Buddy Up: Dr. Kelly Trevino and Dr. Christian J. Nelson

This Winter, the CARG Buddy Up series features Dr. Kelly Trevino and Dr. Christian J. Nelson. Kelly Trevino (mentee) is an Associate Attending Member in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). Dr. Chris Nelson (mentor) is Chief of the Psychiatry Service and a clinical psychologist with expertise in treating men with prostate cancer and older cancer patients at MSK.

Dr. Trevino joined the CARG Buddy Program in 2017. At the time, she was an Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, located in the same New York City neighborhood as the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where Dr. Nelson worked. She and Dr. Nelson were matched as buddies, and the two met periodically to discuss her research program and challenges that were emerging as she conducted her first pilot randomized control trial study. Although they were at different institutions, they shared much in common, with their research both focusing on the intersection of psychology and oncology, specifically how psychological support can improve quality of care for older cancer patients.

The partnership was fruitful from the start, as it helped Dr. Trevino find her footing in the field as a junior faculty member. As her career progressed, Dr. Trevino began asking for Dr. Nelson’s guidance regarding pathways for advancement and growth. During one meeting, Dr. Nelson asked her, “Would you ever consider working here?”

“I was extremely surprised, to say the least!” said Dr. Trevino. The question launched a series of discussions that eventually led to her appointment at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where Dr. Nelson has been her direct supervisor ever since.

For Dr. Nelson, the experience has been just as rewarding, fostering much-needed professional networking during a challenging and isolating time. “It can be difficult to find others who are interested in older cancer patients, and conducting research and clinical work in the area” says Dr. Nelson, for whom the CARG buddy program “provides another opportunity to connect, which is even more important as we continue to manage the COVID pandemic.”

Since then, they have co-authored several manuscripts and a book chapter, including a paper in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer journal on psychosocial risk factors associated with mental health care in older adults with cancer undergoing surgery; and a paper in JCO Oncology Practice about predictors of unplanned hospitalizations among older adults receiving cancer chemotherapy.

While Dr. Nelson continues to provide research and professional guidance for Dr. Trevino, the two have also worked very closely as peers and colleagues. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, they co-direct the Psycho-Oncology of Aging and Cancer Research Laboratory (PAC MSK), an interdisciplinary group of researchers focused on improving the mental health and well-being of older adults with cancer and their loved ones.

Their partnership superbly exemplifies how CARG buddy pairings not only provide invaluable mentorship and connection, but can also cultivate enriching opportunities for career growth and collaboration.

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