Center Director

Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH

AdkinsGeorge Adkins Professor of Pediatrics
Adjunct Professor, Health Services
Director, Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development

Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis is the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute. He is the author of more than 170 original research articles, a textbook of pediatrics, and co-authored a groundbreaking book, The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids. He has appeared on CNN, NPR, Today, CBS News, ABC News, NBC News and was recently featured as a TEDx speaker.

Christakis is a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital in Seattle and Professor in the School of Medicine at University of Washington. He has devoted his career to investigating how early experiences impacts children and to helping parents improve their children's early learning environments. He and his colleagues in the Christakis lab have made a number of landmark findings, including discovering that young children who watch TV are more likely to develop attention problems and other health and behavioral issues.

Associate Director

Tonya M. Palermo, PhD

TonyaProfessor of Anesthesiology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry

Dr. Tonya M. Palermo is a professor of anesthesiology, pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is an associate editor for the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, and is the current President of Division 54 of the American Psychological Association. Palermo is also active in the American Pain Society and serves as the chair of the Special Interest Group on Pain in Infants, Children and Adolescents.

Palermo's research, conducted through the Palermo lab, focuses on pediatric chronic and recurrent pain and behavioral sleep medicine. She is particularly interested in the psychosocial and family factors that affect pain perception, daily functioning, sleep and quality of life in children and adolescents. She is an NIH-funded investigator who is currently developing and testing psychological and family interventions for youth with chronic pain. One of her funded research projects is to evaluate an Internet cognitive-behavioral intervention for adolescents with chronic pain recruited from pain clinics across the United States and Canada.

Steering Committee Members

Brent R. Collett, PhD

Collett CHBD LeadershipAssistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Brent R. Collett studies development in young children with craniofacial anomalies and other medical conditions. He has been involved in longitudinal studies of children with orofacial clefts, craniosynostosis (i.e., premature fusion of one or more cranial sutures), and craniofacial microsomia (i.e., asymmetric craniofacial development). He is currently leading a study of children who had deformational plagiocephaly as infants, a common condition characterized by skull flattening and asymmetry. In another line of research, Collett is studying early childhood oral health in an attempt to identify behavioral targets for intervention.

Cari McCarty, PhD

CariDirector of Research and Development, Adolescent Medicine
Research Associate Professor, Pediatrics
Adjunct Research Associate Professor, Psychology

Dr. Cari McCarty has been conducting research to better understand child and adolescent depression for the past 10 years. Her research has broadly focused on family, peer and cultural influences on children's mental health. The goal of her research and the McCarty lab is to use knowledge of youth development to design, implement and test programs that will improve the lives and mental health of children. She is currently the principal investigator of the Middle School Matters Study, which compares the effectiveness of two different school-based preventive interventions for young adolescents designed to reduce depression and improve their relationships with parents, health behaviors, school and interpersonal functioning. McCarty is also using prospective longitudinal data to examine the relationship between emotional and behavioral problems and the development of alcohol problems throughout adolescence. In her role as the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development's director of research and development for Adolescent Medicine, she teaches a monthly seminar for postdoctoral and medical fellows and additionally consults with trainees and faculty members on their research projects.

Jason A. Mendoza, MD, MPH

Mendoza CHBD LeadershipAssociate Professor of Pediatrics
Co-Director, Health Disparities Research Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington Cancer Consortium

Dr. Jason A. Mendoza is a pediatrician whose clinical responsibilities include attending for the Harborview pediatric inpatient and outpatient services. His research seeks to address disparities in childhood physical activity and nutrition outcomes among racial/ethnic minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations through innovative behavioral interventions and policies in school and community settings. His studies have been funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Active Living Research Program).

Mendoza leads research on:

  • Reducing Latino preschoolers’ sedentary activities, such as television viewing
  • Increasing elementary schoolchildren’s physical activity through the Walking School Bus, Bicycle Train and other Safe Routes to School programs
  • Promoting adolescents’ physical activity through wearable mobile health (mHealth) apps and devices
  • Examining the impact of food insecurity (i.e. hunger) among adolescents and young adults with diabetes

Mendoza also leads global health research on the influence of food insecurity on HIV+ children in the US and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Megan Moreno, MD, MSED, MPH

Moreno CHBD LeadershipAssociate Professor of Pediatrics
Adjunct Associate Professor of Health Services

Dr. Megan A. Moreno is an associate professor of pediatrics and an adjunct associate professor of health services at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is principal investigator of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT). Moreno’s research interests focus on the intersection of technology and adolescent health. SMAHRT is a transdisciplinary research team with emphasis on trainee mentorship, collaboration, and diversity of members. Moreno and her research team focus on three core research areas:

  • Innovative approaches to adolescent health using social media
  • Internet safety education
  • Measuring technology use and misuse

An important aspect of her research is in translation of research findings into practices and tools for use in communities by parents, educators and providers. She is author of a parenting handbook for internet safety based on research and collaborations with the American Academy of Practice called Sex, Drugs ’N Facebook, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of Communications and Media at the AAP.

Laura Richardson, MD, MPH

Richardson CHBD LeadershipProfessor of Pediatrics
Associate Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine

Dr. Laura Richardson’s research focuses on examining the impact of mental health conditions on physical health during adolescence and developing health services interventions to improve outcomes for adolescent behavioral health conditions in pediatric primary care settings. She conducted key foundational work examining strategies and tools for adolescent depression screening and recently completed a large-scale trial of collaborative care for depressed adolescents in primary care settings. Her current work focuses on the use of technology and provider training to promote productive discussions around health behavior choices between adolescents and their primary care providers.

Pooja Tandon, MD

Tandon CHBD LeadershipAssistant Professor of Pediatrics
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

Dr. Pooja Tandon is a pediatrician and researcher at the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Washington. Tandon attended Brown University for her undergraduate education and medical school, and completed residency training at the Boston Combined Program in Pediatrics (Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center). After working as a general pediatrician in academic and community settings, she completed a general pediatrics research fellowship and a master of public health (MPH) degree at the University of Washington.

While she continues clinical practice, her research interests include studying and intervening on social and environmental determinants of children’s health, in particular childhood obesity. Her research has been funded by the American Heart Association, the Safeway Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Her current projects focus on studying the connection between outdoor play, physical activity and various health and development outcomes in preschool-age children. She also co-leads national and international special interest groups focused on obesity prevention in the early childhood years.

Sara Webb, PhD

Webb CHBD LeadershipAssociate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Sara Jane Webb studies development in individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Her work is focused on developing biomarkers of nervous system functioning across the lifespan, using methodologies such as electroencephalography (EEG), event-related potentials (ERP), eye tracking, cardiophysiology (EKG), functional magnetic resonance imaging and behavioral measures. She is the director of research for Seattle Children's Autism Center, director of data acquisition and analytics for the Autism Biomarkers Consortium, director of the Seattle site for the GENDAAR study of girls with ASD and a co-investigator on projects investigating the relation between genetics and brain functioning. She is the recipient of the Mary Gates Undergraduate Research Monitorship Award and takes an active role in local, national and international mentorship and training.