What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on?
During the past 15 years, we have been developing an incentive-based intervention to promote smoking cessation using information technology. We recently completed a small study, funded by a UF Health Cancer Center Tobacco Pilot grant (Co-PI was Dr. François Modave), which employed smartphones and built upon our previous internet-based method for remote treatment delivery. The intervention promoted sustained rates of biochemically confirmed abstinence in most (64%) participants (Dallery et al., 2020). Funding from the National Institutes of Health is pending to conduct a randomized controlled trial using this method in socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers. I will be collaborating with the principal investigator at Oklahoma State University. Along with collaborators in the UFHCC, we are also exploring an application to patients undergoing cancer care, who experience a range of negative health outcomes with continued smoking. I am also interested in quantitative modeling of the variables that influence impulsive and risky choice in human laboratory settings, with an eye toward using this knowledge to improve prevention and treatment.
Why did you decide to focus on cancer?
I can’t say there was a singular decision point. It is something that emerged over time. It started with an interest in a natural science of behavior, and then using the knowledge derived from this approach to improve social welfare. Most of my work was basic behavioral research with animals, even during my doctoral training in clinical psychology at Emory University. It wasn’t until my postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University when the pieces came together. I was exposed to amazing mentors and science and ways in which my interests could be translated to assess and treat cigarette smoking, drug dependence, and other problem behavior. It was at that point the focus on cancer emerged. Modifiable behavioral risk factors such as smoking are critical determinants of cancer, and I had spent most of my training focused on the basic science of these determinants in the animal lab. After Hopkins, I gained translational and applied research skills that allowed me to develop technology-based approaches to address behavioral risk factors for cancer.
What excites you about your work? What is exciting to you about your field right now?
I’m excited about the convergence between new technology-based methods to assess and treat problem behavior and existing theoretical and empirical frameworks in behavior science. Existing frameworks have characterized the dynamic interplay between the social/physical environment and problem behavior, at the individual level, and new technologies are revealing this interplay for health behavior. Also, with an increase in accessible technology, we are reaching underserved and high-risk populations and delivering evidence-based behavioral treatment with high fidelity. There is a long way to go, but I’m excited about a potential transformation of the science and practice of behavioral health afforded by technology and guided by behavioral theory.
What do you like to do outside of work?
My wife and I enjoy going on adventures, beach trips and hikes with our two kids (4 and 6 years old), cooking and watching movies. I also do CrossFit style exercise — now at home due to COVID. I also enjoy reading and am currently reading “Why Trust Science?” by Naomi Oreskes.