Sarah Woolf-King

2015 Hellman Fellow

PhD MPH, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Medicine

Project Title: Mental Health Needs Among Parents of Children with Congenital Heart Defects

Dr. Woolf-King received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Syracuse University (2010), and subsequently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California San Francisco (2010-2013) where she received an M.P.H. in Epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley (2011). Her research and training is focused on the intersection between psychological and physical health. While she has devoted most of her career to HIV research, after her son was diagnosed and treated for a severe congenital heart defect, she decided to begin to shift the focus of her work.

Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common birth defect in the United States, affecting nearly 40,000 (1%) births per year, 25% of which require major surgery typically in the first year of life. Parents of children with critical CHDs are at high risk for mental illness given the many psychosocial stressors associated with caring for a child with a CHD. Compromised parental mental health can adversely impact a parent’s ability to care for a critically ill infant and lead to long-term cognitive and behavioral problems in children.

Dr. Woolf-King’s Hellman Award will allow her to examine the mental health needs of parents of children with severe CHDs. She will conduct qualitative interviews with CHD parents and providers in order to determine: (1) the mental health needs of these parents throughout the course of CHD management and treatment and (2) the most feasible and acceptable way to address these mental health needs. She will also conduct and publish a systematic review of the literature on the mental health needs of CHD parents to further guide implementation of a mental health screening and referral program nested within pediatric cardiology treatment. Dr. Woolf-King is grateful for the support and collaboration of the Pediatric Heart Center at UCSF on this project and to the Hellman Fellows Fund for the opportunity to do this work.

Sarah has taken a new academic position at Syracuse University and retains an academic appointment at UCSF