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Sophia K. Smith, PhD, MSW

Associate Professor
(919) 684-9628
2114 Pearson Building

Dr. Sophia Smith came to the Duke University School of Nursing faculty from the Duke Clinical Research Institute, where she was a Research Scientist in the Cancer Care Research Program (DCCRP) and Center of Learning Health Care (CLHC). Dr. Smith earned her PhD and MSW degrees at the University of North Carolina School of Social Work. Her clinical background includes social work internships at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and the Hospice of Alamance County. Dr. Smith earned a BS degree (in business administration with an information systems concentration) at State University of New York at Albany, and was a senior manager at IBM and led an organization of computer application programmers and systems analysts before beginning her career in oncology social work.

Dr. Smith’s program of research has focused on innovative mHealth and psychosocial care solutions to improve health outcomes for cancer survivors. Her work has helped to define the longitudinal quality of life and patient experience of survivors of adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma, with a particular focus on posttraumatic stress disorder, the impact of cancer, and implementation of evidence-based supportive care services. As a senior scientist member of DCCRP, CLHC, and the Duke Oncology Nursing Center of Excellence, Dr. Smith has also contributed to a research ecosystem that conducts patient-centered clinical trials, analyses and policy studies, all of which simultaneously utilize and further the development of an integrated data system. This system coordinates diverse datasets, leverages novel information technology for patient-reporting of symptoms and other concerns, informs future studies, and facilitates patient education and patient-provider communication.

Academic Program Affiliations

  • Master of Science in Nursing Program
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice Program


  • PhD - University of North Carolina School of Social Work
  • MSW - University of North Carolina School of Social Work
  • BS - State University of New York

Research Interests

Research interests include:
• Behavioral and Mobile Health (mHealth) Interventions
• Comparative Effectiveness Research
• Cancer Survivorship Needs
• Patient-centered Outcomes
• Cancer Care Quality
• Program Evaluation

Awards and Honors

  • 2011 || • Selected as participant in Mobile Health Summer Institute, NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research
  • 2007 || ICARUS Award for Best Multidisciplinary Presentation, University of North Carolina Interdisciplinary Center for Aging Research, Annual Aging Exchange Conference
  • 1992 || Supplier Excellence Award, IBM
  • 1990 || Executive Resource Program Appointment, IBM
  • 1990 || Management Leadershio Award, IBM
  • 1981 || Bachelor of Science, Cum Laude, State University of New York at Albany

Areas of Expertise

  • Health Disparities
  • Oncology
  • Palliative Care
  • Psychiatric / Behavioral Health
  • Research Methods

Representative Publications

  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26465328 Smith, S. K. and Selig, W. and Harker, M. and Roberts, J. N. and Hesterlee, S. and Leventhal, D. and Klein, R. and Patrick-Lake, B. and Abernethy, A. P. Patient Engagement Practices in Clinical Research among Patient Groups, Industry, and Academia in the United States: A Survey. PLoS One. October 14, 2015 10(10); e0140232
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26036473 Spector, D. J. and Noonan, D. and Mayer, D. K. and Benecha, H. and Zimmerman, S. and Smith, S. K. Are lifestyle behavioral factors associated with health-related quality of life in long-term survivors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Cancer. 121(18); 3343-51
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25644773 Smith, S. K. and O'Donnell, J. D. and Abernethy, A. P. and MacDermott, K. and Staley, T. and Samsa, G. P. Evaluation of Pillars4life: a virtual coping skills program for cancer survivors. Psychooncology. January, 2015 Epub ahead of print
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25751114 Bryant, A. L. and Smith, S. K. and Zimmer, C. and Crandell, J. and Jenerette, C. M. and Bailey Jr, D. E. and Zimmerman, S. and Mayer, D. K. An exploratory path model of the relationships between positive and negative adaptation to cancer on quality of life among non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivors. J Psychosoc Oncol. 33(3); 310-31
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 24865219 Smith, S. K. and Nicolla, J. and Zafar, S. Y. Bridging the gap between financial distress and available resources for patients with cancer: a qualitative study. J Oncol Pract. September, 2014 10(5); e368-72
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 24123368 Smith, S. K. and Samsa, G. and Ganz, P. A. and Zimmerman, S. Is there a relationship between posttraumatic stress and growth after a lymphoma diagnosis? Psychooncology. March, 2014 23(3); 315-21
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 24128592 Smith, S. K. and Rowe, K. and Abernethy, A. P. Use of an electronic patient-reported outcome measurement system to improve distress management in oncology. Palliat Support Care. 12(1); 69-73
  • 2013 -- PubMed # : 22833503 Oerlemans, S. and Smith, S. K. and Crespi, C. M. and Zimmerman, S. and van de Poll-Franse, L. V. and Ganz, P. A. Assessing the impact of cancer among Dutch non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivors compared with their American counterparts: a cross-national study. Psychooncology. 22(6); 1258-65
  • 2013 -- PubMed # : 23448740 Leak, A. and Smith, S. K. and Crandell, J. and Jenerette, C. and Bailey, D. E. and Zimmerman, S. and Mayer, D. K. Demographic and disease characteristics associated with non-hodgkin lymphoma survivors' quality of life: does age matter? Oncol Nurs Forum. 40(2); 157-62
  • 2013 -- PubMed # : 22302619 Crespi, C. M. and Ganz, P. A. and Petersen, L. and Smith, S. K. A procedure for obtaining impact of cancer version 2 scores using version 1 responses. Qual Life Res. 22(1); 103-9


Grant Funding (Selected)

  • Pillars4Life: An Online Self-Management Curriculum for Cancer Survivors

    Pfizer, Inc.
    12/2014 to 11/2015

    Project Goal: The Pillars4Life curriculum teaches coping skills to cancer patients in a virtual group setting; it was recently implemented and studied at 17 hospitals. The goal of the project is to broaden the horizons of the program and demonstrate that chronic pain management can be improved through Pillars4Life. More specifically, the aims are to demonstrate the impact of Pillars4Life, distributed via live video conferencing technology, on: 1) a reduction in cancer-related pain and associated outcomes; and 2) optimized health care utilization and patient-provider communication.

  • Leveraging a mHealth Solution for Cancer Survivors

    Duke Cancer Institute
    01/2014 to 12/2014
    Role: PI

    Project Goal: Determine if lymphoma and breast cancer survivors will use a mobile app, PTSD Cancer Coach, and find it a valid and acceptable tool to manage their symptoms; and conduct a limited test to determine initial estimates of efficacy in managing PTSD symptoms and related outcomes.

  • Institutional Comparative Effectiveness Research Mentored Career Development Award

    NIH / National Cancer Institute
    03/2012 to 08/2013
    Role: Mentored postdoctoral researcher

    Project Goal: Pillars4Life Study - Evaluate the impact of participation in the LiveStrong-funded Pillars4Life program on key psychosocial outcomes across 17 sites in the US.

  • Cancer Care Quality Training Program (CCQTP)

    NIH / National Cancer Institute
    05/2009 to 04/2011
    Role: Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Project goal: This fellowship supports research in cancer survivorship. Overall objective of Cancer Care Quality Training Program (CCQTP) is to train clinician and non-clinician scientists to work collaboratively in multidisciplinary research teams to improve cancer care quality.

  • Quality of life in non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivors: A follow-up study

    University of North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute
    08/2008 to 10/2010
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Project Goal: To describe post-treatment healthcare use, health behaviors and perceived need for and interest in receiving support services among 566 lymphoma survivors; examine change over time in quality of life outcomes; and identify demographic, psychosocial, and disease-related correlates (i.e., cross-sectional data) and predictors (i.e., longitudinal data) of healthcare use, health behaviors, and perceived need for and interest in receiving support services, as well as of different trajectories of change in quality of life.

  • National Research Service Award

    National Institutes of Health
    12/2007 to 12/2008
    Role: NRSA Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Project Goal: Fellowship to support research in cancer survivorship.

  • Quality of Life of Older Long-Term Lymphoma Survivors

    NIH / National Cancer Institute
    09/2004 to 08/2006
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Project Goal: To identify and evaluate the wellbeing of 886 long-term survivors of adult lymphoma as evidenced through reported quality of life with particular emphasis on post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • ACS Doctoral Trainnig Grant: Quality of Life of Older Long-Term Lymphoma Survivors

    American Cancer Society
    09/2003 to 08/2006
    Role: Pre-doctoral Training Fellow

    Project goal: American Cancer Society Doctoral Training Grant in Clinical Oncology Social Work supported PI's doctoral education.

  • Long-term Cancer Survivor Needs Assessment

    University of North Carolina Research Council
    01/2000 to 12/2001
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sophia Smith recently presented "Novel Approaches to Distress Management" at the 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting

The ASCO Annual Meeting brings together more than 32,000 oncology professionals from around the world to discuss state-of-the-art treatment modalities, new therapies and ongoing controversies in the field. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sophia Smith recently published an article entitled "Cancer and PTSD: What You Need to Know" on the Young Survival Coalition web page. 

Young Survival Coalition is the premier organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Young Survival Coalition offers resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Kudos to Sophia Smith and her Co-PI Matthew LeBlanc for their Duke Palliative Care Pilot award entitled: “Usability of a Mobile App to Improve Communication Around Symptom Management.” This proposal is for a one-year period with a start date of Jan. 1, 2018. This internal RFA sought proposals focused on interventions in communication and decision-making and were to include clinician-researcher collaborations.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

PhD student Matthew LeBlanc and faculty member Sophia Smith were recently featured in a Duke Palliative Care Grand Rounds Announcement. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sophia Smith was recently elected as research director for the Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW) Board of Directors effective January 1, 2018.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sophia Smith was recently featured in a Herald Sun article entitled "Cancer survivor? Duke's new PTSD app helps patients and families overcome trauma of diagnosis and treatment." In the article Smith and a breast cancer patient are interviewed.

Click here to read the full story.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sophia Smith was recently featured in a WRAL TV news story on Duke Cancer Distress Coach, a mobile app custom developed to address PTSD in cancer patients and their families. Smith is the principal investigator for the study.

Click here to view news story.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Being told you have cancer can be one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through. Sophia Smith, PhD, MSW, associate professor at the Duke School of Nursing (DUSON), has heard those words in her lifetime — twice.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sophia Smith and Paula Tanabe recently published an article entitled "Identifying Social-Behavioral Health Needs of Adults with Sickle Cell Disease in the Emergency Department" in the Journal of Emergency Nursing.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Sophia Smith recently presented on "PTSD with Lymphoma Diagnosis" at the 9th Annual Canadian Conference on Lymphoproliferative Disorders (CCOLD) at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, in Lake Louise, Alberta. The conference provides a unique opportunity for attendees to interact with international experts in teh field of hematologic malignancies.