EMOT-ECON’s diverse team is made up of passionate, dynamic, and dedicated individuals who are excited to explore and further build upon emotional well-being and economic burden research. Our core team spans disciplines of Psychology, Health Communication, Health Economics, and Oncology. We invite you to learn more about us, a bit professionally and personally, and feel free to reach out to anyone of us. We would be happy to connect! Please learn more about us below.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  — Henry Ford

Photo of Maria Pisu

Maria Pisu, PhD

Principal Investigator

I am a Professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I have a PhD in Economics and my research examines disparities in access and utilization of quality health care in chronic disease patients.

Why is the topic of emotional well-being and economic burden important to you? Early in my career, I became very interested in understanding the effect of health care costs on patients. Over the years, I examined how the economic burden of disease and economic hardships affect treatment decisions, well-being and overall quality of life in people who have cancer. The EMOT-ECON work is an exciting opportunity to push this research topic forward and inspire others to examine the effects of these costs on patients’ well-being, especially their emotional well-being.

What do you do for your well-being? The best thing for my well-being is dozing under an umbrella at the beach after lunch when the breeze picks up. Unfortunately, I cannot do this as often as I would like to!

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Michelle Y. Martin, PhD

Principal Investigator

I am a clinical psychologist with an emphasis in medical psychology. Reducing health disparities is at the heart of my program of research. Several years ago, through one of my studies, I learned that about 40% of patients coping with cancer worried about costs when making treatment decisions. In addition to the stress of a life-threatening illness, there was now stress about what it will cost. Understanding how the economic burden of illness impacts emotional well-being and health outcomes is a priority for me.

Why is the topic of emotional well-being and economic burden important to you? Our network is the first to bring together researchers, healthcare providers, patients, and others to understand what emotional wellbeing means to patients coping with the economic burden of illness. Our network will identify interventions that will foster wellbeing.

What do you do for your emotional well-being?  Sleep! I have come to appreciate that sleep is the foundation that allows one to thrive in many life domains. I dream of sleep vacations!

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Yu-Mei Schoenberger, PhD

Pilot Projects Lead

I am an Assistant Professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB). I have a PhD from the UAB School of Public Health with a concentration in Health Education and Health Promotion. My research interests include cancer prevention and control, communications technology, health disparities, and health communications.

Why is the topic of emotional well-being and economic burden important to you? It’s important to get researchers interested in this growing field of research, so we can truly understand how the economic burden of disease affects a person’s emotional well-being.

What do you do for your emotional well-being? I like to either craft or work in the yard for my well-being.

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Margaret I. Liang, MD, MS

Network Relations Lead

I am an oncologist, surgeon, and researcher at University of Alabama at Birmingham in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology. I spent 10 years at The Ohio State University and then trained at University of California Los Angeles and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for Gynecologic Oncology fellowship and my Master’s degree in Health Services Research. I served as physician champion for our Cancer Center’s financial counselor initiative, which I presented for an NCI Webinar (

Why is the topic of emotional well-being and economic burden important to you? I have seen firsthand the negative impact that affordability as a barrier to care has on patients’ cancer outcomes and emotional well-being and believe that a cohesive effort (such as EMOT-ECON) to develop evidence-based interventions is needed to advance health system interventions and public policy.

What do you do for your well-being? To relax, I spend time listening to podcasts (The Daily, How I Built This), entertaining my goldendoodle (Penny), and exercising on the Peloton app (Emma, Tunde, and Jess Sims get me motivated).

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David Schwartz, MD

Leadership Team

I serve as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine, and Director of the Center of Health Equity in my Department at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Medicine. I have been a PI of grant-funded projects that have examined approaches to improve patient access to radiation treatment for cancer.

Why is the topic of emotional well-being and economic burden important to you? As a physician who provides clinical care to cancer patients, I know the economic burden patients face because of their illness, and the impact that burden can have on their emotional well-being. My program of research and clinical expertise have prepared and inspire me to serve this network. My practice enlivens pressing clinical research questions which physician-scientists face regarding economic burden and emotional well-being. I am excited to help build the Network through recruiting young (and young at heart) physician-scientists.

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Taylor R. White, BS

Research Assistant & Social Media Specialist

I graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in fall of 2020 with a BS in psychology and have since been involved with EMOT-ECON. I have background research in obesity & nutrition, injury prevention, and cancer disparities. I will be applying to PhD programs in fall of 2021 to continue my education within the field.

Why is the topic of emotional well-being and economic burden important to you? Through my studies, I have learned that our emotions, financial situation, and health status are all interconnected. Researching how each affects the other is key in improving disparities and promoting optimal health outcomes. My goal as a future researcher, teacher, and clinician is to use this knowledge to help people impacted by disease and illness live healthier and fuller lives.

What do you do for your well-being? My favorite things to do are to get a good workout at my university’s rec center, have a long video game session with my friends, and become immersed in a good novel, preferably a classic.  

Click here to see the EMOT-ECON Steering Committee.

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