INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana University School of Medicine has named Shelley Johns, PsyD, ABPP, the Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology.
Johns is the first person to hold this position, which was established by the transformative $14 million gift to IU School of Medicine from the Walther Cancer Foundation to create five endowed positions to develop a supportive oncology program that encompasses research and patient care. Supportive oncology goes beyond standard therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and seeks to care for a patient’s overall physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
The program intends to influence care for cancer patients and their families throughout Indiana and the country by providing expertise and best practices for other health systems to model, with particular attention to the underserved.
“Thanks to the generous support of the Walther Cancer Foundation, I have the opportunity to explore new ideas to address problems that are most important to people whose lives are disrupted by cancer,” Johns said. “I want to capitalize on the synergy that I already see and feel between clinical practice and research so we can develop studies that are informed by people with cancer and then implement our research findings in clinical practice.”
Johns is a nationally-recognized, board-certified, clinical health psychologist, an associate professor at IU School of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, an IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher and a research scientist at the William M. Tierney Center for Health Services Research at the Regenstrief Institute. Her research focuses on developing and testing mind-body interventions to improve the physical health and psychological well-being of adults with cancer. She currently holds a $2.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to lead a clinical trial to support breast cancer survivors struggling with fear of cancer recurrence.
As the Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology, Johns will develop programs in psycho-oncology within the newly established Supportive Oncology Center of Excellence at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“We are very fortunate to recruit Dr. Johns to the newly established Supportive Oncology Center of Excellence in the cancer center, which will be the hub for our cutting-edge efforts in research, education and clinical care in supporting the important needs of our cancer patients and their families,” Kelvin Lee, MD, cancer center director, said. “Dr. Johns’ exceptional work in psycho-oncology will be a major pillar of the center.”
“Dr. Johns is a great addition to improving the total care of patients living with cancer who we see at the cancer center. Shelley’s work will be critical to the Supportive Oncology Center of Excellence in improving clinical care, research and education,” James Cleary, MD, professor of medicine and Walther Senior Chair in Supportive Oncology at IU School of Medicine, said.
Cleary was recruited in 2018 to IU as part of the Walther gift, which was believed to be the largest gift in the country to support a program of this kind.
“Dr. Johns does very rigorous and sophisticated research aimed at providing the evidence base for treating highly prevalent and challenging symptoms in patients with cancer,” said Greg Sachs, MD, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. “She also represents another critical connection between our palliative care program and the cancer center.”
“Shelley Johns is a highly talented and insightful researcher. The Walther Cancer Foundation has provided support for certain aspects of Dr. John’s work for more than ten years. We are truly pleased that Shelley has been selected as the first Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology,” said Tom Grein, president and CEO of the Walther Cancer Foundation.
IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.