Grantee: Wonsun Sunny Kim

Wonsun Sunny Kim

Wonsun Sunny Kim

Health Communication and Behavioral Scientist
  • Arizona State University - College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Current Title
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University

Describe your scientific identity.
I am a health communication and behavioral scientist conducting research on improving psychosocial outcomes related to quality of life and health of cancer patients and family caregivers in interdisciplinary settings.

What are your research interests?
My research has particularly focused on psychosocial outcomes such as depression, anxiety, and social isolation in hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HCT) patients and caregivers, a group that is highly distressed and very understudied regarding psychosocial distress. My primary line of investigation focuses on developing and testing the efficacy of narrative-based storytelling as a psychosocial intervention to reduce distress, improve quality of life, and reduce morbidity and mortality rates in HCT patients and caregivers.

What is the significance of your current research project?
HCT patients and caregivers are at particular risk for reduced psychosocial well-being, and there are a few rigorous interventions to alleviate psychosocial distress for both patients and caregivers. In my recent NIH-funded (R15) study, the narrative-based digital storytelling intervention focuses on the delivery of emotional content through vicarious social modeling. It is my intention not only to test the efficacy of using digital stories as a psychosocial supportive tool for HCT patients and caregivers but also to more fully understand psychosocial supportive needs and coping in HCT patients and families though the storytelling process. The study will build on current knowledge about how to implement narrative interventions for other cancers and other populations so as to broaden its applicability. I will also test a model of narrative effects on socio-emotional well-being to understand how exposure to stories affects emotional well-being through identification and engagement.

What motivated you to work in health communication research?
I have been fortunate to gain extensive trainings and mentorship by the leaders in the field of health communication through my doctoral degree. During my early career, collaborating with interdisciplinary teams has enabled me to bring my health communication research background through an interdisciplinary framework.

Describe something that had a profound influence on your program of research or scientific interests (an "ah-ha!" moment).
Cancer patients' and caregivers' personal stories are powerful inspirations for my work. Narrative-based storytelling as a therapeutic communication/coping tool can address deeper layers of psychosocial emotional challenges, which has the potential to mitigate long-term psychosocial distress and ultimately improve health outcomes.

Selected training, awards, and honors:

  • Ph.D., Health Communication, George Mason University (2013)
  • Digital Storytelling Facilitator Intensive training, Story Center, Berkeley, California (2018)
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, George Mason University (2017)
  • NIH Early Career Reviewer (2016)

Cancer patients' and caregivers' personal stories are powerful inspirations for my work.”