Research Team

Michael Hoerger, PhD, MSCR, MBA

Dr. Hoerger is an international expert in psychosocial oncology as well as pandemic mitigation. He is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Oncology at Tulane University, the Managing Director of Palliative Care Research at the University Medical Center of New Orleans, and the Co-Director of the Population Health Sciences and Disparities Program at the Louisiana Cancer Research Center.

As a clinical health psychologist, medical scientist, and healthcare financial analyst and strategist, Dr. Hoerger's career focuses on improving quality of life by reducing the emotional and physical burden of serious illnesses. Dr. Hoerger has written >100 publications in psychology and medicine, serves as a reviewer for 50 scientific journals, teaches research methodology and statistics, mentors research trainees, provides clinical services, and engages with the community on issues related to work, education, and health. He serves as Tulane's Organizational Lead for the NIH-sponsored Palliative Care Research Cooperative (PCRC), has reviewed $100 million in research grants for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), and Co-Chairs PCORI's Advisory Panel on Clinical Effectiveness and Decision Science.

Dr. Hoerger leads Louisiana's 1st psychosocial oncology trial funded by the American Cancer Society as well as the only active research award in Louisiana funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) focused on combating the lasting impact of the pandemic.

Brenna Mossman, MA, MS

Brenna is a 4th-year health psychology PhD student working with Dr. Hoerger. She received a B.S. in Psychology and Political Science from Tulane, as well as an M.A. in Psychology with a concentration in research methods from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to returning to Tulane, Brenna worked as a Research Assistant at Columbia University Medical Center and a Research Manager at Adelphi Values in Boston, where she specialized in patient-centered outcomes and measurement. Broadly, she is interested in supporting health-related quality of life in patients and their families by improving access to and utilization of high-quality cancer care. She is particularly interested in examining predictors and outcomes of patient and caregiver psychosocial distress and well-being.

Tristen Peyser, MS

Tristen is a 3rd-year doctoral student. She graduated from Colorado State with a B.S. in human development and family studies and graduated from Carlow University with an M.S. in clinical and mental health counseling. Tristen worked as a research coordinator and NCI supplement fellow at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Surgery before attending Tulane. She is interested in studying quality of life, stress, palliative care, and developing interventions for underserved populations to decrease health disparities and improve health outcomes in patients diagnosed with cancer.

Ken Xu, BA

Ken is a 3rd-year doctoral student in the health psychology program working with Dr. Michael Hoerger. He received a B.A. in Psychology from Northwestern University in 2018 and prior to coming to Tulane worked as a Research Assistant at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) focusing on population health and cancer epidemiology. Ken is currently interested in understanding the impact of patient-centered, culturally sensitive care on health outcomes in cancer, and development of interventions to increase utilization of palliative care as well as preventative cancer screenings. Other areas of interest include scale development, reduction of health disparities and implicit bias in healthcare, and region-level differences in health behaviors and outcomes.

Dulcé Rivera, Lab Manager

Dulcé is a Senior pursuing a dual major in Psychology and Cell and Molecular Biology on the pre-medical track. Following her graduation, she will be furthering her education by attending medical school, where she intends to continue honing her skills as a researcher. Her primary research interests encompass the intricate interplay between sociocultural and biochemical factors in determining mental well-being and physical health. She is equally passionate about investigating strategies to address and ameliorate health disparities. Dulcé is a Posse Foundation Scholar hailing from New Orleans. She is deeply rooted in her community and dedicated to making a meaningful impact. Outside of her academic pursuits, Dulcé finds solace in spending quality time with her family and enjoying the companionship of her six pets.

Navya Murugesan

Navya is a Senior majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Sociology at Tulane University. She is particularly interested in learning more regarding the various psychosocial factors that contribute to alleviating the emotional and physical burden of cancer whether that be treatments tailored to slow the onset of disease progression or strengthening patient-physician interactions. With research interests ranging from oncology to rheumatology, Navya hopes to pursue medical school in the future and contribute to the field of clinical research. Outside of the classroom and lab, she loves painting, playing badminton, and coaching children for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Her journey thus far is marked by a desire to contribute to the world through a blend of science and mentorship.

Taylor Alcorn

Taylor is a Senior studying Psychology and Cell and Molecular Biology. She has plans to attend medical school after college and is interested in specializing in Psychiatry. Taylor is interested in learning more about the barriers that prevent access to psychological care and how they can best be addressed. In her free time, she enjoys going on walks, spending time with friends, and listening to music.

Rachel Appelbaum

Rachel is a Senior studying psychology, public health, and wellness at Tulane University. She plans on attending nursing school to become a registered nurse. She is passionate about supporting mental health and raising awareness about the mind/body connection. Outside of school, Rachel enjoys walking in Audubon Park, trying new coffee places, and spending time with her friends.

Birney Sherard

Birney is a sophomore at Tulane University studying psychology and Spanish. The PORP lab has enabled her to explore her passions of Abnormal and Clinical Psychology while contributing to work that truly matters. She has found analyzing the interaction between physical and mental health alongside the lab team to be especially interesting. In her free time, Birney enjoys tutoring children, making pasta, and running.

Nicole Garg

Nicole is a Junior double-majoring in Psychology and Music. She is interested in researching the impacts that chronic illness can have on mental health and the best practices for mitigating stress on patients and families in a clinical setting. In the future, she plans to pursue further education to become a clinical therapist with a specialization in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. On campus, Nicole is a Campus Health Peer Mentor, part of a pre-professional fraternity, and in a sorority. In her free time, Nicole enjoys playing piano, going to the gym, and spending time with her friends.

Lab Alumni and Academic Outcomes
  • Katie Seibert, MD (Psychology BS in 2015): Internal Medicine resident at the University of California, Los Angeles

  • Sara Voorhees, MS (Psychology BS in 2015): Clinical Health Psychology PhD student at the University of Florida

  • Catherine Rochefort, MS (Psychology BS in 2014, Behavioral Health MS in 2015): Clinical Psychology PhD student at Southern Methodist University

  • Brooke Duarte, BS (Psychology BS in 2016): Clinical Psychology PhD student at Suffolk University

  • Ashley Lewson, BS (Psychology BS in 2017): Clinical Psychology PhD student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

  • Leah Walsh, MS (Psychology BS in 2017, Behavioral Health MS in 2018): Clinical Health Psychology PhD student at Fordham University

  • Hannah Mercorella, BS (Psychology BS in 2019): Pre-nursing student at the University of Miami

  • Adina Kazan, BS (Neuroscience BS in 2019): MD student at Thomas Jefferson University

  • Sanjana Easwar, BS (Cell and Molecular Biology BS in 2020): MD student at Louisiana State University

  • James Rogers, BS (Psychology BS and Neuroscience BS in 2020): Post-bac at the National Cancer Institute

  • Sarah Alonzi, BS (Psychology BS from Loyola University in 2020): Health Psychology PhD student at the University of California, Los Angeles

  • Hallie Voss, MS (Psychology BS in 2020, Behavioral Health MS in 2021): Working in the private sector

  • Lily Freestone, BS (Neuroscience BS and Public Health BS in 2021): Nursing program at Johns Hopkins University

  • Laura Perry, PhD (Psychology BS in 2016, Health Psychology PhD in 2021): T32 post-doc in the Medical Social Sciences department at Northwestern University

  • Jimmy Moran, PhD (Social-Personality-Health Psychology PhD in 2022): Post-doctoral associate at the Health Education and Behavior department at the University of Florida

  • Alyssa Kim, BS (Psychology BS in 2022): MD student at the Tulane University School of Medicine

  • Addison Dunn, BS (Neuroscience and Psychology BS in 2023): Post-bac at Vanderbilt University

  • Dana Zapolin, BS (Public Health and Psychology BS in 2023): Pre-nursing