Samantha M. Harden, PhD, RYT 500

Updated: Oct 26


Dr. Harden is a behavioral psychologist and dissemination and implementation scientist, as well as a 500 hour registered yoga teacher. She is a CPF graduate from the Virginia class on October 23, 2022.


She explores the intersection of evidence-based behavior change interventions and their uptake in existing delivery systems such as Cooperative Extension and Carilion Clinic. Current projects include, but are not limited to, exploration of endometrial cancer survivors' exercise preferences; older adult lifestyle modification programs; statewide, group-based wellness challenges; and bridging principles of yoga and Ayurveda for public health. She is currently funded by an undergraduate summer experiential learning program (NIDDK R25, MPI Harden and Good), through partnership with the Family Nutrition Program (PI Serrano), an investigation of a school-based asthma treatment program (NHLBI R01, PI Arcoleo), and a multi-level approach to address high-obesity in Petersburg, VA (CDC, PI Hosig) as well as funding from the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) to explore dissemination and implementation science integration within the federal system.


Samantha is also an Associate Professor & Exercise Extension Specialist in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech. She is affiliated with the Dept. Obstetrics/Gynecology and Dept. Family and Community Medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Blacksburg, VA. Below is information about a project she is working on with her collegues.


Title: The use of the Obesity-Related Behavioral Intervention Trials (ORBIT) model to proactively respond to endometrial cancer survivors’ needs and speed the development, delivery, and sustainability of a tailored lifestyle intervention


Working Authors: Armbruster SD, Brow K, Ganjineh B, Zoellner JM, You W, and Harden SM


Background: The rising incidence of endometrial cancer, the most common gynecologic cancer, is due to its relationship with obesity and inactivity. Following treatment, endometrial cancer survivors (ECS) retain their adiposity and are the least likely of all cancer groups to meet national physical activity guidelines, leading to poor quality of life and obesity-related comorbidities. Interventions to address these issues are nascent and traditionally take over 10 years to develop. Thus, our objective was to apply a strategic model, focusing on stakeholder engagement and iterative cycles of intervention testing, to ultimately shorten the lag time of intervention development for ECS.

Methods: The ORBIT model for behavioral treatment development was used as a guide. Question: Can we improve the health and quality of life of ECS and their support teams?


Phase I(a) Define: Data was collected from ECS with obesity treated from 1/2010 to 2/2020 at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, VA via cross sectional survey and during focus groups.


Phase I(b) Refine: Using results of Phase I(a), we leveraged FitEx, an existing group-based physical activity promotion program, creating FitEx-ECS.


Phase II(a) Proof-of-Concept: 6 ECS and 14 support team members enrolled in FitEx-ECS.


Optimization occurred throughout Phases I and II, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and via incorporation of participant feedback (n=7) at 6 months post-intervention.


Findings: Phase I(a): ECS physical, mental, and emotional health worsened following the COVID-19 outbreak. ECS want a “wellness” focused program with electronic delivery and embedded social support that encourages mild or moderate home-based exercise.


Phase II(a): 85% of participants completed the proof-of-concept study. Post-intervention feedback: Participants reported positive comments about the program, duration, exercise level, and group connections. Ongoing refinement includes needs to adapt existing materials for support team members and improve usability of the FitEx platform.


Implications: The ORBIT model provides a progressive and flexible process to reduce the translational lag time of selecting and adapting evidence-based interventions to impact public health. In just 2-years’ time, we are ready for efficacy testing of FitEx-ECS. This process is replicable for other obesity-related cancer interventions and within rural communities to rebuild the decreased physical activity level due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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