Geriatric and Rehabilitation Psychology Research

Research and scholarship in the Section of Geriatric and Rehabilitation Psychology focuses on a range of topics including the following:

  • The interaction of depression and cardiometabolic syndrome in older adults
  • The efficacy of community-based interventions to change health and self-care behavior
  • Management of multiple chronic illnesses
  • Physician communication
  • Psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress in older adults
  • Elder abuse

Additionally, faculty in the section are involved in medical education research in Rush Medical College’s Office of Medical Student Programs.

Our work

BRIGHTEN Heart was a trial of a primary-care-based intervention for 250 older adults with depression and cardiometabolic syndrome. While both treatment and control arms improved, the BRIGHTEN Heart intervention had a significantly positive effect on participants who had moderate to high levels of trauma symptoms, as compared to controls. The research team is currently completing manuscripts and awaiting scores on a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to test a streamlined version of this intervention.

The ALIVE! Project pilot tested a bible study plus nutrition intervention in five area churches in an effort to decrease black/white health disparities in cardiovascular disease. The program was developed in collaboration with church members in a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) methodology. Significant outcomes in the 172 participants included a one-serving daily increase in vegetables along with increases in total fruit, greens and beans. Participants also had a decrease in weight and blood pressure, along with significant increases in social support for eating healthy. The research team just submitted a grant proposal to NIH to conduct a randomized controlled trial in eight African American churches. Learn more at the ALIVE! Project website.

Our Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program is named CATCH-ON (Collaborative Action Team training for Community Health – Older adult Network) is designed to provide education to improve the workforce for older adults and primary care transformation to improve geriatric care. Learn more at the CATCH-ON website.

Faculty are also involved in studying relationships among elder abuse, psychosocial wellbeing and biomarkers of inflammation and cardiometabolic health with the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) dataset, a prospective, population-based study of older adults in urban Chicago.

Additional research endeavors are focused on promoting behavioral change with adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to better manage and prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression and cardiovascular diseases. As part of this focus, we are conducting a qualitative study on stakeholder opinions about the integration of behavioral health into primary care settings to address the complex needs of older adult patients. We are also working with health disparities researchers in the Department of Preventive Medicine and community partners to design and implement sustainable programs to help community members adapt healthier lifestyles.

Finally, we are involved in an ongoing collaboration with Rush’s Division of Hospital Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine to design and implement interventions that enhance patient-physician and team communication.


Our CATCH-ON program is funded by Health Resources and Services Administration under grant #U1QHP28715.

Our team

Jay M. Behel, PhD
Director, Section of Geriatric and Rehabilitation Psychology
Assistant Dean of Academic Development, Rush Medical College

Susan Buehler, PhD
Assistant Professor, Section of Geriatric and Rehabilitation Psychology

Erin Emery-Tiburcio, PhD
Associate Professor, Section of Geriatric and Rehabilitation Psychology

Laurin Mack, PhD
Assistant Professor, Section of Geriatric and Rehabilitation Psychology

Contact us

Inquiries regarding our research efforts may be directed to Erin Emery-Tiburcio.