Keynote Speakers

Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD, RN                      

Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu is president of the Mind & Life Institute, a U.S.-based nonprofit with global reach, whose mission is to bridge science and contemplative wisdom to foster insight and inspire action toward flourishing. Dr. Bauer-Wu has a background as a researcher, mindfulness teacher, clinician, and meditation and yoga practitioner. Throughout her career, she has held leadership, academic, and clinical roles in healthcare and higher education, with a focus on mind-body science and promoting well-being through contemplative approaches. She is a past president of the Society for Integrative Oncology, a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, and the author of nearly 100 scholarly articles and chapters as well as a book for the lay public, Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious & Life-Limiting Illness Through Mindfulness, Compassion & Connectedness.

Sona Dimidjian, PhD                      

Dr. Sona Dimidjian is director of the Renée Crown Wellness Institute and a professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her current research projects focus on preventing depression and supporting wellness among new and expectant mothers, promoting healthy body image and leadership among young women, and enhancing mindfulness and compassion among youth, families, and educators. She also has a longstanding interest in expanding access to, scaling, and sustaining effective programs using digital technology and community-based partnerships. Dr. Dimidjian received her BA in psychology from the University of Chicago and her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Washington.

Manjunath Sharma, PhD                      

Dr. Manjunath N. K. is pro-vice-chancellor and the director of research at S-VYASA University, Bengaluru, India. With a doctorate in yoga and geriatric medicine, he has 26 years of academic, research, and administrative experience and has published 70 research papers. His research interests include the psychophysiology of yoga, neural correlates of meditation, aging, and rehabilitation. He is editor of the International Journal of Yoga and has delivered lectures and conducted workshops around the world, including at Harvard Medical School, the Royal College of Medicine in London, and Shanghai University of Sports. Among other roles, Dr. Manjunath serves as a member of the Indian government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Yoga Accreditation in Higher Education and in the World Health Organization’s working group for developing benchmarks for yoga training. He is also vice-president of Vivekananda Yoga University in California, vice-president of the Asian Yoga Therapy Association, and the founding director of the Vivekananda Health Global chain of integrative medicine clinics and hospitals.

Research Presenters

Catherine Cook-Cottone, PhD, C-IAYT                      

Dr. Catherine Cook-Cottone is a licensed psychologist, IAYT-certified yoga therapist, and professor at SUNY Buffalo. She is creator and director of the Mindful Counseling Advanced Certificate program and co-founder and president of Yogis in Service, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that creates access to yoga. Dr. Cook-Cottone’s research specializes in embodied self-regulation (i.e., yoga, mindfulness, and mindful self-care) and psychosocial disorders (e.g., eating disorders, substance use, and trauma). Her research has been funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, UNICEF, Lululemon Athletica, and the Give Back Yoga Foundation. She has written eight books and more than 85 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.

Jeffery A. Dusek, PhD                      

Dr. Jeffery A. Dusek is director of research for Connor Integrative Health Network, University Hospitals and an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Dusek has more than 20 years of experience leading innovative integrative health and medicine research. During his tenure as director of research at the Penny George Institute of Health and Healing, Allina Health, in Minneapolis Minn., Dr. Dusek was the principal investigator for a multi-year NIH R01 grant that studied the real-world use of integrative therapies for pain relief in thousands of hospitalized patients. From 2018–2019, he served as chief research officer at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. During that time he and his collaborators conducted numerous clinical research trials on Kripalu’s RISE program of yoga-based mindfulness training.

Stacy D. Hunter, PhD                      

Dr. Stacy D. Hunter received her PhD in clinical exercise physiology from the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied the effects of yoga on vascular function and other risk factors for coronary artery disease. A yoga practitioner since 2008, she has now published several pioneering studies on the impact of yoga on vascular endothelial function and arterial stiffness, garnering international media attention, and presented her findings at yoga teacher trainings, studios, and symposia in the United States and abroad. She is currently an assistant professor and director of the Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory at Texas State University, where she continues her investigation into the acute and chronic effects of yoga on vascular health in healthy and clinical subpopulations. Dr. Hunter is passionate about making scientific research available to and easy to understand by individuals from a variety of backgrounds. She continues her efforts in public education on the research-based benefits of yoga through her blog, Yoga and All Things Fitness.

Patricia Kinser, PhD, WHNP-BC, RN                      

Dr. Patricia Kinser is a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing. Her biobehavioral program of research focuses on mental health in women across the lifespan. The main focus of Dr. Kinser’s work is to examine nonpharmacological symptom prevention and management strategies for depression and related symptoms, including yoga-based approaches. She is the principal investigator of an NIH-funded study evaluating the effects and mechanisms of a yoga-based intervention for pregnant women with depressive symptoms within a multifaceted biobehavioral context. She is also the principal investigator of a large-scale NIH-funded multi-site randomized controlled trial of a mobile-based self-management intervention to prevent perinatal depression. Dr. Kinser is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, maintains an active clinical practice as a women’s health nurse practitioner at a free clinic in Richmond, Vir., and teaches yoga in the community.

Kimberly R. Middleton, RN, MPH, MS, RYT-500              

Ms. Middleton has served as a nurse research specialist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Clinical Center, since 2007. She created and served as the principal investigator on “A Pilot Study of Yoga as Self-Care for Arthritis in Minority Communities,” drawing on a background as a survey methodologist, health disparities researcher, mindful self-compassion teacher, and yoga instructor trained in Kripalu Yoga. At the federal level, in addition to her NIH role, she has worked as a health scientist for the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focusing on establishment-based surveys related to pediatric emergency department preparedness and ambulatory care. Ms. Middleton is a registered nurse with more than 30 years of clinical experience and holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University and a Master of Science in Survey Methodology from the University of Maryland College Park.

Kathrin Milbury, PhD                      

Dr. Kathrin Milbury is a tenured associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She is passionate about designing and evaluating behavioral interventions to improve cancer-related burden for patients and their families. During her NIH Career Development Award, she systematically developed a unique program of research evaluating mind-body medicine as a supportive care approach for patient-caregiver dyads. For instance, Dr. Milbury’s research revealed that yoga seems to be a promising intervention to improve objective physical function and quality of life outcomes in lung cancer patients and reduce unplanned hospital admissions and feeding tube placements in head and neck cancer patients. Her work also evaluates couples-based meditation interventions to improve psychological and spiritual well-being in those with an incurable cancer and their spouses. Dr. Milbury’s clinical trials are conducted in collaboration with clinicians and scientists representing various disciplines and funded by the American Cancer Society, U.S. National Cancer Institute, and several other research foundations.

Scientific Program Committee: Preconference Workshop Presenters

Akshay Anand, PhD                      

Dr. Akshay Anand works as a professor in the Neuroscience Research Lab, Department of Neurology, and is the professor in charge of the Centre for Mind Body Medicine, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, India. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Philosophy, Panjab University, and editor in chief of Annals of Neurosciences and Integrative Medicine Case Reports and the former editor of Integrative Medicine International. In addition to filing four patent applications, he has more than 200 publications in international peer-reviewed journals. His work has been funded by various national agencies, and he advises editorial, policy, and scientific enterprises in 30 countries. Dr. Anand’s research interests range from understanding of neuronal cell survival mechanisms using in vitro, in vivo, genetic, and alternative approaches (mindfulness techniques) to discovering biomarkers of neurodegenerative disorders for clinical applications. He has received a number of awards honoring his work to advance yoga research.

Anne Cox, PhD                      

Dr. Anne Cox’s research has been focused on understanding key determinants of physical activity behaviors. This has included investigating the role of physical education experiences in predicting students’ leisure-time physical activity and identifying social sources of influence (e.g., teachers, peers) that optimize motivation in the physical education setting. She is currently investigating how body image variables affect physical activity motivation and behavior in adolescents and adults. In this line of research, she is interested in examining how different aspects of body image (e.g., body shame, body surveillance) relate to physical activity behaviors, and the effect of educational programs and various forms of physical activity (e.g., yoga, strength training, aerobic exercise) on body image in children, adolescents, and college students. Dr. Cox has completed 200 hours of yoga teacher training and is using this knowledge to examine the effects of yoga on body image and physical activity. She also teaches yoga in the community. Her goal is to apply knowledge about motivational processes and body image to create positive physical activity experiences.

Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, PhD                      

Dr. Khalsa is director of yoga research for Yoga Alliance and the Kundalini Research Institute, research associate at the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, research affiliate at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He has conducted research on yoga since 2001 and has been a practitioner/instructor of Kundalini Yoga since 1973. His research has evaluated yoga for insomnia, stress, anxiety-related disorders, and in workplace and public-school settings. He works with the International Association of Yoga Therapists as scientific director for the annual Symposium on Yoga Research and editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. Dr. Khalsa is also medical editor of the Harvard Medical School Special Report Introduction to Yoga and chief editor of the medical textbook The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care.

Crystal L. Park, PhD                      

Dr. Crystal L. Park is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Her yoga-related research focuses on the mechanisms through which yoga may affect health and well-being and reduce stress, particularly by fostering healthier emotional regulation. She is currently co-principal investigator of NIH-funded studies of the mechanisms of action through which yoga helps low-back pain and alcohol misuse, and is also co-principal investigator of an NIH-funded research network, Mind-Body Measures and Mechanisms of Emotional Wellbeing. At UConn, she maintains an active research lab of graduate and undergraduate students and teaches health psychology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Jennifer B. Webb, PhD                      

Dr. Jennifer B. Webb is an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Science and the Health Psychology PhD Program at UNC Charlotte, where she directs the WE ARE MIND-BODY KYND Lab. She received her undergraduate degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from Harvard University. She went on to complete her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Southern California and postdoctoral fellowship training in clinical health psychology at Duke Integrative Medicine. Dr. Webb’s research program is informed by a non-dieting, weight-neutral philosophy on wellness equity promotion in culturally and body-diverse groups. She emphasizes enhancing the integration, dissemination, and accessibility of evidence-based mind-body approaches (e.g., yoga, self-compassion, mindful and intuitive eating, mindful self-care) to strengthen embodied self-regulation, positive body image, and well-being among individuals during the developmental transitions of emerging adulthood, pregnancy, and postpartum. Dr. Webb also currently serves as an associate editor for Body Image: An International Journal of Research, an advisory board member of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, an ambassador for Accessible Yoga, and a community partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition.

Preconference and Special-Interest Group Presenters

Catherine Justice, DPT, PT, CST, E-RYT 200, C-IAYT                        

Dr. Justice began teaching yoga in 2004. A desire to deepen her knowledge of the use of yoga for healing brought her to the University of Minnesota, where she received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2010. She currently works at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, where she serves as the program manager for the Integrative Health Division and practices as an integrative physical therapist. She also co-created the yoga portion of Hennepin Healthcare’s resilience training program and serves on the Provider Wellness Committee. For 10 years, Dr. Justice taught at the University of St. Catherine in the Graduate Studies in Holistic Health Department and has conducted research on yoga for arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and lower-back pain. In addition to her work in healthcare, she is the founder and co-artistic director of Rough Magic Performance Theater Company. Dr. Justice is passionate about furthering the body of research supporting yoga therapy to advance the profession, improve quality of care, and increase access to the therapeutic benefits of yoga for historically unserved populations and everyone in need.

Lanay M. Mudd, PhD                    

Dr. Mudd is a program officer in the Clinical Research Branch at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Her grant portfolio includes mind-and-body intervention development and testing, and centers on clinical studies of movement meditation, including yoga, tai chi, and chi gong in a broad range of populations and for a variety of health outcomes. Dr. Mudd is also the training Oofficer at NCCIH and oversees the training and career development portfolio. Dr. Mudd has a dual-major doctoral degree in kinesiology and epidemiology from Michigan State University.

Patrick C. Still, PhD                      

Dr. Still is a scientific review officer in the Office of Scientific Review at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). In this capacity, he coordinates the scientific review of applications submitted to NCCIH in response to its various funding opportunity announcements. Dr. Still has a doctoral degree in medicinal chemistry from The Ohio State University.

2021 SYR Young Investigator

Dennis Muñoz Vergara, DVM, PhD, MPH        

Dr. Muñoz Vergara was born and raised in Chile. He has a strong connection with his Native American background and their contemplative rituals. At an early age, he was exposed to the practice of yoga when he was pursuing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree specializing in animal pathology. In 2016, he was offered a postdoctoral opportunity at Harvard Medical School, within the Osher Center Connective Tissue Laboratory led by Dr. Helene Langevin. In 2017, Dr. Muñoz Vergara successfully applied to the NCCIH-funded T32 program (HMS Research Fellowship in Integrative Medicine), where he is currently a postdoctoral fellow. During this fellowship, he also completed a program in clinical effectiveness and obtained an MPH degree from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. His main independent research project has been a pilot clinical trial evaluating the effect of yogic stretching on the acute systemic inflammatory response in yoga-naïve sedentary adults. His long-term goal is to develop a bidirectional translational model for studying the effect of mind-body practices on inflammation and persistent postsurgical pain.