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Research at NCIRE

NCIRE-The Veterans Health Research Institute is the leading private nonprofit institute devoted to Veterans health research in the United States. Our mission is to advance Veterans health through research.

We support the work of some of the nation's foremost physicians and scientists at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the premier biomedical research facility in the VA system. All have faculty appointments at the University of California, San Francisco, which has its own proud traditions of research and patient care. We also partner with the U.S. Department of Defense to support health research on behalf of our men and women in the Armed Forces.

Those who have served in uniform have given their best for their country. In return, we believe that they deserve nothing less than the best health care research we can provide.

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Mary A. Whooley, MD, FACP, FAHA, FACC

Primary Care Physician, SFVAHCS
Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCSF

Email: mary.whooley@va.gov

The Mind-Heart Connection

Mary A. Whooley, MD, FACP, FAHA, FACC is Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, a primary care physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, and an investigator at NCIRE: The Veterans Health Research Institute. Dr. Whooley’s research is focused on understanding the links between mental and physical health, particularly depression and cardiovascular disease. In 1997, she validated a 2-question screening instrument for depression in primary care patients. This simple instrument, now known as the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2) yes/no version, was immediately recognized as a tremendous improvement over the much longer screening instruments in use at the time. Since then, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, the United States Veterans Health Administration, and numerous managed care organizations have adopted the PHQ-2 yes/no version to aid in the detection of depression. In addition, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended the use of shorter screening instruments for depression in primary care settings.

Dr. Whooley is also Principal Investigator of the VA- and NHLBI-funded Heart and Soul Study, a 10-year prospective cohort study of over 1000 patients with stable coronary heart disease that was designed to determine how depression leads to adverse cardiovascular outcomes. This study has produced more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, including 5 in JAMA, 6 in Circulation, 3 in JACC, 5 in Archives of Internal Medicine, and 3 in Archives of General Psychiatry. Surprisingly, the Heart and Soul Study demonstrated that the adverse cardiovascular outcomes associated with depressive symptoms were not explained by the expected biological mechanisms (such as increased catecholamines or inflammation) but rather by poor health behaviors, especially physical inactivity. These findings raised the possibility that behavior modification could reduce cardiovascular events in depressed patients. Further information about the Heart and Soul Study can be found at http://www.heartandsoulstudy.net.

Dr. Whooley received her B.A. from Yale University and M.D. from Boston University School of Medicine. She completed her residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine, followed by a fellowship in Clinical Research, at the University of California, San Francisco. She mentors numerous junior investigators and has coauthored over 150 publications which can be accessed by typing Whooley M in the search box at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez.

To see Dr. Whooley on Pub Med, click here.