Gerhardt Lab

Welcome to the Gerhardt Lab in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at Nationwide Children’s Hospital!

Our lab is dedicated to understanding how children and families are affected by a life threatening illness, such as childhood cancer. We are particularly interested in identifying factors that improve adjustment and quality of life across the illness experience (i.e., diagnosis/active treatment, survivorship, or end of life). Our ultimate goal is to develop interventions to promote well-being and best outcomes among children with life-threatening conditions and their families.

Meet Our Lab Staff

Current Project Overviews

Neurocognitive, Social and Emotional Functioning in Young Cancer Survivors

This study examines the neurocognitive functioning, peer relationships, and emotional well-being of young cancer survivors. Our goal is to identify medical (e.g., diagnosis type) and neurocognitive factors (e.g., emotion recognition), as well as outside resources that protect against late effects among survivors diagnosed early in life (i.e., before age 7). Additionally, we collaborate with the Hoskinson lab to further examine how neuroimaging can help identify survivors at risk for more difficulties.

Families Coping with Cancer Intervention Study

This project centers around a web-based intervention to promote coping among children newly diagnosed with cancer and their parents. This web-based program aims to provide a useful and helpful way for families to improve coping, communication, and overall adjustment to a new cancer diagnosis.

Goals and Decision Making in Cancer

This study aims to understand symptoms, quality of life, goals of care, and family outcomes among children with cancer and their caregivers. We hope to more broadly describe the impact of serious illness on child and caregiver well-being over time.

Harvesting Hope for Kids

This 8-week gardening intervention aims to improve physical activity and nutrition among survivors of childhood cancer. We will examine health outcomes—such as quality of life, cardiometabolic functioning, and the GI microbiome—along with changes in family functioning and knowledge surrounding current survivorship guidelines.

Impact of Genetic Testing Referrals for Cancer Predisposition Syndromes in Children

This study is directed by Dr. Molly Gardner in collaboration with the Gerhardt lab and aims to assess parent and child distress over time in the context of referrals for genetic counseling for a cancer predisposition syndrome (CPS). Comparisons will be made between families who pursue testing and those who do not pursue testing.

Past Projects

Coping and Communication: This National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded, multi-site longitudinal study assessed family coping, communication, and adjustment following a childhood cancer diagnosis or relapse. This study aimed to examine parent–child communication and patterns of coping, as well as their interaction with medical factors (e.g., treatments given, diagnosis type). 

Sibling and Parent Bereavement from Childhood Cancer: This longitudinal, multi-site study funded by the National Cancer Institute examined the adjustment of siblings and parents over time following a child’s death from cancer. 

Psychosexual Development in Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer: This longitudinal study assessed personal (e.g., body image, maturity) and interpersonal (e.g., attachment, memories of upbringing) factors that affect psychosexual development and relationship satisfaction in adult survivors of pediatric cancer.