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.

Depression

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

Professor of Psychiatry, 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.

 

Erin Kasson, MS, MSW

Clinical Research Coordinator

Ms. Kasson completed her undergraduate degree in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, with both Master’s of Science and Master’s of Social Work degrees from Saint Louis University. Ms. Kasson has previously worked and conducted research across a variety of mental disorders.

 

Xiao Li, MS

Data Analyst

Ms. Li completed her Master’s degree in Health Data Science from St. Louis University. She has experience with data mining of national databases and integrating machine learning algorithms into applications. Ms. Li has extensive experience with performing survival analysis, longitudinal analysis, and modeling of large population-based studies.

Raven Riordan

Professional Rater

Ms. Riordan completed her B.S. at the University of Missouri with a major in Biology and a minor in Spanish. She is currently pursuing admission into medical school and hopes to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has extensive experience conducting a variety of bench research as well as assisting patients overcome opioid addiction.

Nina Kaiser

Research Assistant

​Ms. Kaiser obtained her BA in Sociology at Saint Louis University and is now studying at SLU School of Medicine. She has extensive research experience studying the opioid crisis and maintains an interest in analyzing reproductive health disparities and the relationship between mental health and social media platforms. 

Andrea Fentem, MA

Project Manager

Ms. Fentem completed her undergraduate in psychology and her Masters in Clinical Psychology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She has clinical experience working with a wide-variety of populations, focusing specifically on the behavioral aspect of personality.

Christine Xu, MPH

Data Analyst

Ms. Xu recently received her MPH specializing in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Brown School at Washington University. She received her undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical engineering from Chengdu University of Technology in China. She is interested in psychiatric epidemiology, psychiatric genetics, health behavior, developmental psychology, and psychoanalysis. Ms. Xu has experience examining risk factors and psychiatric comorbidity of eating disorders and social anxiety disorder, and the effects of child maltreatment using data from genetically informative, longitudinal study designs. She is also conducting biostatistics research on reproducibility.

Amelia Dorsey

Research Assistant

Ms. Dorsey completed a BS in Psychology at Webster University in St. Louis, MO and plans to apply for master’s programs in the next year. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings including volunteering at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and BJC Hospice. Ms. Dorsey works with Dr. Alex Ramsey, as well, on genetic implementation research.

Recent Findings

Using an app to deliver information about Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

In this pilot study we examine the preliminary effectiveness of a mobile application, ‘uMAT-R’, that includes health information about opioid use disorder (OUD) recovery supported by science and MAT benefits.

Conducting investigations into substance use among teens and adolescents using nationally representative datasets (PATH, NYTS, NSDUH)

In this study that is linked, we looked at how social media impacts tobacco and vaping behaviors.

Examining the self‐reported advantages and disadvantages of socially networking about body image and eating disorders

We found that posting/following thin-ideal content on SMPs were motivation/encouragement to engage in a certain behavior, socializing, and information giving/seeking while posting/following thin-ideal content on SMPs were that the content elicits negative/bad feelings.

Leveraging social media to explore the barriers to treatment among individuals with depressive symptoms

We found that those with major depression were more likely to seek out treatment, to report an unmet need for
treatment, and have a higher risk of suicide. Barriers to treatment were more likely to be attitudinal, while participants with mild depression experienced more structural barriers.

News & Events

Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences Annual Symposium (ICTS)- February 2020

Our project manager, Andrea Fentem, presented findings from our uMAT-R project, which aims to connect individuals who misuse opioids with a mobile app to support them throughout their recovery. Raven Riordan and Briana Wilson also presented a poster on our findings and participant feedback to date.

Recruitment at CARE clinic - November 2019

Raven Riordan, one of our Professional Raters, is recruiting pregnant and postpartum women at the CARE clinic to test our new recovery-focused mobile app.

WUSTL Institute for Public Health Conference - October 2019

We love sharing our findings! Briana, Raven, Andrea (L-R) present our preliminary research on treatment barriers among pregnant and postpartum Opioid users at this year’s 12th annual IPH conference: Healthy Moms And Babies: Paving The Path To Reproductive Equity

 

Dr. Cavazos-Rehg travelled to Uganda with the Brown School - July 2019

The experience offered great insight into potential new global mental health research opportunities, allowing our team to gain a deeper understanding on the cross-cultural meaning of personal health.

Southwestern School for Behavioral Health Studies Conference in Tuscon, AZ - August 2018

Celebrating a successful conference presentation with our industry partner, iTether, LLC, where we shared our collaborative work developing a mobile app to assist individuals with opioid use disorder.

From left to right: Demetrie Petkas (iTether), Patty Cavazos (iCHASM director), Sean Gunderson (iTether CEO)

UMSL STARS ceremony - July 2018

We love being a part of the STARS program! This year Dr. Cavazos was recognized with 5 years of service to the program. Here she celebrates with our STARS alumni and current RA, Nina.

COVID-19 Vaccinations - February 2021

As members of the Washington University School of Medicine community, the iCHASM Research team has been receiving their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine over the past month. We are excited to be taking this important public health step with other researchers and healthcare providers to continue providing safe and effective support to our clients and to promote the health of our overall community. We are hopeful that such steps in the coming months will reduce the impact and uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic across the US and across the world.