Grantee: Jada Hamilton

Jada Hamilton

Jada Hamilton, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Behavioral Scientist
BBPSB FEATURED GRANTEE
Organization:
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Current Title
Assistant Attending Psychologist, Assistant Member
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Describe your scientific identity.
I am a behavioral scientist conducting research at the intersection of behavioral science, cancer prevention, and genomics.

What are your research interests?
My program of behavioral research aims to translate advances in genetic and genomic testing technologies into improved cancer care that is of high quality and aligned with patient preferences and ultimately improves public health. My research interests involve understanding the basic psychological processes of how people perceive, respond to, and make decisions about genetic health risk information.

What is the significance of your current research project?
My current R21 project evaluates how patients perceive and respond to a novel form of genetic testing - testing for SNPs that serve as genetic modifiers of cancer risks and that can be used to generate a polygenic risk score that more precisely predicts BRCA1/2 mutation carriers' cancer risks. This genetic risk modifier testing offers great promise for improving BRCA1/2 carriers' decision-making experiences regarding effective cancer prevention and control strategies, but it may introduce challenging complexities for patients. This research project will provide critical foundational knowledge about the diverse psychological and behavioral implications of this novel personalized risk information. These issues must be rigorously explored before genetic risk modifier testing can be integrated into clinical cancer care.

What motivated you to work in biobehavioral or psychological science research?
Since my time as an undergraduate double major in Genetics and Psychology at Ohio Wesleyan University, I have had a long-standing interest in how people engage with and understand health-related genetic risk information. I have been curious about what motivates people to seek out genetic testing, which provides information that can help them improve their health yet also has a high degree of uncertainty. With my research, I hope to ultimately identify strategies that facilitate people's understanding and adaptive responses to genetic and genomic risk information, thereby helping people use this information to make effective decisions and successful behavioral changes that promote their well-being and reduce their vulnerability to cancer.

Describe something that had a profound influence on your program of research or scientific interests (an "ah-ha!" moment).
My doctoral training was in Social and Health Psychology, and an "ah-ha!" moment for me was realizing how valuable interdisciplinary collaborations are for conducting the kind of research that I am excited about. For example, partnering with oncologists and genetic counselors helps me to learn more about the clinical questions and innovations that matter to patients and their providers. Establishing these kinds of relationships can take time, effort, and confidence in your own scientific perspective, but I have found it to be really rewarding.

Selected training, awards, and honors:

  • B.A., Genetics and Psychology, Ohio Wesleyan University
  • M.A. and Ph.D., Social and Health Psychology, Stony Brook University
  • M.P.H., Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University
  • NCI Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program (CPFP) fellow and Merit Award recipient
  • Honored as a New Investigator by the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research
  • New Investigator Award, American Psychosocial Oncology Society.
  • Mentored Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society (MRSG-16-020-01-CPPB)


With my research, I hope to ultimately identify strategies that facilitate people's understanding and adaptive responses to genetic and genomic risk information, thereby helping people use this information to make effective decisions and successful behavioral changes that promote their well-being and reduce their vulnerability to cancer.”



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