Areas of expertise include the following: psychotherapy intervention research; psychosocial oncology; psychosocial impact of illness; psychosocial and behavioral impact of genetic testing and women's mental health; knowledge translation and competency-based education.
Dr. Esplen is a Clinician-Scientist at UHN and the Executive Director of the de Souza Institute- a national Knowledge Translation Centre that supports health care providers providing oncology or palliative care. The main focus of Dr. Esplen’s research is to investigate the psychosocial impact of having a cancer diagnosis or being at high risk for cancer due to a strong family history or genetic mutation. The research program focuses on the design, standardization and testing of psychosocial and psychotherapy interventions and instruments for individuals and families dealing with cancer or with a genetic predisposition to cancer, such as with BRCA1/2 or LYNCH Syndrome. She also has a background in women’s mental health and group psychotherapy for various clinical populations.
Studies include descriptive and psychotherapy interventions that address coping, quality of life or body image disturbance and sexual functioning. Dr. Esplen and her team have developed and validated several instruments to examine the impact of carrying a cancer mutation on self- concept, including populations of BRCA1/2, FAP and LYNCH syndrome. She has also developed and validated a psychological screening instrument to identify individuals who require added psychological support undergoing the genetic testing process, now utilized in various countries and clinics. She has a strong interest in women’s mental health and women-centered psychotherapies. Other areas of interest include psycho-oncology, group psychotherapy, guided imagery in psychotherapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction and group therapy modalities among various populations, such as pain populations, HIV risk, Eating disorders and medical populations. Studies also include interventions to address body image and sexual functioning issues among women with breast cancer and different models of group psychotherapies to facilitate coping and adjustment to cancer.
In her role as Executive Director of de Souza Institute, founded in 2008 with MOHLTC funds and which is now nationally recognized as a go to centre for standardized educational programs to support oncology and palliative care. The institute provides curriculum from psychosocial oncology care to programs offering to support sexual health and management of treatments; the institute has successfully lobbied to have chemotherapy training standardized in Ontario with mandated annual updated training.
Dr. Esplen is a past President of the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology and past chair of the Psychosocial Subcommittee, Ontario Provincial Advisory Board for New Technologies in Genetics and has worked on other ministry committees including those focusing on Palliative and End of Life Care. In 2011, Dr. Esplen received a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology (CAPO) for her contributions to the field of psychosocial oncology. She has held several career scientist awards from NCIC and CIHR.
As a Vice Chair, Basic and Clinical Sciences, she worked on integrating and supporting Status Only Faculty and Chairs the Senior Promotions Committee for the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. In Octiber 2019 she took on the new rool of Vice Chair, Equity and Mentorship.
Executive Director, deSouza Institute
Affiliate Scientist, Ontario Cancer Institute
Affiliate Scientist, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital
Mary Jane Esplen, PhD, RN
Executive Director, de Souza Institute, University Health Network
Professor, Department of Psychiatry,
Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto,
Vice-Chair, Clinical and Basic Sciences, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto
Affiliate Scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
de Souza Institute
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