Karen L Weihs
- Professor, Psychiatry
- Associate Professor, Family and Community Medicine
Karen Weihs, M.D. is known internationally as a clinician, scientist, educator and thought leader in the areas of PsychoOncology, Supportive Care and Psychosomatic Medicine. She is board certified in Psychiatry, Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care, as well as in Family Medicine.
Dr. Weihs’ NIH funded research investigates the biological, psychological and social mechanisms through which the stress of cancer impacts both emotional and physical health outcomes of cancer patients. Her research career was launched with a Scientist Development Award for Clinicians for studies of family process and breast cancer outcomes. This research continues with her current R01 funding from the National Cancer Institute for the project “Emotional Regulation and Depression in Breast Cancer Survivorship”.
Dr. Weihs’ mentorship for graduate students in clinical psychology, family studies, art therapy has contributed to the next generation of psychosomatic medicine researchers. She is recognized for her leadership in bringing together colleagues from diverse backgrounds to study the interface of emotion science, neural systems, cancer biology and social processes as it impacts basic and applied research on PsychoOncology.
She has served on the leadership Council for the American Psychosomatic Society since 2009 and will complete her term as president in the spring of 2016. In this capacity, she contributed to the strategic plan for the organization and led the first Special Emphasis Symposium- “Toward Precision Cancer Care: Biobehavioral Contributions to the Exposome” – in the fall of 2012.
Dr. Weihs founded the multidisciplinary clinical service, Supportive Care for Healing, at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, for which the mission is to provide “Practical resources, support and healing opportunities in life transitions with cancer for patients and their close others”. In 2008 she was honored with the Award for Excellence in Clinical Care by the American PsychoOncology Society.
She is currently Professor with Tenure at the University of Arizona, Department of Psychiatry and a Comprehensive Member of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa, College of Medicine and completed her training in Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- The University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, United States
- B.A. Biology & Chemistry
- University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa, United States
- Professor with tenure, University of Arizona: College of Medicine- Department of Psychiatry (2013 - Ongoing)
- Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine, 2ndary appointment, University of Arizona: College of Medicine (2009 - Ongoing)
- Associate Professor with tenure, University of Arizona: College of Medicine- Department of Psychiatry (2008 - 2013)
- Associate Professor, University of Arizona: College of Medicine- Department of Psychiatry (2005 - 2008)
- Associate Professor, The George Washington University: Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences (2002 - 2005)
- Assistant Professor, The George Washington University: Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences (1991 - 2002)
- Instructor, University of Wisconsin: Division of Child Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry (1991)
- Clinical Instructor, University of Wisconsin; Department of Family Medicine (1988 - 1991)
- Assistant Professor, Brown University: Department of Family Medicine (1984 - 1986)
- Instructor, Brown University: Department of Family Medicine (1982 - 1984)
- Best Doctors in America
- Spring 2015
- Spring 2014
- Spring 2013
- Spring 2012
- Spring 2011
Licensure & Certification
- American Board of Family Practice Certification, American Board of Family Medicine (2002)
- American Board of Family Practice Certification, American Board of Family Medicine (1995)
- American Board of Family Practice Certification, American Board of Family Medicine (2009)
- American Board of Family Practice Certification, American Board of Family Medicine (1982)
- American Board of Family Practice Certification, American Board of Family Medicine (1988)
- Certification in Psychiatry, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (1994)
- Certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (2012)
Physician patient relationshipsPsychoOncologyMentalization based Psychotherapy
Mind Body processes as they affect patients with chronic and life threatening illnessPsychotherapeutic processes, especially related to emotion regulation
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- Weihs, K. L., Alberts, D. S., & Lluria-Prevatt, M. D. (2016). Supportive Cancer Care. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
- Weihs, K. L., Alberts, D. S., Lluria-Prevatt, M. D., & Ka, S. (2016). Supportive Cancer Care. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
- Weihs, K. L. (2015). Psychosocial Oncology. In Supportive Cancer Care. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.More infoThis textbook provides a highly coordinated, interdisciplinary model for future clinical cancer supportive care programs in National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Clinical and Comprehensive Cancer Centers and NCI Community Oncology Research Programs (NCORPs). At the same time, it is intended to serve as an up-to-date resource for oncologists and primary care providers that addresses the many aspects of supportive care associated with cancer survivorship. Accordingly, the book covers a wide range of areas and topics, including but not limited to psychosocial oncology, patient and familyeducation, lifestyle change counseling, palliative care, symptom management (eg. Pain control), cancer risk and genetic counseling, financial planning, and patient navigation.
- Badger, T., Segrin, C., Swiatkowski, P., McNelis, M., Weihs, K., & Lopez, A. M. (2016). Why Latinas With Breast Cancer Select Specific Informal Caregivers to Participate With Them in Psychosocial Interventions. Journal of transcultural nursing : official journal of the Transcultural Nursing Society.More infoThe purpose of this study is to describe the reasons 88 Latinas with breast cancer selected specific supportive others to participate in an 8-week psychosocial intervention. Participants were asked one open-ended question during the baseline assessment for a larger clinical trial: "Could you tell me more about why you selected [insert name] to participate in the study with you?" A content analysis of the responses found three thematic categories: source of informational or emotional support, concern for the informal caregiver's welfare, and special characteristics or qualities of the informal caregiver. These findings reflected both the cultural value of familism, the woman's role as caregiver to the family (marianismo), and the man's role of provider (machismo). Findings provide support for including the supportive person identified by the patient during a health crisis rather than the provider suggesting who that should be. Psychosocial services designed and implemented through such a cultural lens are more likely to be successful.
- Bauer, M. R., Harris, L. N., Wiley, J. F., Crespi, C. M., Krull, J. L., Weihs, K. L., & Stanton, A. L. (2016). Dispositional and Situational Avoidance and Approach as Predictors of Physical Symptom Bother Following Breast Cancer Diagnosis. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.More infoFew studies examine whether dispositional approach and avoidance coping and stressor-specific coping strategies differentially predict physical adjustment to cancer-related stress.
- Czamanski-Cohen, J., & Weihs, K. L. (2016). The Bodymind Model: A platform for studying the mechanisms of change induced by art therapy. The Arts in psychotherapy, 51, 63-71.More infoThis paper introduces the Bodymind model of Art Therapy and delineates the processes through which it has salutary effects on individuals coping with a variety of health related challenges. The goal of this model is to articulate how activation, reorganization, growth and reintegration of the self can emerge from bodymind processes activated by art therapy. It provides a framework for the conduct of research that will test the key theoretical mechanisms through which art therapy benefits clients. We expect this model to be a spring board for discussion, debate and development of the profession of art therapy. Furthermore, we hope readers can use this model to conduct sound mechanistic studies. This paper can inform social scientists and medical professionals on the manner in which art making can contribute to health.
- Howe, G. W., Cimporescu, M., Seltzer, R., Neiderhiser, J., Moreno, F., & Weihs, K. (2016). Combining stress exposure and stress generation: Does neuroticism alter the dynamic interplay of stress, depression, and anxiety following job loss?. Journal of personality.More infoEmerging models of stress point to a dynamic formulation where stressors and internalizing symptoms reciprocally influence each other. This study tested whether this dynamic interplay is the result of a general internalizing process underlying both depression and anxiety, and whether it varies with neuroticism.
- Larkey, L., Huberty, J., Pedersen, M., & Weihs, K. (2016). Qigong/Tai Chi Easy for fatigue in breast cancer survivors: Rationale and design of a randomized clinical trial. Contemporary clinical trials, 50, 222-8.More infoBreast cancer survivors (BCSs) often report fatigue that persists for years following treatment. Despite a growing body of evidence for meditative movement practices to improve symptoms among BCSs, few studies have explored using Qigong/Tai Chi to reduce fatigue. Additionally, few have examined the biological mechanisms through which fatigue may be reduced using Qigong/Tai Chi.
- Marroquín, B., Czamanski-Cohen, J., Weihs, K. L., & Stanton, A. L. (2016). Implicit loneliness, emotion regulation, and depressive symptoms in breast cancer survivors. Journal of behavioral medicine, 39(5), 832-44.More infoAmong individuals coping with cancer, emotional approach coping-expressing and processing emotions following negative events-has been identified as a potentially adaptive form of emotion regulation. However, its mental health benefits may depend on social-cognitive factors and on how it is implemented. This study examined loneliness as a determinant of emotion regulation associations with depressive symptoms in women with breast cancer. Loneliness was examined as an implicit social-cognitive phenomenon (i.e., automatic views of oneself as lonely), and emotional expression and processing were examined as both explicit and implicit processes. Approximately 11 months after diagnosis, 390 women completed explicit measures of coping through cancer-related emotional expression and processing; an implicit measure of expression and processing (an essay-writing task submitted to linguistic analysis); and an implicit association test measuring loneliness. Depressive symptoms were assessed 3 months later. Regardless of implicit loneliness, self-reported emotional expression (but not emotional processing) predicted fewer depressive symptoms, whereas implicit expression of negative emotion during essay-writing predicted more symptoms. Only among women high in implicit loneliness, less positive emotional expression and more causal processing during the writing task predicted more depressive symptoms. Results suggest that explicit and implicit breast cancer-related emotion regulation have distinct relations with depressive symptoms, and implicit loneliness moderates effects of implicit emotional approach. Findings support implicit processes as influential mechanisms of emotion regulation and suggest targets for intervention among breast cancer survivors.
- Reed, R. G., Weihs, K. L., Sbarra, D. A., Breen, E. C., Irwin, M. R., & Butler, E. A. (2016). Emotional acceptance, inflammation, and sickness symptoms across the first two years following breast cancer diagnosis. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 56, 165-74.More infoBreast cancer diagnosis and treatment are associated with increased inflammatory activity, which can induce sickness symptoms. We examined whether emotional acceptance moderates the association between proinflammatory cytokines and self-reported sickness symptoms in women recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Dodds, S. E., Pace, T. W., Bell, M. L., Fiero, M., Negi, L. T., Raison, C. L., & Weihs, K. L. (2015). Feasibility of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) for breast cancer survivors: a randomized, wait list controlled pilot study. Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, 23(12), 3599-608.More infoThis study assessed the feasibility of a meditation-based program called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) with breast cancer survivors. Enrollment and participant satisfaction with a novel intervention, adherence to program requirements, and differences between the intervention group and wait list controls on self-report measures were also assessed. Additionally, cortisol, a stress-related endocrine biomarker, was assessed.
- Lane, R. D., Weihs, K. L., Herring, A., Hishaw, A., & Smith, R. (2015). Affective agnosia: Expansion of the alexithymia construct and a new opportunity to integrate and extend Freud's legacy. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 55, 594-611.More infoWe describe a new type of agnosia consisting of an impairment in the ability to mentally represent or know what one is feeling. Freud the neurologist coined the term "agnosia" in 1891 before creating psychoanalysis in 1895 but the term has not been previously applied to the domain of affective processing. We propose that the concept of "affective agnosia" advances the theory, measurement and treatment of what is now called "alexithymia," meaning "lack of words for emotion." We trace the origin of the alexithymia construct and discuss the strengths and limitations of extant research. We review evidence that the ability to represent and put emotions into words is a developmental achievement that strongly influences one's ability to experience, recognize, understand and use one's own emotional responses. We describe the neural substrates of emotional awareness and affective agnosia and compare and contrast these with related conditions. We then describe how this expansion of the conceptualization and measurement of affective processing deficits has important implications for basic emotion research and clinical practice.
- Larkey, L. K., Roe, D. J., Weihs, K. L., Jahnke, R., Lopez, A. M., Rogers, C. E., Oh, B., & Guillen-Rodriguez, J. (2015). Randomized controlled trial of Qigong/Tai Chi Easy on cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer survivors. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 49(2), 165-76.More infoMany breast cancer survivors experience fatigue, mood, and sleep disturbances.
- Monfort, S. S., Howe, G. W., Nettles, C. D., & Weihs, K. L. (2015). A longitudinal examination of re-employment quality on internalizing symptoms and job-search intentions. Journal of occupational health psychology, 20(1), 50-61.More infoUnderemployed workers-those receiving less pay, working fewer hours, or using fewer skills than they would prefer-appear to experience negative mental health outcomes similar to the unemployed. Prior cross-sectional research provides mixed empirical evidence for this conclusion, however. The current study sought to clarify the impact of underemployment longitudinally, assessing mental health 5 times over 8 months after job loss. In addition to the commonly used indicators of underemployment, we designed a measure of cognitive complexity using the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), an extensive government database used to organize and categorize occupational information. Replicating past research, we found concurrent associations between all indexes of reemployment job quality and internalizing symptoms in the period immediately after reemployment. However, when controlling for quality of prior employment, all indicators except our measure for cognitive complexity became nonsignificant. As participants transitioned from unemployment to reemployment, only reductions in cognitive complexity were associated with sustained general internalizing symptoms. We also found that although changes in cognitive complexity had an immediate impact on the well-being of the recently reemployed, only the number of available weekly hours (full-time vs. part-time status) was relevant 6 to 12 weeks later. Our longitudinal model thus provides significant nuance to the current understanding of underemployment and mental health.
- Stanton, A. L., Wiley, J. F., Krull, J. L., Crespi, C. M., Hammen, C., Allen, J. J., Barrón, M. L., Jorge, A., & Weihs, K. L. (2015). Depressive episodes, symptoms, and trajectories in women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer research and treatment, 154(1), 105-15.More infoDepression carries serious psychosocial, physical, and economic consequences for cancer survivors. Study goals were to characterize patterns and predictors of depressive symptoms and major depressive episodes in recently diagnosed breast cancer patients. Consecutively recruited women (N = 460) completed a validated interview (CIDI) and questionnaire measure (CES-D) of depression within 4 months after invasive breast cancer diagnosis and at six additional assessments across 12 months. Outcomes were major depressive episodes, continuous symptom scores, and latent symptom trajectory classes. Across 12 months, 16.6 % of women met criteria for a major depressive episode. Unemployment predicted depressive episodes after other correlates were controlled. Distinct trajectory classes were apparent: an estimated 38 % of women had chronically elevated symptoms (High trajectory), 20 % recovered from elevated symptoms (Recovery), and 43 % had lower symptoms (Low and Very Low trajectories). Although 96 % of episodes occurred in the High or Recovery classes, 66 % of women in the High trajectory did not have an episode. Women in the Low (vs High) trajectory were more likely to be older, retired, more affluent, and have fewer comorbid diseases and briefer oncologic treatment. Women in the Recovery trajectory (vs High) were more likely to be married and more affluent and have fewer comorbid diseases. Assuming available therapeutic resources, assessment of both depressive symptoms and episodes over several months after diagnosis is important. Identification of patients at risk for persistently high depressive symptoms (e.g., younger, longer treatment course) opens targeted opportunities to prevent and promote rapid recovery from depression.
- Weihs, K. L., Howe, G. H., Ayers, T., & Sandler, I. (2016). Stressful life events predict externalizing and internalizing symptoms in children aged 9 – 15 after parental job loss. Journal of Personality.
- Menzl, I., Lebeau, L., Pandey, R., Hassounah, N. B., Li, F. W., Nagle, R., Weihs, K., & McDermott, K. M. (2014). Loss of primary cilia occurs early in breast cancer development. Cilia, 3, 7.More infoPrimary cilia are microtubule-based organelles that protrude from the cell surface. Primary cilia play a critical role in development and disease through regulation of signaling pathways including the Hedgehog pathway. Recent mouse models have also linked ciliary dysfunction to cancer. However, little is known about the role of primary cilia in breast cancer development. Primary cilia expression was characterized in cancer cells as well as their surrounding stromal cells from 86 breast cancer patients by counting cilia and measuring cilia length. In addition, we examined cilia expression in normal epithelial and stromal cells from reduction mammoplasties as well as histologically normal adjacent tissue for comparison.
- Weihs, K. L., Kogan, A., Stanton, A. L., Wiley, J., & Allen, J. (2015, March). Cardiac Vagal Control and Coping Strategies as Predictors of Depression in Breast Cancer. American Psychosomatic Society 73rd Annual Scientific Meeting. Savannah, GA.
- Weihs, K. L., Lane, R. D., Landa, A., & Gundel, H. (2015, January). Symptom Formation and mechanisms of Change in Somatoform Disorders: Research findings and implications for treatment. Psychodynamic Psychoanalytic Research Society, 5th Annual Meeting. New York, NY.
- Weihs, K. L., Weihs, K. L., Raison, C. L., Raison, C. L., Pace, T. W., Pace, T. W., Dodds, S., Dodds, S., Bell, M., Bell, M., Eparvier, L., Eparvier, L., Fiero, M., & Fiero, M. (2015, July). Feasibility and Effects of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) on Psychological Well-Being in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized, Wait List Controlled Pilot Study. 2015 World Congress of Psycho-Oncology. Washington, D.C.: American PsychoOncology Society.
- Weihs, K. L., Wiley, J. F., Crespi, C. M., Krull, J. L., Allen, J. J., & Stanton, A. L. (2015, January). Intraindividual Variability in Cancer-Related Avoidance Coping predicts Depressive Symptoms. Annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.
- Weihs, K. L., Reed, R. G., Butler, E. A., Sbarra, D. A., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015, March). Associations between pro-inflammatory cytokines and physical symptoms are moderated by emotional acceptance in women with breast cancer.. American Psychosomatic Society 73rd Annual Scientific Meeting. Savannah, GA.