Francisco Munoz, M.A., Ph.D(c).: Principal Investigator “Coping with Cancer II” (CwCII) Study
For the past eleven years, I have worked as a clinical hospital chaplain in both pediatric and adult settings. I began my training in 1997 at the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) specializing in Trauma Pastoral Care. As a chaplain, I was integral to the Trauma Team as my role and counsel provided a therapeutic effect on both the patient and the medical team. I also worked with burn and oncology patients at BAMC.
I completed four units (1600 hours) of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the Methodist Healthcare Systems in San Antonio, Texas by 1998. My CPE was followed by one more military practicum at the Brooke Army Medical center in Trauma Pastoral Care.
In addition, I have completed both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force basic officer chaplain programs. My work experience has fashioned me into a type of psychological-spiritual counselor. My experiences with hospital patients and their families have taken me far beyond a theoretical understanding of emotional distress and healthcare decision making. I have provided counsel to patients and their caregivers as they make life-changing decisions under heavy emotional duress for themselves or their loved ones.
I am currently employed as a clinical chaplain and chaplain services supervisor at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, Pomona, CA. I am also the lead Palliative Care chaplain and included as part of the healthcare team in EOL discussions with patients and their caregivers. Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC) is a 446 bed, non-profit, teaching, community hospital.
The hospital serves a multi-cultural and multi-religious cliental from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. The medical staff is also multi-cultural and multi-religious. The pluralism at PVHMC makes it an ideal site to conduct qualitative and quantitative oncology research on end of life (EOL) care complicated by ethnic, cultural, and religious factors.
My role as a staff clinical chaplain is ideal because I am already involved in EOL care and discussions with oncology patients and their caregivers. Medical staff utilize me in EOL communications with English and Spanish speaking patients and their caregivers. Since 2010, I have served as the site PI at PVHMC the “Coping with Cancer II” (CwCII) study. Initially this research project was based at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, now based at the Cornell Medical College.
As a site PI for the CwCII research study, I learned how to conduct a qualitative oncology research study at PVHMC. As a clinical chaplain, I have witnessed the emotional and spiritual distress oncology patients, and their caregivers experience as they wrestle with diagnosis and prognosis.
As a result, I became interested in therapeutic interventions to reduce stress and anxiety based on evidence-based research in Mind-Body medicine. In the Mind-Body Medicine doctoral program at Saybrook University, I learned about the mental and physical health benefits of certain mind-body medicine modalities.
For my dissertation project, I designed a quantitative study to measure the effects and benefits of a mind-body medicine modality on gene expression. My choice of a mind-body medicine modality has elements of self-hypnosis, meditation, and guided imagery. I chose gene expression to measure the physiological changes produced by the mind-body medicine intervention. Specifically, I am studying how the reduction of anxiety and stress induced by the mind-body medicine intervention may affect the biological pathways that modulate tumor suppressor gene expression, such as the p53 gene.
My research training in mind-body medicine and my roles as palliative care chaplain, and site PI for the CwCII study at PVHMC have supported my development as a healthcare researcher dedicated to serving oncology patients and their families.