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Genomics, Risk, and Health Decision-Making Laboratory

Jennifer L. Hay, PhD, Laboratory Head

Jada G. Hamilton, PhD, MPH, Laboratory Co-Head

The mission of the Genomics, Risk, and Health Decision-Making Laboratory, launched in 2016, is to optimize the translation of novel discoveries regarding cancer risk and genomics into clinical practice. Our research concerns cancer risk perceptions and health decision-making in patients, families, healthcare providers, and members of the general public across diverse populations and settings. The Laboratory has two broad domains of inquiry:


  1. Theories and methods in health decision-making: The Laboratory aims to apply theories and methods at the intersection of behavioral science and decision-making to evolving cancer control contexts. This includes a focus on ways cancer risk perceptions lead to health decisions, and the development of strategies to identify and reach those who are not receptive to standard risk communication interventions.

  2. Genomics and risk communication: The Laboratory also seeks to use cutting-edge behavioral/social science theory and methods to anticipate, characterize, and address the challenges and public health opportunities presented by the era of cancer genomics and precision cancer care. This includes a focus on developing and evaluating risk communication approaches that promote understanding and adaptive behavioral responses to emerging genomic technologies.

The Laboratory provides a home for the staff and fellows affiliated with a number of ongoing projects and collaborations both within and outside of MSK. For example, Dr. Hay is currently a principal investigator on two NIH R01 grants. One study is testing plausible approaches to addressing risk uncertainty (operationalized as answering “I don’t know” to risk perception questions), which may derive from low health literacy or a desire to avoid threatening personal risk information. A second study examines interest, uptake, and behavioral utility of skin cancer genetic testing via MC1R (a common, moderate risk genetic variant) in a diverse primary care population. In addition, Dr. Hamilton has recently received an American Cancer Society Mentored Research Scholar grant to characterize the process and outcomes of advanced cancer patients’ decisions to learn secondary findings about inherited cancer risks as uncovered by tumor genomic profiling with the MSK-IMPACT test, and to communicate this information to their families. She is also a principal investigator of pilot projects to examine novel models of delivering genetic counseling regarding cancer predisposition, and to examine patient perspectives about the IBM Watson for Oncology clinical decision support system. 

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Jada Hamilton

Jada G. Hamilton

Assistant Attending Psychologist, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

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Thomas Atkinson

Thomas Atkinson

Assistant Attending Behavioral Scientist

Smita C. Banerjee

Smita C. Banerjee

Behavioral Scientist

Daniel G. Coit, MD, FACS

Daniel G. Coit

Elena Elkin, Associate Attending Outcomes Research Scientist

Elena Elkin

Associate Attending Outcomes Research Scientist

Pictured: Andrew S. Epstein

Andrew S. Epstein

Allan C. Halpern, MD -- Chief, Dermatology Service

Allan C. Halpern

Chief, Dermatology Service; Associate Chair, Promotions Advisory Committee, Department of Medicine

Yuelin Li

Yuelin Li

Behavioral Scientist

Kenneth Offit, MD -- Chief, Clinical Genetics Service

Kenneth Offit

Chief, Clinical Genetics Service; Robert and Kate Niehaus Chair in Inherited Cancer Genomics; Vice Chair, Academic Affairs, Department of Medicine

Irene Orlow, Associate Attending Biologist

Irene Orlow

Associate Attending Biologist

Memorial Sloan Kettering medical oncologist Mark Robson

Mark E. Robson

Chief, Breast Medicine Service

Benjamin R. Roman

Benjamin R. Roman