Collaborator Spotlight:
Dr. Susan Loeb

Collaborator Spotlight:
Dr. Susan Loeb

Susan J. Loeb, PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN, is a Professor in the College of Nursing and the College of Medicine at Penn State University. She earned her nursing degrees at Penn State in 1988, 1992 and 2002. She has also received numerous honors and awards, including being a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing since 2012.

Dr. Loeb’s signature program of research focuses on addressing the health needs of older incarcerated people with chronic conditions, including those in the advanced stages of disease, and extending through their end of life (EOL). Her expertise in multiple methodological approaches is applied to a series of studies including research, development, dissemination, and implementation of a toolkit for training prison staff in strategies to enhance geriatric and EOL care in prisons. This toolkit has more recently been transformed into computer-based training modules, referred to as “Enhancing Care of the Aged and Dying in Prisons.”

She is currently a Multiple Principal Investigator with Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Klein Buendel Senior Scientist, on a study funded by the National Institute on Aging where their team is conducting research and development on a highly interactive and media-rich set of prototype modules based on best practices in peer caregiving in correctional settings. This training is referred to as “Just Care.”

Dr. Loeb and Dr. Walkosz plan to expand their research collaboration into another age-related disease area: Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. They hope to transform best practices in Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias care into media-rich, highly interactive, computer-based educational modules to prepare corrections staff and peer caregivers to meet the growing care needs of people who are incarcerated and living with cognitive decline.

Dr. Loeb’s research has been disseminated through more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and numerous conference presentations. She has served as Principal Investigator or Multiple Principal Investigator on five studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and as Co-Investigator on two additional NIH-funded studies.


Mutual Influences of Mothers’ and Daughters’ Mental Health on the Closeness of their Relationship

Mutual Influences of Mothers’ and Daughters’ Mental Health on the Closeness of their Relationship

A Health Chat study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies examined intra- and interpersonal associations between poor mental health and mother–daughter relationship closeness in a sample of 467 dyads. Health Chat was a social media intervention designed to reduce mothers’ permissiveness toward their teen daughters’ indoor tanning behavior. It also addressed other adolescent health topics, such as vaccination, alcohol, and physical activity.

An Actor–Partner Interdependence Model was used to examine bidirectional processes between mothers and their teenage daughters. The independent variable was self-reported poor mental health and the dependent variable was relationship closeness. Communication satisfaction was also examined as a potential interpersonal mediator of the pathway between poor mental health and relationship closeness.

Daughters’ self-reported poor mental health negatively predicted their own perception of closeness as well as mothers’ perception of closeness. In addition, there was evidence that perceived communication may help explain both the actor effect (one’s own poor mental health on one’s own perception of closeness) and the partner effect (partner’s poor mental health on one’s own perception of closeness).

Detailed methods and results are presented in the publication. Results suggest that when daughters’ mental health is poor, relationship closeness as perceived by mother and daughter may be weakened, and that this effect may in part be explained by poor communication between mother and daughter. The authors concluded that strategies to promote family communication, especially for families experiencing mental health problems, may aid in the development of closer mother–daughter relationships.

This research was funded by a grant and supplement from the National Cancer Institute (CA192652; David Buller and Sherry Pagoto, Multiple Principal Investigators). Additional collaborating authors include Hyanghee Lee (lead author) and Kimberly Henry from Colorado State University; Katie Baker and Joel Hillhouse from East Tennessee State University; Jessica Bibeau from the University of Connecticut; and Barbara Walkosz and Julia Berteletti from Klein Buendel. 

Keeping Research Moving During a Pandemic

Keeping Research Moving During a Pandemic

Dr. Susan Loeb, PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN, from the Pennsylvania State University Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing – and an active Klein Buendel research collaborator – reflected on her research team’s experience in keeping research productive during the COVID-19 pandemic at the 17th Annual Custody & Caring Conference, November 4-5, 2021. The virtual conference was sponsored by the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. 

The cessation of face-to-face human subjects research by Universities and Departments of Corrections due to the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged researchers to seek alternative approaches for moving their work forward, albeit often not as originally conceived. Dr. Loeb’s presentation, and an accompanying award-winning poster led by Dr. Erin Kitt-Lewis from the Penn State Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing, reported experiences from the Inmates Care Project,an STTR grant awarded to Klein Buendel by the National Institute on Aging (AG057239; Dr. Susan Loeb and Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Multiple Principal Investigators).

The Inmates Care study served as an exemplar to demonstrate strategies and adaptions employed to forge ahead in modified yet meaningful ways despite a protracted public health emergency. Inmates Care focuses on the research and development of computer-based training to prepare incarcerated persons to assist corrections staff in caring for people who have grown old behind bars and are approaching the end of their lives in prison. Identification of barriers and facilitators, re-envisioning how the team would restructure their day-to-day work, and preparing for the future were a few of the essential steps that were described.  

Key Lessons Learned

  • Seizing the opportunity to make investments in team member development;
  • Writing protocols that detail both in-person and virtual options for data collection to allow the team to pivot quickly when the next challenge arises; and
  • Reaching out to brainstorm with funding agency program officers, Institutional Review Board analysts, advisory board members, and other researchers beyond the team.

Such initiatives can result in scientifically sound, safe, and pragmatic solutions to keep research productive despite public health challenges. Taken together, these approaches can maintain study progress and scientific integrity, as well as identify alternate ways to achieve study aims in a timeline necessarily relaxed, but as close as possible to the original plan.

Co-authors on the presentation and 1st Place poster included Dr. Erin Kitt-Lewis, Sherif Olanrewaju, and Leigh Casey from Penn State University; Dr. Valerie Myers formerly from Klein Buendel; Jeannyfer Reither and Savanna Olivas from Klein Buendel; and Katherine Aiken from the Penn State College of Health and Human Development.

In addition to the paper and poster presentation, Dr. Loeb was also an invited panelist on a Closing Keynote titled, “Reflections on Forensic Mental Health and Correctional Nursing.”

Let’s Talk About Skin Cancer

Let’s Talk About Skin Cancer

Family communication about skin cancer risk may motivate people to put sun protection into practice. However, the availability, distribution, and reach of such communication is not well known.

In a recent publication in the Journal of Health Communication, authors including Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel, describe prevalence and patterns of family communication about skin cancer across 600 diverse primary care patients. The patients were from Albuquerque, New Mexico, a geographical location with low latitude and significant year-round ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Over half of the patients reported discussing general cancer and skin cancer risks with their families. The most frequent target of skin cancer risk communication included doctors, followed by friends/coworkers, spouse/partner, other family members, sisters, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, and brothers. On average, participants reported having talked to three family members about skin cancer risks.

The most frequently discussed skin cancer risk communication topics were the use of sun protection, followed by the personal risk of skin cancer, who had skin cancer in the family, family risk of skin cancer, time of sun exposure, and skin cancer screening. Overall, greater family communication about general cancer and skin cancer risks was associated with a family or personal history of cancer, higher perceived risk, higher health literacy, being non-Hispanic, having higher education or income, and proactive sun protective behavior.

These study findings have implications for developing interventions that encourage family discussions about skin cancer risk, sun protection, and skin cancer screening that may foster the adoption of sun-protective behaviors and reduced exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA181241; Dr. Jennifer Hay and Dr. Marianne Berwick, Multiple Principal Investigators). Authors in addition to the Principal Investigators include Dr. Smita Banerjee (lead author) and Dr. Elizabeth Schofield from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Dr. Andrew Sussman, Dr. Dolores Guest, Dr. Yvonne Dailey, Dr. Matthew Schwartz, and Dr. Keith Hunley from the University of New Mexico; Dr. Kimberly Kaphingst from the University of Utah; and Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel.

STAC-T: Formative Research Results

STAC-T: Formative Research Results

Formative research, such as target population focus groups and usability testing, is essential for the design and development of interactive technology-based programs. Usability testing results of a brief web-based middle school bystander bullying prevention program, STAC-T, were published recently in JMIR Formative Research. The research team was led by Dr. Aida Midgett from Boise State University. Key collaborators included Dr. Diana Doumas from Boise State University and Dr. Valerie Myers, formerly from Klein Buendel.

STAC-T translates four strategies to train bystanders to effectively intervene to reduce bullying into a time- and cost-effective web-based program for middle school students and staff. The four strategies are: “Stealing the show,” “Turning it over,” “Accompanying others,” and “Coaching compassion.”

The main purpose of the formative research was to assess the usability and acceptability of a STAC-T prototype in advance of full-scale development. Other aims included understanding school needs and barriers to program implementation, and assessing differences in usability between middle school staff and students. 

Sixteen participants from three middle schools in rural, low-income communities completed STAC-T usability testing and a qualitative interview. The publication describes the usability testing methods and outcomes of data analyses, including ratings of prototype program satisfaction, acceptability, feasibility, needs, barriers, and recommendations for program adjustments. Overall, school staff and students reported satisfaction with the web-based program. They found it easy to use, acceptable, and feasible. The findings have encouraged the authors to pursue the full-scale development of the STAC-T web-based bullying prevention app for middle schools.

The STAC-T feasibility project was funded by a small business STTR grant to Klein Buendel from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health (MD014943; Dr. Aida Midgett, Principal Investigator). The STAC-T prototype was programmed by Klein Buendel’s Creative Team.

FitBrothers

FitBrothers

African American men experience significant health disparities across a number of preventable chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes, and cancer. Physical activity (PA) is a modifiable risk factor for these conditions. However, the limited number of clinic- or community-based PA promotion studies that have included African American men have resulted in successful short-term behavior change for PA levels. Maintenance of increased PA levels over an extended time period is needed for sustained health benefits.

A research team from Klein Buendel, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC), and Georgetown University are launching a new research project to address PA maintenance in African American men with technology. The project is: A Smartphone App to Increase and Maintain Physical Activity in African American Men (FitBrothers). The effort is being led by Dr. Robert Newton from PBRC and is being funded by a Fast-Track STTR grant to Klein Buendel from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (MD014947; Dr. Robert Newton, Principal Investigator).

Dr. Newton’s preliminary focus group data indicates that African American men would be receptive to maintenance strategies delivered via smartphone. For this new project, the team will develop a prototype smartphone app and conduct usability testing to determine design viability and acceptability among would-be users in Phase I. In Phase II, the team will conduct a comparative effectiveness trial to assess success of the app on the PA maintenance levels of participating African American men.

Dr. Newton is an Associate Professor of Physical Activity and Ethnic Minority Health at PBRC. His research collaborators include Dr. Derek Griffith from Georgetown University and Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel. Dr. Griffith is the Founding Co-Director of the Racial Justice Institute, Founder and Director of the Center for Men’s Health Equity, and Professor of Health Systems Administration and Oncology at Georgetown. Dr. Buller is the Director of Research at Klein Buendel. The FitBrothers app will be engineered by Klein Buendel’s Creative Team.

Mothers and Teenage Daughters: HPV Vaccination Information via Social Media

Mothers and Teenage Daughters: HPV Vaccination Information via Social Media

Dr. David Buller, Klein Buendel’s Director of Research, and his coauthors have published results from the Health Chat Project in the online journal, Frontiers in Digital Health. Health Chat was designed as a social media intervention to reduce mothers’ permissiveness toward their teen daughters’ indoor tanning behavior. It also addressed other adolescent health topics, including human papillomavirus vaccination.

“Parents acquire information about human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines online and encounter vaccine-critical content, especially on social media, which may depress vaccine uptake,” according to the authors. To help address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, the authors employed a Facebook-delivered adolescent health campaign targeting mothers with posts on HPV vaccination. The study examined the relationship between mothers’ comments and reactions to posts about HPV and any change in their self-reports of having their daughters vaccinated.

The online publication describes the study’s hypotheses, social media health intervention, research methods, results, communication strategies, and limitations. The behavioral research was guided by social cognitive theory, transportation theory, and diffusion of innovations theory. In summary, mothers commented both positively and negatively toward HPV vaccine-related posts. Also, vaccinations rates increased from baseline, through 12-month and 18-month follow-up assessments.

This research was funded by a grant and supplement from the National Cancer Institute (CA192652; Dr. David Buller and Dr. Sherry Pagoto, Multiple Principal Investigators). Collaborating authors include Dr. Katie Baker and Dr. Joel Hillhouse from East Tennessee State University; Dr. Kimberly Henry from Colorado State University; Jessica Bibeau from the University of Connecticut; Kelsey Arroyo from the University of Florida; and Dr. Barbara Walkosz and Julia Berteletti from Klein Buendel. 

Skin Cancer Genetic Testing Research

Skin Cancer Genetic Testing Research

Klein Buendel Director of Research, Dr. David Buller, is a co-author on two recent publications reporting the results of studies on genetic testing and treatment decision-making for melanoma patients. Both papers report finding from a study directed by Dr. Jennifer Hay from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Dr. Marianne Berwick from the University of New Mexico.

Behavioral and Psychological Outcomes Associated with Skin Cancer Genetic Testing

The first paper has been published in the journal Cancer (Basel). The study investigated genomic testing of the common melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene for skin cancer risk in a randomized controlled trial in primary care settings in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Study participants were randomized 5:1 to a MC1R test invitation or usual care. Three-month sun protection, skin cancer screening, and skin cancer worry outcomes associated with testing, and key effect moderators (such as cancer risk perceptions, and skin cancer risk factors) were assessed.

Full research methods and results are reported in the publication and show that the primary outcomes were unchanged by the MC1R test offer, test acceptance, and level of risk feedback. Moderator analyses results are also presented in the publication. “Risk feedback did not prompt cancer worry, and average risk feedback did not erode existing sun protection,” according to the authors. More study is needed in the understanding and development of tailored strategies to address low skin cancer risk awareness and genetic testing.

This research was supported by the National Cancer Institute (CA181241; Jennifer Hay and Marianne Berwick, Multiple Principal Investigators). Collaborators include Kimberly Kaphingst from the University of Utah; David Buller from Klein Buendel; Elizabeth Schofield and Yuelin Li from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Kirsten Meyer White from the New Mexico VA Health System; Andrew Sussman, Dolores Guest, Yvonne Dailey, Erika Robers, Matthew Schwartz, and Keith Hunley from the University of New Mexico.

Effect of Superstitious Beliefs and Risk Intuitions on Genetic Test Decisions

The second paper has been published in the journal Medical Decision Making. The study investigated cognitive causation, or superstitious thinking, and negative affect in risk as predictors of MC1R (moderate v. high risk) skin cancer genetic testing and responses to the testing.

Nearly 500 participants completed baseline assessments using validated measures of cognitive causation (beliefs that thinking about cancer risk increases cancer likelihood) and negative affect in risk (negative feelings generated during risk perception) and subsequently received a test offer. Participants could access a website to learn about and request genetic testing. Those who completed genetic testing for skin cancer completed assessments of cognitive and affective reactions two weeks after testing.

Methods, assessment measures, and full results are reported in the publication. In summary, negative affect in risk did not hamper test information seeking, but did inhibit the uptake of genetic testing. Those with higher cognitive causation showed more fear regarding their test result.

This research was supported by the National Cancer Institute (CA181241; Jennifer Hay and Marianne Berwick, Multiple Principal Investigators). Collaborators include Kristen Riley from Rutgers University; Andrew Sussman, Dolores Guest, Yvonne Dailey, Matthew Schwartz, and Keith Hunley from the University of New Mexico; Elizabeth Schofield from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; David Buller from Klein Buendel; and Kimberly Kaphingst from the University of Utah.

Vacteens: A Web App to Boost HPV Vaccine Uptake

Vacteens: A Web App to Boost HPV Vaccine Uptake

Dr. W. Gill Woodall, Klein Buendel Senior Scientist, and his coauthors published the results of the Vacteens Project in the online journal, Frontiers in Digital Health.

The uptake of HPV vaccine in the United States remains lower than preferred by health authorities, particularly for young adolescents, when immunogenic response to the vaccine is strongest. Potential parental barriers to low vaccine uptake include confusion, uncertainty, and misinformation about HPV vaccine schedule, safety, and effectiveness. Dr. Woodall and his collaborators believe that parental barriers to HPV vaccination may be addressed by digital interventions, such as web apps, that are tailored to their concerns.

The Vacteens Project project tested a web app for educating parents. The study was conducted with 82 parent-adolescent (daughter) pairs recruited from in nine pediatric clinics in New Mexico. It tested whether digital information delivered to parents in a community setting may be an effective way to help reach HPV vaccine uptake goals in the United States. Diffusion of Innovations Theory principles were used to guide the development of the Vacteens/Vacunadolescente mobile app in English and Spanish.

Parents were randomized to receive either the Vacteens/VacunaAdolescente mobile web app or the usual and customary online HPV vaccination pamphlet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Parents completed surveys at baseline and month 3, and child vaccine records were collected at month 12. Vaccine uptake results from the study found that parents who received the Vacteens/VacunaAdolescente web app were more likely to have their daughters vaccinated than parents in the control condition. Study methods, results, and limitations are detailed in the online publication.

This research was funded by a grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to the University of New Mexico (#1511-33018; Dr. W. Gill Woodall, Principal Investigator). Dr. Woodall’s collaborators include Dr. Greg Zimet from Indiana University, Dr. Alberta Kong, Dr. Lance Chilton, and Dr. Randall Starling from the University of New Mexico, and Dr. David Buller, Jeannyfer Reither, and Dr. Valerie Myers from Klein Buendel.

Workplace Sun Safety Training Goes All-Virtual

Workplace Sun Safety Training Goes All-Virtual

People who work outdoors are exposed to high levels of solar ultraviolet radiation (UV) over a lifetime that can substantially increase their risk for developing skin cancer. Workplaces can be an effective channel for UV safety policy and training for employees in order to reduce their UV over-exposure and risk for skin cancer.

Klein Buendel researchers and their collaborators have been developing, evaluating, and refining comprehensive approaches to occupational sun protection for two decades. Now, the experienced research team is launching a new project funded by the National Cancer Institute to develop and evaluate a mechanism for distributing an established sun protection program virtually to diverse workplaces in the United States. The virtual environment will be comprised of a database, content management (interactive toolbox), and media platform (trackable training) to tailor the sun safety program to management’s readiness to innovate on sun safety based on Diffusion of Innovations Theory. In addition, the virtual platform will better integrate sun safety training by improving appropriateness for Hispanic and African American workers and conforming with the latest learning management systems technologies.

The Fast-Track SBIR project (CA257778) will complete a 9-month Phase I feasibility study and a 2-year Phase II effectiveness trial through employers across the country. The primary hypothesis of the study is that compared to employers in a minimal information control group, employers assigned to receive SSW Works will have employees that practice more sun protection at posttest. The research will be led by Mary Klein Buller, Principal Investigator. Co-Investigators include Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Julia Berteletti, and Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel. The virtual platform will be engineered by Klein Buendel’s Creative Team.

The outdoor workforce in the United States is large and, in many places, at very high risk for skin cancer. Improving sun safety will help reduce health care costs and save lives. Thus, the research will have high impact and potential for commercial adoption, two objectives of SBIR projects.