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 Costello, 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.

Glenn Floyd, MA

Scientific Writer

Mr. Floyd has extensive experience in writing, editing, and publishing within medicine and healthcare, including previous employment in the Psychiatry department at Washington University School of Medicine. Mr. Floyd earned an MA in Media Communications with an emphasis in Media Writing at Webster University in St. Louis after obtaining a BA in English at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Bria Savoy

ASPIRE Summer Intern

Miss Savoy is a rising sophomore at Fisk University in Nashville, TN, but her hometown is right here in St. Louis. She joins us this summer for her first research-related experience through an internship with Washington University’s ASPIRE program. Bria is a psychology major and plans on becoming a clinical neuropsychologist. In her free time she enjoys drawing, running, and shopping.

Nina Kaiser

Research Assistant

Miss Kaiser is a rising junior at Saint Louis University. Pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, along with minors in Health Care Ethics and Biology, she hopes to eventually study medicine. Having interned with iCHASM three years ago, she has experience working with the research team, as well as additional research experience studying the Opioid Crisis. She returns to the team this summer to work as a Research Assistant.

Austin Smarsh

IPH Summer Intern

Mr. Smarsh is a graduate student pursuing his MPH at the University of Michigan. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in 2012. He joins us this summer through Washington University’s IPH Summer Research Program. He has experience studying psychiatric disorders through neuroscience and biology, plans to study medicine, and is passionate about interdisciplinary healthcare.

Recent Findings

Supportive social networking on Reddit

In this study we examine a supportive and accessible subreddit for individuals with the desire to quit cannabis use and highlight the potential of online communities as tools for individuals coping with addiction recovery.

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

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.

Dr. Cavazos goes to Washington, D.C. - April. 2018

While attending the Association for Clinical and Translational Sciences annual meeting, Dr. Cavazos had the opportunity to meet with Senator Roy Blunt’s team to discuss our research.

WUSTL Institute for Public Health Conference - Sept. 2017

We love sharing our findings! Here our research assistant, Liz Cahn, presents our preliminary research on depression on social media at this year’s 10th annual conference: Why Science Matters: The Case for Evidence-Based Public Health


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!

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.