My Pilgrimage: Behavioral Medicine

     My interest in psychology was spurred on by a discovery over a quarter of a century ago.  Behavioral medicine research demonstrated that hostility, a psychological trait (the mind), had an affect on coronary heart disease risk—the body (Williams et al., 1980).  In my research I aim to help understand the link between psychological factors and the risk and prevention of physical disease.  To this end, I have participated in research that has helpsed identify personality and environmental factors that, across the life course, are associated with psychosocial, biological, and behavioral characteristics (taken singly and in clusters) that increase disease risk.  

      Behavioral medicine research has recently began to make new advancements.  We now understand that genes are also involved in the development of psychosocial and biobehavioral risk characteristics.  Based on the interaction between one’s genes and their life experiences, the individual will come to have certain psychological characteristics (i.e. personality traits and emotional tendencies) that modulate, via brain-body effects, the impact of ongoing environmental stressors on morbidity and mortality risk.  Across the lifespan, one's genetic makeup continues to moderate the impact of environmental stressors on emotional, behavioral, and biological responses that can cause disease.  Thus, a major area of my research interests lie in the identification of genetic variants that interact with environmental stressors to increase expression of the psychosocial, behavioral, and biological characteristics that constitute predisease pathways for cardiovascular disease as well as other physical and mental disorders.

Collaboration and Menotorship

Duke University researchers show effects of Lacrosse Scandal on cortisol levels (physiological marker of stress) among black undergraduates

Generational Transmission of Knowledge: Professionals, Mentors, and Students

Laura Smart Richman and Charles Jonassaint in the Social Science Research Institute DIISP lab at Duke University


In The News

The lacrosse incident provided Duke researchers a chance to study stress in real time. Full Story .

If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research

~ A. Einstein