Postdoctoral Fellow Spotlight | Catherine S. Nagawa, PhD

Headshot of Catherine Nagawa.

Catherine S. Nagawa, PhD is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health–Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Educational Program in Cancer Prevention within the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her research interests lie in cancer prevention and control in vulnerable populations. Nagawa explores these topics using both quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Could you tell us more about your research background and what drew you to the Harvard-DF/HCC Educational Program in Cancer Prevention?

In my previous research, I focused on investigating how the social environment can impact quitting smoking in people with mental health conditions. I have also collaborated on projects that use digital health approaches to promote cessation in populations with high smoking rates and worked with various patient populations to understand their needs. The Cancer Prevention Fellowship was an ideal fit for me, as it emphasizes cancer disparities, implementation science, and population science methods. I applied to the postdoctoral fellowship to gain skills in implementation science which provides various frameworks and other thinking tools for effectively translating research findings into practice.

In a recent publication, you and others recently conducted a study that examined the role of family/peer support for smoking cessation. What was the biggest takeaway from your findings?

We examined how people with mental health conditions engaged family members or peers in their efforts to quit smoking. The biggest takeaway from this work is that encouragement from family or peers and having a family member or peer who smokes, but is actively quitting, has a positive impact on cessation in this patient group. Also, designing social support interventions requires consideration of the features of the social relationship, such as the perceived strength of the relationship and whether support can be tailored to the needs of the individual trying to quit.

Aerial view of the Harvard campus in Longwood.

Predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships in cancer prevention and control

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health-Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Educational Program in Cancer Prevention aims to train the next generation of scientists who will be skilled in transdisciplinary approaches to cancer prevention and control. This program draws on the teaching, scientific research, and field activities of Harvard Chan, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Why should people care about dissemination and implementation science in the field of cancer prevention and control?

Translating evidence-based practices and innovations into real-world practice can be a complex and time-consuming process. Many initiatives fail to be successfully implemented or take a long time to do so. Dissemination and implementation science serves as a bridge between research and practice, providing valuable tools for identifying effective strategies to successfully integrate evidence-based practices into real-world clinical and community settings. The complexity of cancer prevention and control interventions, with multiple components and stakeholders involved, can make successful implementation of new initiatives challenging. Dissemination and implementation approaches provide ways to overcome these challenges, which ultimately improves patient outcomes and reduces healthcare costs associated with cancer prevention and treatment.

Do you have any avocations outside of academia?

Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies. I find the entire process of preparing a meal to be both enjoyable and rewarding. Trying out different flavors and cooking techniques is a great way for me to unwind and create something that brings joy to myself and others.