Current Research Areas of Interest

Substance Use

Many youth and young adults are exposed to substance use-related content via social media. We are using social media for insights into drug use behaviors, especially use of newly emerging drugs that are increasing in popularity. This information will help us understand how social media can be used for delivering substance use messages to young people.


As more and more people engage with social media, it is important to learn the motivations of individuals who publicly post about their depression, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm struggles via postings on social media. We are seeking to understand why this type of social networking occurs online and how it impacts users’ overall mental health.

Eating Disorders

There is increasing concern about online communities that promote eating disorder (ED) behaviors. We are exploring innovative strategies for online, accessible, and timely ED-related outreach that could facilitate novel ways to utilize social media in mental health promotion and prevention initiatives.

Our Team

Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, PhD

Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, PhD

Associate Professor, Principle Investigator

Dr. Patricia Cavazos-Rehg is the principal investigator (PI) of iCHASM. She is a clinically-trained licensed psychologist who has been involved in biomedical research for over 10 years. After receiving her Ph.D. in Psychology from SUNY at Buffalo in 2004, she moved to Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) in St. Louis, MO to begin her research career, focusing on understanding how policy and social media shape health risk behaviors of young people. In addition to her research, she is also a dedicated Associate Professor and was voted “Course Master of the Year” by students enrolled in the Master of Science in Applied Health Behavior Research program at WUSM.


Melissa Krauss, MPH

Research Statistician

Ms. Krauss has over ten years of experience analyzing and interpreting data from public health studies, including youth substance use and mental health. She has experience in both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analytic methods, with extensive experience developing and analyzing survey data, thematic analysis of qualitative data, and social network analysis.

Shaina Sowles, MPH

Senior Clinical Research Coordinator

Ms. Sowles is a trained Behavioral Scientist and has been Dr. Cavazos’ research coordinator since October 2014. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan before obtaining her MPH at Saint Louis University. Ms. Sowles has extensive experience in research-based public health practice and has coordinated large, collaborative projects.

Elizabeth Cahn

Research Assistant, MPH Candidate 2018

Elizabeth is a first year MPH student focusing on health policy. Much of her previous work has centered around health behavior and chronic disease, and she is especially interested in institutional policies. Outside of work and school, she loves to bake and catch up on her favorite TV shows!


Bianca Joseph

National Institute on Drug Abuse Summer Intern

Bianca is a rising senior at Columbia University, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Her research interests include social media and mental health, with a specific interest in the relationship between depression and self-identity as a result of the need for a positive self-image online. Bianca hopes to attend graduate school in Fall 2018 to pursue a Ph.D. in Social Psychology.

Samantha Sansone

Research Assistant, Washington University Class of 2021

Samantha is an incoming freshman at Washington University. She hopes to pursue a B.A. in Entrepreneurship or Leadership and Strategic Management with a minor in Psychology. After participating in a summer research program at Dr. Cavazos’ lab last summer, she was excited to return as a part-time employee and further develop her research skills.


Recent Findings

Marijuana Edibles on YouTube

Edibles-related videos are easily found on YouTube and most are not age-restricted.

Depression on Tumblr

We establish a baseline picture of the depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation content on Tumblr that can serve as a starting point for discussions of this topic in the mental health community.

lmpact of Policy on Youth Tobacco Use

We confirmed that higher cigarette prices could help to reduce youth tobacco use behaviors. Several states still lag behind in terms of their low cigarette tax and should enact tax policies to reduce youth tobacco use.

Marijuana Advertising

We surveyed young adult marijuana users and over half reported viewing marijuana ads — either online or in more traditional forms of advertising such as billboards and print media.

News & Events

Dr. Cavazos-Rehg appointed Director of the Mentored Training Program in Clinical Investigation - July 2017

MTPCI provides research training to promote the career development of junior faculty and postdoctoral fellows. Congratulations to Dr. Cavazos-Rehg on this exciting new role!

National Conference on Health Disparities- May 2017

Our 2016 summer fellow, Monique McLeary, presented results from our study on disordered eating behaviors at this year’s National Conference on Health Disparities.

NCADA Coalition on Addictions Presentation - April 2017

Senior Clinical Research Coordinator, Shaina Sowles, presented research findings relating to marijuana on social media to coalition members.

WUSTL Graduate Professional Council Research Symposium - Feb. 2017

Third-year MSW/MPH student and iCHASM Research Assistant, Biva Rajbhandari, shared results from our study on dabbing high potency marijuana at this year’s Graduate Student Research Symposium.

WUSTL Institute for Public Health Conference - Nov. 2016

We love sharing our findings! Research Assistants, Alex D’Agostino, Biva Rajbhandari and Kiriam Escobar Lee presented our research findings at this year’s annual IPH conference: Mental Health is Public Health: Innovative Approaches to Behavioral Resilience.