As Director of the Clinical Research and Consulting Lab (CRCL), the primary focus of my work is assisting residents, fellows, and junior faculty within the Department of Medline (DOM) in conducting and disseminating high quality, impactful research projects. My background and training in research methodology and statistics helps to fill the gap that many early career researchers face when trying to get a project from concept to completion. Given the nature of my responsibilities at CRCL, I do not have one specific research are of interest. I have, however, had the opportunity to work with researchers within many divisions of the DOM, and have had research published and presented at national and international conferences in the areas of behavioral medicine, nephrology, cardiology, and internal medicine, to name a few. In addition, I also provide workshops and training (e.g., research design, statistical analysis) to assist DOM members in becoming better producers and consumers of research. We are currently developing a ‘portable’ research curriculum at CRCL that we hope will be useful research tool for all of the members within the DOM.
I am Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Behavioral Medicine whose clinical, research, and educational activities focus on the interplay of health and behavior. Since its founding in 1994, the division’s clinical arm provide brief, state-of-the-art treatment for patients with painful medical disorders. These disorders include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), low back pain, pelvic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, non-cardiac chest pain, temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and benign headaches such as migraine and tension headaches. A unique feature of our clinical services is the use of evidence-based treatment protocols that help patients gain control of symptoms that have not adequately responded to standard medical therapies. Because our clinicians are active researchers, patients receive cutting-edge treatments often times before they are more broadly disseminated. Our clinical work emphasizes a collaborative approach that recognizes that each patient is unique and presents with specific problems and not simply a diagnosis or set of symptoms. My research focuses on developing and testing novel and safe treatments for chronic pain disorders, understanding their “active ingredients”, identifying patients for whom they are most effective, and their real world value. With NIH support since 1999, my research has influenced clinical practice guidelines and established me as an internationally recognized authority in the behavioral treatment of chronic pain disorders particularly IBS. Division research provides valuable scholarly experiences for trainees in the UB medical school, school of public health, and the College of Arts and Sciences. We are pleased to offer these educational opportunities to qualified students at other local and international educational institutions as well. Trainees learn to design, write, conduct and analyze quality research projects with the goal of co-authoring at least one empirical study for publication. The academic skills students learn during research rotation support their professional development whether they progress to careers as independent researchers or academically-oriented clinicians who depend on critical thinking and a scholarly approach to healthcare delivery. As part of the division’s Clinical Research Consulting Lab, I routinely assist faculty and mentor residents and fellows in research design and methods and consult with industry partners seeking ways to harness the science of behavior change to gain a competitive edge for product development, strategy, and evaluation. I lecture in several UB departments such as internal medicine, family medicine, psychiatry, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery and psychology with the aim of familiarizing trainees with the psychosocial aspects of chronic diseases and behavioral change strategies critical for managing their day-to-day burden.
Jennifer Meka, PhD is the Assistant Dean for Medical Education and Director of the Medical Education and Educational Research Institute (MEERI) at the Jacobs School of Medicine at the State University of New York SUNY at Buffalo (UB). She earned her PhD from UB in Elementary Education and her master’s in Teacher Education from Canisius College. Prior to joining UB, Jennifer served as the Director of the Woodward Center for Excellence in Health Sciences Education at the Penn State College of Medicine providing support for faculty and other teaching health professionals seeking skills development and mentorship in their roles as educators. Her current research areas focus on the impact of participation in peer observation of clinical teaching on observer teaching self-efficacy and clinical teaching practice; developing co-teaching partnerships — between clinician-educators and learning specialists — to enhance student learning; and using evidence-based educational principles for assessment of student learning.
Addictions; Public Health and General Preventive Medicine; Behavioral Medicine
I was trained as an experimental social psychologist but my research has involved the use of multiple methodologies including laboratory studies, longitudinal survey studies, and daily diary studies. My primary research interests are in the area of behavioral health, in particular (1) the relationship of substance use and misuse to aggression, relationship conflict, and social functioning and (2) psychological and social variables that influence quality of life among people with chronic medical disorders (IBS, cardiac arrhythmia etc).
I am a fellowship-trained health psychologist and director of the Pilot Studies Program in the Division of Behavioral Medicine at the University at Buffalo. My program develops and tests self-management programs for persistent pain disorders. I also develop and refine treatment manuals designed to help clinicians test and disseminate standardized interventions in order to consistently administer effective treatments. My research goals are twofold: to better understand the predictors of treatment response, including co-morbid psychiatric disorders, personality variables, coping strategies, social environment, family factors; and to eventually identify the neurobiological underpinnings of treatment response to clarify how cognitive behavioral therapy CBT exerts its effects. In addition to my clinical research program, I have more than 10 years of clinical experience assessing and treating patients struggling with chronic pain. I provide clinical care through UBMD internal medicine at the UB Behavioral Medicine Clinic. My practice provides behavioral treatments for medical patients with chronic illnesses ranging from traumatic brain injury, migraines, low back pain and multiple sclerosis to irritable bowel syndrome. I believe that the goal of behavioral counseling for chronic pain is less about lowering pain levels on a scale and more about helping patients develop strategies and skills that improve their quality of life. This process varies for every patient, but most often involves patients becoming involved in goal-directed activities with family, friends, recreational activities, and hobbies. For many patients, the goal is to reduce dependence on medications by learning more adaptive self-management skills.
As an assistant professor and licensed psychologist in the Department of Medicine, Division of Behavioral Medicine at the University at Buffalo, my work involves a combination of patient care, research, and outreach and education. I am a fellowship trained health psychologist specializing in chronic pain, my patient care focuses on utilizing psychosocial interventions to help patients better manage pain and improve their quality of life. Through this treatment, patients learn a variety of skills and tools to approach managing pain from a biopsychosocial perspective. While many of the skills and tools are similar across patients, each is applied in an individualized manner to help patients achieve their treatment goals. Another facet of my work involves research to better understand the biobehavioral development and treatment of chronic pain. My research explores psychosocial factors associated with chronic pain and opioid risk, how to effectively educate medical students on chronic pain and physician-patient communication skills, and the efficacy of a community-based chronic pain self-management program. These topics allow me to generate a deeper understanding of chronic pain, while also improving patient care and guiding emerging providers in making pain management decisions for their patients. Lastly, it is important to me to disseminate research through education and outreach. As such, I work within the community to assist healthcare professionals in better understanding and treating the psychosocial aspects of chronic pain and other conditions. Additionally, I am passionate about improving medical education on the biopsychosocial treatment of chronic pain, and have developed curriculum to address this need. I have presented at regional, national, and international conferences on the topics of chronic pain and overlapping opioid use/abuse, and will continue to work toward providing affordable and accessible evidence-based treatment for patients with chronic pain.