Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab
Current Lab Members
Tonya Palermo, PhD
Professor of Anesthesiology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry
Dr. Tonya Palermo is a professor of anesthesiology, pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She serves as associate director for the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development. Palermo’s longstanding NIH-funded research program has focused on assessment and treatment of chronic pain in children and adolescents. She is specifically interested in cognitive-behavioral interventions; delivery of psychological treatment via eHealth and mHealth interventions; sleep disturbances; and parent/family factors as they relate to pain treatment. Through her work as program director for the University of Washington Anesthesiology T32 program and for the Psychology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Pain Research, Palermo is active in training clinician–scientists at the postdoctoral and junior faculty level.
Palermo serves on the executive boards of the Society of Pediatric Psychology and the American Pain Society, serves as editor of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology and has been elected a fellow of the American Psychological Association. She also serves as a member of the advisory council for the Center for Scientific Review at NIH.
Homer Aalfs, BS
Clinical Research Associate
Homer Aalfs is a clinical research associate in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. He helps coordinate several projects involving online pain self-management techniques, musculoskeletal pain, and chronic postsurgical pain. Homer graduated from the University of Washington in 2017 with a BS in psychology and a minor in environmental studies. He worked with Dr. Lynn Fainsilber Katz at the University of Washington on a community mental health parent-training intervention intended to help children with behavioral disorders through emotion coaching, while also completing his honors thesis investigating the relationship between temperament and child adjustment in pediatric cancer patients. Homer’s research interests span across many different sub-fields of psychology. Ultimately, he wants to provide support for children and families with biological and/or psychological health concerns.
Rocío de la Vega, PhD
Dr. Rocío de la Vega is a post-doctoral research fellow at Seattle Children’s Research Institute under the supervision of Dr. Tonya Palermo. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington under the supervision of Dr. Mark Jensen in 2017. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University Rovira i Virgili (Spain) in 2014. Her research interests are mainly focused on remotely-delivered self-administered interventions for the management of pain (eHealth and mHealth) and in understanding the mechanisms of change that happen during treatment, in order to improve their efficacy. She is also interested in the interrelations between sleep and pain.
Laura Dempster, MS
Clinical Research Associate
Laura Dempster is a clinical research associate in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. Her primary project is the coordination of a multi-site investigation of teen musculoskeletal pain outcomes. She earned a MS in Health Services Research from the University of Washington in 2018 and a BA in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Anthropology from Bucknell University in 2006. Her previous research experiences primarily focused on end-of-life issues specific to hospice and palliative care. Laura is dedicated to helping improve the quality of life for anyone experiencing pain.
Cornelius (Neels) Groenewald, MB ChB
Dr. Cornelius (Neels) Groenewald is an attending anesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and an acting instructor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2002. He completed his anesthesiology residency at Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, and his pediatric anesthesiology and pain medicine fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital. His research interests include pain, quality of life and activity limitations after major surgery and critical illness in children.
Tricia Jessen-Fiddick, BS
Tricia Jessen-Fiddick is a clinical research supervisor. She oversees and provides direct support for the many studies being conducted within the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. In 2006, she received her BS in psychology and a minor in biology from DePaul University in Chicago. She joined Seattle Children’s Research Institute in 2008. She enjoys the complexity, excitement and rigor of working on a research study from the beginning stages to the end.
Yeon Joo Ko, BS
Clinical Research Associate
Yeon Joo Ko is a clinical research associate in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. She helps coordinate multiple projects involving the use of online programs to help children and adults with chronic pain. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2017 with a BS in psychology and a minor in global health. Her previous research experiences include using EMA (ecological momentary assessment) to measure impulsivity and emotional responses to stress in young adults. She is interested in mobile health interventions and wearable technology especially to help patients with chronic illness.
Emily F. Law, PhD
Dr. Emily F. Law is an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a pediatric psychologist in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She provides clinical services in the outpatient pain management clinic and inpatient pain rehabilitation program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She received a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 2010 and completed her pre-doctoral internship in pediatric/child clinical psychology at UCLA Medical Center. Law completed her post-doctoral training under the mentorship of Dr. Tonya Palermo at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Her research focuses on pediatric chronic pain with a particular interest in pediatric chronic headache. Her current projects include evaluating psychosocial treatment needs among youth with chronic headache, and developing and testing behavioral interventions for parents of children receiving intensive pain rehabilitation.
Cara Lind, BS
Clinical Research Associate
Cara Lind is a clinical research associate in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. She helps coordinate multiple projects that aim to help children with chronic pain. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2017 with a BS in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology with a minor in Nutritional Sciences. Her previous research experiences studied ways in which to improve health outcomes in adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes through the use of social media and incentive strategies. She is currently in the process of applying to medical school and is interested in integrating clinical research into primary care and family medicine.
Lexa Murphy, PhD
Dr. Lexa Murphy is a postdoctoral research fellow at Seattle Children’s Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. Tonya Palermo. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Vanderbilt University and completed her predoctoral internship training in child psychology at University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her research interests include family adjustment after a pediatric medical diagnosis, psychosocial predictors of pain in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease, and development and testing of interventions for youth with chronic pain.
Caitlin Murray, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Caitlin Murray is a postdoctoral research fellow at Seattle Children’s Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. Tonya Palermo. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from Loyola University Chicago and completed her predoctoral internship training in pediatric psychology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Columbus, Ohio). Her primary research interests include elucidating unique health and developmental issues facing adolescents and young adults with chronic painful conditions, with the long-term goal of creating tailored cognitive-behavioral therapy interventions that target outcomes of highest importance and interest to this population.
Olivia Ohls, BS
Clinical Research Associate II
Olivia Ohls is a clinical research associate II in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab and coordinates multiple projects. She graduated from Western Washington University with a BS in Psychology and has been active in behavioral health research since 2014. She has worked in a variety of research labs with diverse populations across the age spectrum, youth to older adults. Her research involvement has focused on topics from prevention and early intervention of eating disorders, mindfulness meditation’s impact on stress response and psychophysiological variables, teen anxiety and suicide prevention, and the relationship between chronic pain and sleep disturbance. Olivia gathered experience in qualitative methods, ecological momentary assessments (EMA), actigraphy, conducting focus groups, structured/semi-structured interviews, fMRI, project design and coordination. Her research interests encompass understanding the mental and physical health experiences of underserved populations, in order to modify current evidence-based programs for more inclusive use. Additionally, she is interested in outcomes of more diverse, or culturally sensitive and adapted interventions, on current health disparities that exist among marginalized identities and groups (e.g., sexual and gender minorities, racial and ethnic minorities).
Jennifer Rabbitts, MB ChB
Dr. Jennifer Rabbitts is an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and an attending anesthesiologist in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She received her medical degree from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2002. She completed her anesthesia residency, pediatric anesthesia fellowship and translational research fellowship at Mayo Clinic, Minnesota. Her research focuses on long-term pain and health outcomes after pediatric surgery. She leads two NIH-funded research studies examining mechanisms of acute to chronic pain transition following major surgery in youth, and has developed a family-based peri-operative program to improve outcomes in adolescents undergoing spine surgery.
Dr. Rabbitts is passionate about mentoring students and early career faculty, serving as a mentor for the Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Initiative of the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia, the Early Stage Anesthesiology Scholars of the Association of University Anesthesiologists, and the University of Washington Innovations in Pain Research Summer Program. Dr. Rabbitts is active in the American Pain Society, currently serving as the Chair of the Pain in Infants, Children, and Adolescents Shared Interest Group, and as Director-at-Large on the APS Board of Directors. She serves on the Scientific Program Committees for the American Pain Society and the International Symposium of Pediatric Pain, and on the editorial board of the Journal of Pain. Read more about Dr. Rabbitts' work.
See Wan Tham, MB BS
Acting Assistant Professor
Dr. See Wan Tham is an acting assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is a pediatric anesthesiologist and pain physician with the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She received her medical degree in Sydney, Australia, in 2001. She completed her anesthesiology residency at the State University of New York (Syracuse) and subsequent pediatric anesthesiology fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She went on to pursue post-doctoral research training in Dr. Tonya Palermo’s lab. Her research interest lies in identifying the mechanisms underlying the relationship between pain and sleep in pediatric populations, and in functional outcomes in children with pain conditions.
Michele Tsia Owens, PhD
Dr. Michele Tsai Owens is an acting assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a pediatric pain psychologist in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas. She completed her predoctoral internship in pediatric psychology at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and fellowship in pediatric psychology at Mayo Clinic. Her research interests include clinical outcomes of children and parents following intensive interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation, and neurocognitive functioning and condition self-management in pediatric patients with co-occurring chronic pain and autonomic dysfunction.
Karen Weiss, PhD
Dr. Karen Weiss is an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a pediatric pain psychologist in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She provides clinical services in the outpatient pain medicine clinic and intensive outpatient Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program (PReP). She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in 2009 and completed her pre-doctoral internship in pediatric psychology at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange, CA. Dr. Weiss completed her post-doctoral training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where she obtained broad child clinical training and specialized in chronic pain. She was on staff at the Mayo Clinic Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Center for several years prior to relocating to Seattle. Her research interests include predictors and mediators of treatment outcomes in intensive pain rehabilitation programs, psychosocial influences of pain and pain-related disability, and the role of parents in their children’s experiences with pain and pain-related disability. Dr. Weiss’ clinical and research interests also include Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), autonomic dysfunction, and Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder (POTS).
Sarah Beals, PhD
Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor at Children’s Mercy Hospital – Kansas City
Dr. Sarah Beals is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor.
Jessica Fales, PhD
Dr. Jessica Fales is an assistant professor at Washington State University Vancouver.
Amy Lewandowski Holley, PhD
Dr. Amy Holley is assistant professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University.
Melanie Noel, PhD
Dr. Melanie Noel is an assistant professor at the University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.