wu banner

Yelena Wu

Yelena Wu

Yelena Wu, PhD

Cancer Center Bio

Selected Achievements

Vice President's Clinical & Translational Research Scholar Program (2014-2015)

Member, Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health (2014)

Co-editor of Clinical Practice of Pediatric Psychology (2014)

Ever since I was a child, I have been interested in medicine and psychology (or as I understood it at the time, "why people do what they do"). It then took 22 years for me to combine my medicine and psychology interests into the work I do now. As a pediatric psychologist, I seek to understand how children and their families manage medical recommendations for chronic diseases such as cancer, the reasons children and families struggle with or are successful in doing this, and how we can better support people in managing these regimens so children have the best health outcomes possible.

I pursued my desire to build a career related to healthcare as a pre-med undergraduate student at the University of California Berkeley. I continued to volunteer with medical populations, including as a support group facilitator for children whose parents had a terminal illness or had died and as a mentor for a young girl whose brother had cancer. Through these experiences, I realized that my true passion lay in the psychological side of medicine and understanding how people manage and cope with their health conditions. I was fortunate at UC Berkeley to work in a psychology research lab focused on children and families, led by Drs. Philip Cowan and Carolyn Cowan. My experiences in the Cowan lab gave me my first glimpse into the power of research and solidified my interest in conducting research with children and families. Together, these experiences and the years I spent as a research coordinator at the Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Disorder Research Program formed my resolve to pursue a career in health psychology.

I completed my graduate training in Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Kansas (KU) under the mentorship of Dr. Ric Steele and Dr. Michael Roberts. I explored a range of research topics within pediatric psychology ranging from the benefit of summer camps for children with cancer and their siblings to teaching school nurses how to address pediatric obesity in the school setting. I also received broad clinical training in child and adolescent assessment and therapy. One of the pediatric psychology topics that most piqued my interest was children’s adherence to medical regimens. What I immediately loved about studying adherence was that it was cross-cutting – it was relevant to all the pediatric populations with which I worked.

I completed my psychology internship in Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and continued there for my post-doctoral fellowship in the Center for Adherence and Self-Management. My post-doctoral work centered on medical regimen adherence among children with chronic health conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer. I became particularly interested in cancer because of the importance and broad applicability of adherence across the continuum, from cancer prevention to cancer treatment to cancer survivorship. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to join Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University of Utah to pursue research in these three areas.