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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Kenzie A. Cameron, PhD, MPH Research Assistant Professor in Medicine and Preventive Medicine

Kenzie A. Cameron, PhD, MPH

Kenzie A. Cameron, PhD, MPH, BS ’92, MA ’08, research assistant professor in medicine and preventive medicine, grew up in State College, Penn.

Active in the music program throughout elementary and high school, she played and performed in nearly every possible ensemble or group, including the wind ensemble, jazz band, marching band, a cappella concert choir, show choir, and madrigal ensemble. She completed her undergraduate degree in communication at Northwestern University, and was a proud member of the Wildcat Marching Band.

After undergrad, she spent a year and a half in Moscow, working as an English language editor for multiple journals of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She returned to the States to attend graduate school at Michigan State University in the Department of Communication, receiving both an MA and a PhD. Her graduate studies focused on social influence, health communication, and interpersonal communication. Prior to joining Feinberg, she was on the speech communication faculty at the University of Georgia.

While not currently involved in the music or the arts as a performer, Cameron and her husband hold season tickets to the Lyric Opera, the Goodman, and Steppenwolf.

Q: What are your research interests?
A: My background in social influence provides the foundation for my research, which focuses on message design using communication and social science theories, models, and principles. I am interested in the development and design of the messages that patients are provided, whether by their providers, the media, or educational materials to which they are exposed. My research has also had an underlying focus on addressing racial and ethnic health disparities, particularly in the realm of preventive care.

Q: What is the ultimate goal of your research?
A: I have always believed it critical to remember that individuals receive information and messages through multiple channels and from numerous others. Thus, if we are to develop a message that is meant to allow patients to better understand a medical concept, persuade them of the need for preventive care, or introduce them to unfamiliar medical terminology, it is not enough to merely provide them with information and leave it at that. I think many persuasive health-related messages fail because they simply provide a “strong argument” for engaging in a particular behavior. However, if we fail to address the concerns of the patient, or if we fail to acknowledge deeply held beliefs and attitudes, we are unlikely to change those attitudes and/or behavior.

Thus, the ultimate goal of my research is to develop and disseminate health-related messages (whether print, oral, or multimedia) to allow individuals to make informed decisions about their health and medical care. With my focus on preventive care, I hope to provide patients and community members the information they need (not only the information we believe they need) to make the decisions that will have a positive impact on their current and future health.

Q: What types of collaborations are you engaged in across campus?
A: My own research is augmented by my colleagues from general internal medicine, gastroenterology, Department of Preventive Medicine, the Institute for Healthcare Studies, the Department of Emergency Medicine, and the School of Communication at Northwestern University.

Within my division, I collaborate with numerous colleagues – my role in many of the studies is either related to message design, qualitative research and analysis, or providing input and expertise related to communication and social science theories. I have served as a co-investigator on studies, as well as in a mentorship role for fellows and junior faculty members. I also work as a co-investigator on projects led by individuals in other departments and divisions at Northwestern (e.g., Center for Genetic Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine), as well as by colleagues in the Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care at the Hines Veterans Administration.

These collaborations mean that, depending on the day and time, I could be focused on research relating to any of the following topics: colorectal cancer, influenza, MRSA, genetic research and biobanking, communication among patients and providers within the emergency department, herpes zoster, discharge safety of hospitalized seniors, admission handoff communication, and obesity and overweight prevention, among others.

Q: How is your research funded?
A: In general, my research is funded through the National Institutes of Health: currently I have an R01 titled “Low-Literacy Physician-Patient Intervention Promoting Colorectal Cancer Screening” funded through the National Cancer Institute, and am finishing up an R21 (“The Effect of Fact versus Myth Messages on Receipt of Influenza Vaccination”) funded through the National Institute on Aging. Near the start of my Northwestern career, I was fortunate to be funded by a Career Development Award through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through which I completed an MPH while focusing my research on developing and testing a multimedia intervention aimed at reducing racial disparities in the uptake of the influenza vaccination.

Q: What papers have you recently published and where?
A: Among my recent or forthcoming publications are:

  • Cameron, K.A., Persell, S.D., Brown, T., Thompson, J.A., Baker, D.W. (in press) A Randomized Controlled Trial of Patient Outreach to Promote Colorectal Cancer Screening among Patients with an Expired Order for Colonoscopy. Archives of Internal Medicine.
  • Cameron, K.A., Engel, K.G., McCarthy, D.M., Buckley, B.A., Kollar, L.M.M., Donlan, S.D., Pang, P.S., Makoul, G., Tanabe, P., Gisondi, M.A., Adams, J.G. (2010). Examining Emergency Department Communication through a Staff-Based Participatory Research Method: Identifying Barriers and Solutions to Meaningful Change. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 56:614-622.
  • Cameron, K.A., Song, J., Manheim, L.M., Dunlop, D.D. (2010). Not Accounting for Underlying Health Needs May Understate Gender Disparities in Health and Medical Utilization Among Older Adults. Journal of Women’s Health, 19: 1643-50.
  • Cameron, K.A., Ross, E., Clayman, M.L., Bergeron, A.R., Federman, A.D., Cooper Bailey, S., Davis, T.C., Wolf, M.S. (2010). Measuring Patients’ Self-Efficacy in Understanding and Using Prescription Medication. Patient Education and Counseling, 80, 372-376.

Q: What are the benefits of working as part of a research team?
A: I am not only part of one research team, I am part of numerous research teams, some of which I lead, others of which I am co-investigator or collaborator. This team approach is one of the biggest draws for me at Northwestern, and I know I am lucky to be surrounded by colleagues who truly enjoy each others’ company as well as have so much to bring to each project. I believe in the research model that we follow – that any one of us may have a good idea, but by having others’ input and expertise, that good idea can become great. Further, I believe it is really only with that collaboration that we are truly successful. Besides, it is always much more fun to be in the thick of research with colleagues as opposed to striking out solely on your own!