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Monday, November 5, 2018

Our Research and Training Institute (RTI) has a new Executive Director, Kevin Stein, PhD. Read on below for a Q&A with Kevin (KS) and Operations Manager Levi James (LJ) to get to know the newest member of the RTI Team and his background in cancer research. 

LJ: First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself!

KS: Hi, my name Kevin Stein, and I am the new Executive Director of the Cancer Support Community’s (CSC) RTI. I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida where I lived with parents, who were both teachers, and my younger brother, who is now a musician. While I was in high school, my dad went back to school and became a mental health therapist, which fostered my own interest in the field of psychology. I attended the University of Florida, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and then went on to graduate school at the University of South Florida, where I earned a PhD in Clinical Psychology. While in graduate school, my interests expanded beyond clinical psychology to encompass behavioral medicine, and in particular, the mental health of people affected by medical conditions such as cancer. I subsequently completed a three-year Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Psychosocial Oncology at the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida. Prior to joining the Cancer Support Community this past year, I worked for the American Cancer Society for 17 years, where I served as Vice President of Behavioral Research and oversaw the design, development, and implementation of the ACS Study of Cancer Survivors, a large-scale, population-based, national longitudinal study of quality of life among cancer survivors.

LJ: How did you get connected with the RTI?

KS: I have actually been involved with the RTI since its inception, having served as a member of several RTI advisory committees for the launch of the Cancer Experience Registry, which afforded me the opportunity to meet and get to know the staff of the RTI, and CSC overall. Those early experiences gave me a great impression of this organization and I have remained engaged throughout the years in various ways. I now look forward to working with the current RTI staff and all of my CSC colleagues to advance CSC’s important mission.

LJ: What are your main research interests?

KS: My main research interests are to help our organization, and the greater scientific community at large, gain a better understanding of factors related to the physical and psychosocial functioning of persons affected by cancer, including patients, survivors, caregivers, and family members. My goal is to allow the patient’s voice to be heard – and to use our research to ensure that the patient’s experience is more widely appreciated, and taken into consideration before, during, and after treatment. We have a great opportunity here at CSC to use the many channels available to deliver programs and services that will help individuals and families cope with the challenges of being diagnosed with, treated for, and surviving cancer. That’s why I am here – to have an impact on the lives of the people we serve.

LJ: What is one RTI project that you’re particularly excited about?

KS: I am particularly excited about the VOICE – or Valued Outcomes in Cancer Experience – project. This study is developing a self-report questionnaire that will allow patients to share not only what they feel is most important to them as they go through their cancer journey, but also where they feel they have the most and least control. By measuring both importance and control, we can identify those issues that patients really want to focus on but perhaps do not feel empowered to manage. For example, a patient may feel it is extremely important for them to be able to maintain their energy level during and after cancer treatment so that they can continue to be productive in the their personal and professional life, but at the same time may not know how to adequately manage common symptoms of cancer treatment that negatively affect energy levels, such as cancer-related fatigue. This knowledge gives us the ability to try to intervene and help patients identify and implement strategies to address the issues that are central to their cancer experience. The VOICE tool also has significant implications for regulatory issues and clinical trials, so that the instrument may help providers and policy makers understand the things that are most valued by cancer patients and their loved ones.

LJ: Tell us something fun about yourself- any unique hobbies, interests, or fun facts?

KS: I love to be out in nature, and have developed a very serious interest in nature and landscape photography. I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the country, and to other parts of the world, to see some beautiful places and capture them with my camera. On weekends, you’ll find me out in the woods or in a park with my camera in hand looking to create images that inspire me and others. I am also a huge “foodie” and love to cook and to eat different types of food. Since coming to Philadelphia, I’ve had the opportunity to explore the food scene here.

LJ: Speaking of being a foodie- what’s the best restaurant you’ve found in Philly?

KS: In my short time in Philly thus far, I’ve sampled many different interesting foods, from the ubiquitous Philly Cheesesteak to walking the exciting halls of the Reading Terminal Market and seeing all the interesting options available. That being said, probably the best meal I have had thus far has been at Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Old City. They have three different types of hummus on the menu, and the Chef’s Tasting menu is like going on a culinary adventure in the Middle East. I highly recommend trying it – if you can get a reservation!

Thanks to Dr. Stein for taking the time to answer these questions, and welcome to Cancer Support Community!