Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab (PPSI)

Current Lab Members

Tonya Palermo, PhD

Tonya Palermo PhD square 

Director of PPSI Lab; 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 and the director of the PPSI Lab. She serves as associate director for the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. 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 evaluating the delivery of psychological treatment via eHealth and mHealth interventions; assessing and treating comorbid sleep disturbances; and targeting parent/family risk factors in 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 board of the Society of Pediatric Psychology, serves as editor-in-chief 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.

Contact Dr. Palermo.

Investigators

Cornelius (Neels) Groenewald, MB ChB

Groenewald 

Assistant Professor

Dr. Cornelius (Neels) Groenewald is an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and an attending anesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. 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 fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Groenewald conducts research in various settings (e.g., large public and private datasets) and populations (e.g., critical illness, surgery). Current research projects include the epidemiology of pediatric opioid use; the societal burden associated with pediatric pain; and sleep disturbances related to pain.

Groenewald is the recipient of a Society for Pediatric Anesthesiology young investigator award and an International Association for the Study of Pain early career research grant. He leads an NIH-funded study examining sleep and pain outcomes following pediatric critical illness. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Pain.

Emily F. Law, PhD

Emily Law 2 

Assistant Professor

Dr. Emily F. Law is an associate 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 multidisciplinary headache clinic and pain management clinic 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 evaluating family psychosocial risk in youth with chronic headache and developing and testing behavioral interventions for youth with headache who have comorbid conditions such as poor sleep.

Michele Tsai Owens, PhD

Michele Tsia Owens 

Assistant Professor

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.

Jennifer Rabbitts, MB ChB

Jennifer Rabbitts MB ChB 

Associate Professor

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 developed a family-based perioperative program to improve outcomes in adolescents undergoing spine surgery.

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, and the University of Washington Innovations in Pain Research Summer Program. Rabbitts serves on the Scientific Program Committee for the International Symposium of Pediatric Pain, and on the editorial boards of the Journal of Pain and Pediatric AnesthesiaVisit Dr. Rabbitts’ lab website

See Wan Tham, MB BS

See Wan Tham 

Acting Assistant Professor

Dr. See Wan Tham is an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is a pediatric anesthesiologist and pain physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She received her MB BS at the University of 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 pursued post-doctoral research training in Dr. Tonya Palermo’s lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. 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. Her research is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and examines the inter-relationships between abdominal pain, sleep disturbances and autonomic function.

Karen Weiss, PhD

Karen Weiss 

Associate Professor

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, California. Dr. Weiss completed her post-doctoral training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, 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. Weiss’ clinical and research interests also include postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), autonomic dysfunction, and functional neurological symptom disorder (POTS). 

Fellows

Rocío de la Vega, PhD

Rocío de la Vega 

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

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.

Lexa Murphy, PhD

 Lexa Murphy

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Lexa Murphy 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 Vanderbilt University and completed her predoctoral internship training in child psychology at the 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

Caitlin Murray 

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.

Unmesha Roy Paladhi, MPH

Unmesha Roy Paladhi

Doctoral Research Assistant

Unmesha Roy Paladhi is a doctoral research assistant at Seattle Children’s Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. Tonya Palermo. She completed her master's in public health at the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 and is currently completing her PhD in epidemiology at the University of Washington. Her research interests include exploring the use of newer technologies in the context of epidemiological studies in multiple domains, including pediatric chronic pain.

Staff

Homer Aalfs, BS

Homer Aalfs

Clinical Research Coordinator II

Homer Aalfs is a clinical research coordinator II 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. Aalfs 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. His 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.

Denae Clohessy, BS

Denae Clohessy

Clinical Research Coordinator

Denae Clohessy is a clinical research coordinator in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. She helps coordinate projects that aim to help children with acute and chronic pain. She graduated from Portland State University in 2019 with a BS in Psychology. Her previous research experience includes interning at Oregon Health & Science University, where she assisted with an online study researching the impact of maternal chronic pain on children. Her research interests involve helping children and families learn to cope with new diagnoses of chronic pain and other chronic illnesses, especially through the use of online and mobile interventions.

Cecily Conour, BA

Cecily Conour

Clinical Research Coordinator

Cecily Conour is a clinical research coordinator in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. She helps coordinate studies involving sleep, chronic pain, and postsurgical pain. Conour graduated from Carleton College in 2019 with a BA in psychology and a minor in women’s and gender studies. Her previous research experiences include conducting a multi-campus study of the academic success and emotional well-being of college students with chronic pain. She is interested in researching pediatric chronic pain broadly and is particularly interested in outcomes of adolescents and young adults with chronic pain, as well as the relationship between parent/family factors and chronic pain. She is planning to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology to continue researching pediatric chronic pain and to help children and their families in a clinical setting.

Tierra Gogue-Garcia, BS

Tierra Gogue-Garcia

Clinical Research Coordinator

Tierra Gogue-Garcia is a clinical research coordinator in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. She helps coordinate studies that focus on the sleep, autonomic function and psychological factors for patients with chronic abdominal pain. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2018 with a BS in psychology and a minor in American Sign Language. Previously, she assisted with developmental psychology–related projects at the University of Washington, including a project that teaches mindfulness-based practices to new moms. She has also worked on intervention projects, including programs that promoted healthy lifestyle changes and programs in post-concussion recovery. Her research interests include understanding a child’s psychological impacts from family relationships and psychological resilience.

Tricia Jessen-Fiddick, BS

Tricia Jessen-Fiddick 

Research Supervisor

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

Yeon Joo Ko 

Clinical Research Coordinator II

Yeon Joo Ko is a clinical research coordinator II 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.

Olivia Ohls, BS

Olivia Ohls

Clinical Research Coordinator II

Olivia Ohls is a clinical research coordinator II and coordinates multiple projects within the lab. 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 studying diverse populations across the age spectrum. Ohls is experienced in qualitative methods, ecological momentary assessments, actigraphy, conducting focus groups and structured/semi-structured interviews. She is most interested in understanding the mental and physical health experiences of underserved populations, in order to modify evidence-based programs for more inclusive use.

Tanera van Diggelen, BS

Tanera van Digglen

Clinical Research Coordinator

Tanera van Diggelen is a clinical research coordinator in the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations Lab. She helps coordinate studies involving pain and sleep, opioid use after surgery and stress and post-surgical pain in children. Van Diggelen graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a BS in psychobiology. Her clinical and research experience includes working with families during social skills and behavioral interventions, supporting participants in a campus-wide depression and anxiety intervention study, working on an autism diagnostic project and running a gratitude intervention study. She plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology and hopes to work with children and teenagers experiencing chronic pain while researching how evidence-based interventions can best be adapted to fit the needs of these individuals.  

Research Affiliates

Sarah Beals, PhD

Sarah Beals 

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

Jessica Fales 

Assistant Professor

Dr. Jessica Fales is an assistant professor at Washington State University Vancouver.

Amy Lewandowski Holley, PhD

Amy Lewandowski Holley, PhD 

Assistant Professor

Dr. Amy Holley is assistant professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University.

Melanie Noel, PhD

Melanie Noel 

Assistant Professor

Dr. Melanie Noel is an assistant professor at the University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.