Research Team

Michael Hoerger, PhD, MSCR

Dr. Hoerger is Louisiana's leading expert in psycho-oncology research. He is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Oncology at Tulane University, a Contributing Member of the Tulane Cancer Center, an MBA student ('22) at the Freeman School of Business, and the Managing Director of Palliative Care Research at the University Medical Center of New Orleans.

As a clinical health psychologist trained in healthcare research administration and strategic management, Dr. Hoerger's career focuses on improving quality of life by reducing the emotional and physical burden of cancer. Dr. Hoerger has published 80 articles and chapters 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. Currently, he serves on the editorial board of Health Psychology, functions as Tulane's Organizational Lead for the NIH-sponsored Palliative Care Research Cooperative (PCRC), and has reviewed $100 million in research grants for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

Dr. Hoerger was Tulane's first faculty member to complete the NIH-sponsored Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science (LA CaTS) Center's Roadmap Award. His team leads a randomized clinical trial funded by the American Cancer Society to improve knowledge and attitudes related to palliative care in the racially and socioeconomically diverse community of New Orleans. Dr. Hoerger is the Founding Director of Louisiana's Health Psychology doctoral training program and Founding Director of the Psycho-Oncology Research Program.

Brenna Mossman, MA

Brenna is a 2nd year doctoral student working with Dr. Michael Hoerger in the health psychology program. She graduated from Tulane with a B.S. in Psychology and Political Science, and she received 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 the development, selection, and implementation of clinical outcome assessments. She is interested in utilizing patient-centered outcomes and mixed methods research to understand and assess the impact of cancer on psychosocial well-being. She aims to help develop interventions that will improve health-related quality of life in those with cancer by increasing access to and utilization of palliative care.

Tristen Peyser, MS

Tristen is a first year doctoral student. She graduated from Colorado State with a B.S. in human development and family studies and graduated from Carlow University with a M.S in clinical and mental health counseling. Tristen worked as a research coordinator and NCI supplement fellow at the University of Pittsburgh prior to attending Tulane. She is interested in developing interventions for underserved populations to decrease health disparities and improve health outcomes in patients diagnosed with cancer.

Ken Xu, BA

Ken is a 1st 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 reduction of health disparities and implicit bias in healthcare, and region-level differences in health behaviors and outcomes.

Jimmy Moran, MS

Jimmy Moran is a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in the social psychology program with an emphasis in Health Psychology. He is a social psychology researcher interested in sexuality and health. His research interest includes how infectious diseases and disease-related individual differences influence how we navigate close relationships, and how these health threats influence our social perceptions. He utilizes a mixture of biological and social psychological theories to help inform his in-lab experiments, as well as longitudinal, fieldwork, and cross-cultural studies.

Sanjana Easwar, BS

Sanjana is a 2nd year medical student at the LSUHSC School of Medicine in New Orleans. She earned a B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from Tulane University in 2020. Currently, she hopes to practice in pediatrics, ophthalmology or psychiatry. She is interested in studying physician-patient relationships as well as the integration of allopathic medicine and palliative care in cancer treatment. Outside of the lab, Sanjana enjoys dancing, music, playing tennis, and watching Saints football.

Alyssa (Seowoo) Kim, Lab Manager

Alyssa is a Senior studying neuroscience and psychology at Tulane. She is interested in the overall health and well-being of individuals and ways to improve the quality of life of people in different settings. Alyssa's other areas of interest include palliative care, burden of family caregivers, and patient empowerment. During her free time, Alyssa enjoys traveling and cooking.

Addison Dunn

Addison is a Junior studying neuroscience, psychology, and public health at Tulane University and plans to pursue medical school in the future. She is primarily interested in exploring the psychological relationships between patients and physicians in order to maximize the best relationship and treatment plans. In addition, she is interested in psychology related to obstetrics and gynecology. Outside of the classroom and lab, Addison enjoys running and biking, and studying and tutoring Cell and Molecular Biology!

Joe Hirsch

Joe is a Junior studying Sociology at Tulane and plans to go to medical school after college. He is thinking about pursuing oncology as a possible medical specialty but is keeping other possibilities open. He is interested in how cancer affects the patient’s state of mind, as well as how cancer affects the patient’s interactions with loved ones. He is also interested in healthcare disparities, with regard to race and more. Outside of academics, Joe loves running, Spikeball, music, and hanging with friends.

Dana Zapolin

Dana is a Junior at Tulane University, studying Psychology, Public Health and French. She plans to pursue a PhD in either Clinical Psychology or Neuropsychology. The PORP lab combines her interests in Public Health and Psychology, and she is excited to be given the opportunity to work as a research assistant. In her free time, Dana enjoys playing tennis, spending time with friends and family, and volunteering with children.

Navya Murugesan

Navya is a sophomore majoring in Neuroscience on the pre-med track and minoring in Sociology alongside Psychology. She is particularly interested in learning more about 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 enhancing patient-physician interactions. In her free time, Navya loves reading, painting, hanging out with friends, and coaching children for the National Spelling Bee.

Dulcé Rivera

Dulcé is a Sophomore double majoring in Psychology and Cell and Molecular Biology. She is interested in Clinical Psychology, as well as possibly pursuing a career in medicine. She is also interested in the disparities of healthcare in regards to how those of differing backgrounds access and receive care. Dulcé is a Posse Scholar and native to New Orleans. In her free time, she enjoys running at Audubon Park and playing with her beagles.

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