Karolynn Siegel, PhD

  • Professor of Sociomedical Sciences and Social Work
Profile Headshot


Karolynn Siegel spent much of her career at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she developed and directed a psychosocial research unit in the Department of Social Work. While at Memorial, she was a Member of the Department of Psychiatry as well as Professor of sociology in the Department of Psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College. Dr. Siegel's recent research has primarily focused on examining the adaptive tasks that individuals living with life-threatening or chronic illness confront and the coping strategies they use in an effort to master these challenges. She is also an active researcher in the areas of bereavement and caregiving. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Aging, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institute for Child and Human Development, the (former) Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, the Department of Defense, the American Cancer Society, the New York State AIDS Institute, and various private foundations. Her work is widely published in sociology, health psychology, and medical journals. Dr. Siegel is a former associate editor of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior and has also served as research issues editor for the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology.

Academic Appointments

  • Professor of Sociomedical Sciences and Social Work

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BA, 1971 Skidmore College
  • PhD, 1977 New York University

Honors & Awards

National Research Mentor, Hartford Foundation's Social Work Research Scholars

Member, Research Program Advisory and Oversight Committee, Cancer Care

Member, Medical Resource Coouncil, Gild'a Club Worldwide

Periclean Alumni Scholar Award, Skidmore College, 2003.


Research Interests

  • Chronic disease
  • Community Health
  • Mental Health
  • Substance Use

Selected Publications

Siegel K, Brown-Bradley CJ, Lekas HM Causal attributions for fatigue among late middle age and older adults with HIV infection Journal of Pain and Symptom Management In press

Siegel K, Schrimshaw EW Stress, appraisal, and coping: A comparison of HIV-infected women in the pre-HAART and HAART eras. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 58 225-233 2005

Siegel K, Karus D, Dean L Psychosocial Characteristics of New York City HIV-Infected Women Before and After the Advent of HAART American Journal of Public Health 94 1127-1132 2004

Siegel K, Karus D, Dean L Psychosocial characteristics of New York City HIV-infected women living in two periods American Journal of Public Health 94 1127-1132 2004

Siegel K, Lekas HM Living with HIV as a chronic illness: psychsocial Implications AIDS 16 S69-S76 2002

Christ GH, Siegel K, Christ AE Adolescent grief: it never really hit me until it happened JAMA 288 1269-1278 2002

Siegel K, Schrimshaw E, Lekas HM, Johnson JK Factors associated with HIV-infected women's use or intention to use AZT during pregnancy AIDS Education and Prevention 13 189-201 2001

Siegel K, Anderman S, Schrimshaw E Religion and coping with health-related stress Psychology and Health 16 631-653 2001

Siegel K, Karus D and Raveis V Adjustment among children facing the death of a parent due to cancer Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 35 442-450 1996

Siegel K, Schrimshaw EW Coping with negative emotions: the cognitive strategies of HIV- infected gay/bisexual men Journal of Health Psychology 5 517-530 2000

Urban Health Activities

HIV-Infected Women Living in Two Time Periods : This National Institute of Mental Health funded study is a follow-up to an earlier NIMH supported investigation. In it, Dr. Siegel and her team are investigating how the experience of living with HIV infection has changed since the mid-90s in light of the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy that has significantly extended patient survival. To examine this issue, she is accruing a sample of women currently living with HIV who are matched on several key characteristics to a sample she studied between 1994 and 1996. The existence of her historical data set provides a rare opportunity to empirically document changes or continuities in the lived experience of being HIV infected.

HIV-Infected Injecting Drug Users Living with HCV Coinfection: With the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy has come the opportunity for extended survival for many with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, as a consequence of living longer, many infected individuals are experiencing morbidity and mortality from co-morbid diseases and infections. As a result we anticipate in the next few years there is going to be growing emphasis on HIV as a co-morbid disease. Coinfection with HIV and hepatitis C is a prevalent in a very large segment of the HIV+ population, affecting approximately a third of all HIV-infected persons in the US. In this National Institute Of Drug Abuse-funded study, Dr. Siegel and her team are investigating the experience of living with HIV/HCV coinfection and how coinfection complicates or modifies the mastery of key illness-related adaptive tasks associated with living with HIV-infection.

Self-Care and Symptom Management at the End of Life: In this National Institute of Nursing research funded study, Dr. Siegel and her team are investigating symptom management among older cancer patients with advanced disease. In recent years there has been a great deal of attention focused on patient care at the end-of-life. Particular concern has been raised about whether symptoms, especially pain, are being adequately managed by professionals to avoid unnecessary suffering. In this study the kinds of self-care activities that terminally ill cancer patients and their informal caregivers engage in an effort to alleviate symptoms and suffering are being investigated. How these self-care activities complement or thwart professional efforts is another focus of this work.