Skip to main content

Faculty Profile: Betina Yanez, PhD, associate professor of Medical Social Sciences


Betina Yanez, PhD, is an associate professor of Medical Social Sciences and a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, the Center for Behavior and Health and the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute. Her work as a psychosocial oncologist aims to improve patient-centered outcomes and issues related to cancer control and survival by translating evidence-based research into equitable and effective cancer care.

What are your research interests? 

My research program’s framework falls in the areas of patient-centered outcomes and psychosocial issues pertinent to cancer control and survivorship. My work bridges behavioral medicine and health equity research to address the concerns faced by individuals with cancer. To that end, I have established an impactful and innovative research program that focuses on patient-centered care by engaging key stakeholders to address major public health problems in oncology, optimize cancer-related outcomes and enhance cancer care delivery. My research program is organized into three distinct but overlapping research components: health equity and community-based research, evidence-based behavioral oncology research, and implementation of patient engagement and patient-reported outcomes in cancer care. 

What is the ultimate goal of your research?

My ultimate goal is to translate evidence-based research into cancer care to improve the patient-reported outcomes and clinical outcomes of individuals diagnosed with cancer. To achieve this goal, my research has focused on establishing evidence-based behavioral oncology interventions that are innovative, scalable and often delivered via communication and health information technologies. An important aspect of my research program has been to forge collaborations with key stakeholders to identify and address unmet needs among medically underserved or underrepresented patients.  

How did you become interested in this area of research?

A diagnosis of cancer impacts patients in many ways, from accessing evidence-based care to struggling with side effects of treatment and coping with the consequences of a cancer diagnosis. I became interested in this area of research after witnessing the struggles patients often face across the cancer continuum and subsequently worked to increase access to care among medically underserved patients, reduce the burden of cancer and improve patient-centered care in oncology. 

How is your research funded?

My research lab is funded by the National Institutes of Health as well as the American Cancer Society and the Melanoma Research Alliance. 

Where have you recently published papers?

My research is published in a range of medical and behavioral medicine journals such as JAMA Oncology, Lancet Oncology, The Oncologist and Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Who inspires you? Who are your mentors?

I am grateful to have had several outstanding, inspirational mentors both in graduate school and during my postdoctoral fellowship. I am constantly inspired by my colleagues who work to find innovative solutions to improve patient experiences during treatment and cancer outcomes. But I am mostly inspired by the patients who I’ve worked with.