Dr. Diane C. Tucker
Dr. Diane Tucker earned her Ph.D. from University of Iowa in 1981 in Clinical and Developmental Psychology. She did her Clinical Internship year at University of Washington in Seattle, WA. A postdoctoral fellowship in Developmental Neurobiology at Washington University in St. Louis completed her training. She joined the Psychology faculty in January, 1985 as an Assistant Professor. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1988 and to Professor in 1993.
Work ongoing in Dr. Tucker’s laboratory focuses on several issues related to psycho-oncology and genetic testing.
The Internet has substantial potential as an adjunct to medical treatment during the 21st Century. Dr. Tucker’s group is pioneering use of the Internet to provide psychosocial support services to cancer patients. A program called SURVIVE has been developed through which breast cancer patients can participate in online support groups and receive assistance in developing more effective ways of coping with stresses associated with their cancer. This study will be conducted as a randomized clinical trial so that the benefits of the program can be documented. Related projects examine the quality and content of communication by cancer patients online. In collaboration with physicians in gynecologic oncology, factors that influence ovarian cancer patient’s preferences for treatment of recurrent or very advanced disease are being examined.
Perceptions of personal risk for health problems contribute to decisions about health related behaviors which have important effects on long-term health outcomes. Psychological resistance factors are hypothesized to be an important contributor to long term health outcomes both through facilitating positive health behaviors and buffering the effects of stress on health. The protective effects of psychological resilience for physical and psychological health are being investigated both in college students and in African American adults from rural communities. These will be the first data to compare the structure of psychological resistance factors between African American and European American populations.
Genetics has been called the next frontier for medicine. Dr. Tucker’s group is examining how people understand genetic risk information and how information about genetic risk is used in people’s evaluations of their personal risk, including their decisions about health related behaviors. A recently completed analogue study suggested that genetically-based risk information may not be weighted more heavily than family history risk information. A related question is whether perceived risk for one health problem alters perception of risk for another, unrelated problem. Dr. Tucker’s group is investigating whether perceived risk of breast cancer or heart disease leads to women discounting (i.e., minimizing) their risk for the other problem. Dr. Tucker’s group is part of UAB’s contribution to the HEIRS study, a large, multicenter study examining the feasibility and desirability of widespread genetic screening for a heritable, frequently undetected disorder called hemachromatosis. This disorder is especially interesting because deleterious consequences of the genetic defect can be completely prevented by early detection and treatment.
In summary, Dr. Tucker’s research group is focusing on psychological factors which may alter the risk of developing chronic disorders such as cancer and on using psychosocial interventions to improve the outcomes of cancer patients. The approach anticipates that in the coming years computers and the Internet will become an important adjunct to medical treatment. Dr. Tucker’s group is testing the effectiveness of an online format for providing psychosocial support and treatments online. Because genetic testing is expected to become increasingly prevalent in the coming years, Dr. Tucker’s group is investigating how people to understand and use this information.
Donovan, KA & DC Tucker. (2000) Knowledge of genetic risk for breast cancer and perceptions of genetic testing in a sociodemographically diverse sample. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 23, 15-36.
PY 315 Research Methods in Psychology