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Jonathan Shaffer, PhD, MS

Developing a Mobile Psychosocial Intervention Application for Women with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

Dr. Shaffer is a clinical psychologist with training in the fields of cardiovascular behavioral medicine, health behavior change, and quantitative methodology. His research project will involve the development of a mobile psychosocial intervention application for women with spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a rare type of heart attack that generally afflicts young women with few risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Preliminary evidence suggests that SCAD patients may be at increased risk for developing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been successfully used to treat depression and anxiety in patients with cardiac disease, and preliminary evidence suggests that a CBT-based intervention for SCAD patients may be beneficial. Dr. Shaffer’s project aims to adapt an in-person CBT intervention into an online app for women with SCAD as part of a larger program of research that aims to increase the availability and dissemination of the intervention.

We caught up with Dr. Shaffer to ask some questions about his life and work.

When you were young, what did you envision yourself doing when you grew up?
When I was young, I first envisioned a career in oncology research and then had in mind that I would become a school psychologist during the day with a private psychotherapy practice in the evenings. My foray into science was somewhat serendipitous. When I had difficulty finding a job as a school psychologist after graduate school, one of my dissertation committee members referred me to a postdoc position in the Columbia University Medical Center’s Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health. During my postdoc, my current research interests in behavioral cardiology solidified.
If you had to summarize your research briefly, how would you describe it?
I study the biopsychosocial correlates of and treatments for cardiovascular disease. I am currently working to design a mobile psychosocial application for women with spontaneous coronary artery dissections. I am also studying the efficacy of Problem-Solving Therapy for outpatients with stable heart failure.
What are the real-world applications for your work? How can it help people?
Once I develop the aforementioned app for women with spontaneous coronary artery dissection, we will be able to release the app into the field for further testing. It should provide psychoeducation for women with this condition, and also provide a means by which to gain social support for these women.
What are your plans for the future of your research?
I plan to test the efficacy of the aforementioned mobile app versus an in-person intervention for women with spontaneous coronary artery dissections. We will consider clinical outcomes, quality of life, and cost-effectiveness of the app. I also hope to continue testing Problem-Solving Therapy for outpatients with heart failure. I plan to conduct a large, multicenter, phase III clinical trial of this intervention.