$50K Gift to UA College of Nursing Professor Will Aid Investigation of Compassion Meditation Technique

Dec. 20, 2017

The estate of bestselling integrative health author, educator and cancer survivor, Jack Challem, has awarded a $50,000 gift to University of Arizona College of Nursing Assistant Professor Thaddeus PacePhD.

The funds will support Dr. Pace’s research, including an upcoming pilot study using Cognitively-Based Compassion Training® in cancer survivors and their friends and family.

“Jack’s focus was on immunity and inflammation processes,” said the estate’s executor, Sally Dodds, PhD, who first became aware of Dr. Pace’s research when she was an associate professor at the UA College of Medicine Tucson. “And since Dr. Pace investigates inflammatory immune responses to stress, his work is a perfect fit.”

The donation will help Dr. Pace apply a specific compassion meditation technique called CBCT® to assess its effects to ease the onset of stress in home caregivers as well as patients coping with cancer. CBCT® (Cognitively Based Compassion Training), works to cultivate compassion to reduce stress, build resiliency, improve relationships and foster human value in the self and others.

“Dr. Pace has been a wonderful asset to our college and his work is an obvious fit with the goals and values of Jack Challem's estate" ~ Dr. Joan Shaver, Dean, UA College of Nursing 

Dubbed compassion meditation, in previous studies, the therapy already has proven effective in dampening the body’s response to stress in healthy young adults. “We’ve taken initial work on how compassion meditation may be good for modifying stress activation and have examined indicators of its stress-reduction effect in foster-care children with trauma histories,” said Dr. Pace, who theorizes the therapy also may prove useful in the cancer-survivorship arena. “The biological underpinnings of the quality-of-life impairments that happen in cancer survivors likely involve similar stress components.”

Thanks to prior research by Dr. Pace’s UA collaborators, Terry Badger, PhD, RN, professor, College of Nursing, Department of Psychiatry and member of the UA Cancer Center, and Chris Segrin, PhD, professor, UA College of Social and Behavioral Science, UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, it is evident that a complex social bonding occurs between cancer survivors and their home caregivers (family or close friends).

Studies involving prostate and breast cancer survivors revealed when the patient’s mood was down, their caregiver’s mood tended to be down, and vice versa. Based on this interplay, Dr. Pace plans to offer a multi-week CBCT® program to both parties, promoting more tranquil moods in tough social situations, and also promoting a calmer overall outlook. “If we can elevate the mental outlook on one or both parties, both are likely to show a positive effect,” Dr. Pace said.

Dr. Pace, who also is assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology, hopes that new research underway in his laboratory will build solid scientific evidence to support an integrative wellness strategy for breast cancer survivors and their close family members and friends. In the study, participants will learn to adapt their mind-body state through instructor-guided meditation sessions and be expected to practice at home. Any change in depression, anxiety, stress and social interactions will provide insights into the body’s mental and physical responses to the therapy and help provide feedback to improve wellbeing.

“Dr. Pace has been a wonderful asset to our college and his work is an obvious fit with the goals and values of Jack Challem’s estate,” said College of Nursing Dean Joan Shaver, PhD, RN. “One of our distinctive research strengths relates to cancer prevention and survivorship and the use of integrative approaches. Our faculty collaborate in this quest with our other UA health professions colleagues, particularly as co-members of the Arizona Cancer Center. These philanthropic gifts accelerate our ability to move important research forward.”