Medicine
Dr. Floyd is a graduate of the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Louisville. She completed her clinical psychology internship specializing in Behavioral Medicine at Brown University Medical School. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and is participating in a training grant focusing on cancer prevention and control in rural populations. Andrea has a broad interest in the fields of health psychology, psycho-oncology and psychosocial intervention. She is interested in investigating the effects of stress and psychosocial issues on adjustment, neuroendocrine and immune function, as well as disease status and quality of life in chronic disease, particularly cancer. She also has a strong interest in health disparities, health behavior change as well as individual difference factors, which may be protective for adjustment to difficult life situations.