Grantee: Yelena Wu

Yelena Wu

Yelena Wu, Ph.D.

Behavioral Scientist/Pediatric Psychologist
HBRB FEATURED GRANTEE
Organization:
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute - University of Utah

Current Title
Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology; Investigator
Huntsman Cancer Institute

Describe your scientific identity.
I am a behavioral scientist in cancer prevention and a pediatric psychologist. My work focuses on cancer prevention, especially skin cancer prevention, among young people including children and their families.

What are your research interests?
Designing efficacious behavioral interventions that communicate personalized information about skin cancer risk to young people and their families, and to improve their use of skin cancer prevention strategies. I am interested in finding ways to harness technologies, including sensors and mobile devices, to facilitate delivery of these interventions.

What is the significance of your current research project?
Skin cancer is diagnosed in more than 5 million people in the US annually. Childhood ultraviolet radiation exposure and sunburns are key modifiable risk factors for development of skin cancers, such as melanoma, later in life. However, there are few skin cancer prevention programs targeting adolescents, including in schools, that focus on teen intentional tanning and sun protection behaviors.

What motivated you to work in health behaviors research?
I have always been interested in understanding people, including what motivates them, why they make the decisions they do, and how they cope with difficult situations. I really enjoy being able to ask these questions in a research context, and design programs to support people in engaging in health behaviors that will improve their health and quality of life.

Describe something that had a profound influence on your program of research or scientific interests (an "ah-ha!" moment).
After having studied skin cancer prevention behaviors, such as wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen, in high-risk families for several years, I had my own children. One morning in preparation for a neighborhood walk, as I was trying to apply sunscreen to a screaming and running toddler, make sure the baby had protective clothing on, and get the dog ready and restrain him from chasing a neighbor's cat, I think I experienced true empathy for what many families may go through daily, and realizing how seemingly "simple" health behaviors can in reality be quite challenging to implement.

Selected training, awards, and honors:

  • Graduate training in Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Kansas
  • Clinical internship in Pediatric Psychology
  • T32 post-doctoral fellowship focused on medical regimen adherence at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center


Childhood ultraviolet radiation exposure and sunburns are key modifiable risk factors for development of skin cancers, such as melanoma, later in life. However, there are few skin cancer prevention programs targeting adolescents, including in schools, that focus on teen intentional tanning and sun protection behaviors.”

Selected Grants



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