We caught up with Ellen Terry, PhD, assistant professor in the Biobehavioral Nursing Science Department at the UF College of Nursing. Her research interests involve investigating the influence of cognitive and emotional factors (e.g., pain catastrophizing, negative affect) on pain and pain processing.
How long have you been at the College of Nursing?
I have been at the College of Nursing since 2019.
Why did you decide to go into research?
As an undergraduate, I sought research experience under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Gatchel and received exposure to the biopsychosocial model of pain. This model helped shape my conceptualization of pain by having a deeper appreciation of the physiological, psychological and social/environmental factors that contribute to and influence how pain is processed and perceived. During my mentorship under Dr. Gatchel, I participated in clinical research and examined the efficacy of the biopsychosocial approach when treating chronic musculoskeletal pain (e.g., chronic spinal disorder). Because of this, I became aware of the importance of research in informing the efficacy of treatments in clinical practice, as well as the positive impact that evidence-based treatments have on patients’ pain perception, psychological health and quality of life.
What drew you to your area of research?
Because of the magnitude of pain as a public health problem, there is an urgent need to develop treatments to reduce pain using self-management strategies. This is particularly important for vulnerable populations, who tend to be under-represented in clinical trials and often have less access to effective pain therapies.
What are you currently working on?
I am conducting a cognitive-behavioral study designed to reduce pain catastrophizing (the tendency to ruminate about pain and to feel helpless to cope with pain) in older African American and non-Hispanic white adults with knee osteoarthritis. This study will determine whether pain catastrophizing contributes to ethnic group differences in pain-related brain function, clinical pain and pain sensitivity, as well as whether this type of intervention can positively influence pain-related brain function. Ultimately, this project is a critical step toward facilitating an independent program of research focusing on developing culturally appropriate evidence-based behavioral interventions aimed at normalizing pain-related brain responses to help improve clinical outcomes, including pain and pain-related disability, in older racial and ethnic minorities with chronic pain.
A fun fact about you?
I played basketball almost daily from age 10 to about age 20!