Faculty Spotlight

COLLEGE OF SCIENCE & MATHEMATICS

Faculty Spotlight

Twenty-two years after leaving southern New Jersey to launch her career as a clinical health psychologist, Georita Frierson, Ph.D., came home.

“I never thought I’d be given this great opportunity to come back,” says Frierson. With an area of focus on breast cancer, Frierson feels that, “Rowan is so vibrant and has grown by leaps and bounds. I can now do all of the work I want to do, right here - research, teaching, mentoring and training.”

Originally an aspiring dancer, Frierson says, “Dance inspired me. I enjoyed the emotion and the expression of human behavior. Once I realized I would not be able to be a professional dancer, I sought out a field that studied emotion and human behavior, believing it might be a good fit for me.”

She chose to study cancer for a deeply personal reason. “When I was 19 my dad was diagnosed with colorectal cancer,” she says. “The 1990s were still a ‘don’t talk about it’ environment when it came to cancer. I became interested in studying how people with cancer cope with their disease.”

Today, Frierson’s career centers around triple negative breast cancer survivors, who tend to be younger African American and Latina women. This particularly aggressive form of the disease is more difficult to treat, requiring higher doses of chemotherapy and typically has more complications both medically and psychologically.

“Breast cancer changes your body image and your quality of life,” Frierson says. “Women facing more grueling treatment can be more deeply affected by that treatment.” Frierson helps them to get back to where they were before diagnosis, if possible.“I study breast cancer survivors to help them reduce their stress and improve health behaviors. My goal is to help them improve their mental health, which will lessen depression and help them to live longer, with fewer recurrences.”

Frierson includes both undergraduate and graduate students in her research, as well. Undergraduates help to conduct interviews with survivors, collect data and video group therapy sessions.

“Rowan has a few things that make it a great place to conduct breast cancer research. We have two medical schools, the MD Anderson Cancer Center and South Jersey is centrally located to major metropolitan areas,” says Frierson. “It’s good to be back home.”