Robert B. Noll, PhD
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Psychology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
Robert Noll completed a doctorate in clinical psychology and did his clinical specialty training in pediatric psychology at Michigan State University following completion of his undergraduate degree and five years of military service as a naval aviator. Upon completion of his doctorate, he accepted a faculty position at Michigan State University in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development. Dr. Noll subsequently went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center where he served as the director of psychosocial services in the division of hematology/oncology. From 2004-2011, he served as the medical director for behavioral health, and division director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He served from 2006-2016 as chair of the Behavioral Science Committee within the Children’s Oncology Group. He has published extensively on psychosocial issues in pediatric oncology, notably documenting psychosocial difficulties for caregivers and subsequently developing evidence-based interventions. He is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and his pediatric oncology research has received funding from the National Cancer Institute, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, St. Baldrick’s Foundation and the American Cancer Society.
While survival rates for childhood cancer have improved considerably, the diagnosis of cancer in a child remains dreadful for caregivers. Psychosocial reactions are especially intense during the first few months of treatment. Caregivers experience negative moods, depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. They are distressed. These normal reactions potentially limit caregivers’ ability to advocate for their child and family. This presentation provides an overview of the development of an evidence-based intervention called Bright IDEAS designed to teach coping skills we hypothesized would alleviate distress in caregivers. Bright represents optimism and feeling empowered, and IDEAS represents: Identify the stressor, Define your options, Evaluate your options, Act out your plan, and See if it worked. The presentation traces findings across three randomized clinical trials using Bright IDEAS consistently showing: 1. acceptability to caregivers, 2. Efficacy, 3. teaching coping skills leads to less distress, and 4. no harm. Most significantly, data showing effects after treatment ends are also presented. Current efforts to disseminate within the pediatric oncology community will be discussed in the context of standards of care and training psychosocial professionals, as well as efforts to disseminate to additional cohorts of caregivers (sickle cell, pediatric rehab medicine).