Family Functioning Research Program

The Family Functioning Research Program is committed to helping family members thrive, not merely survive cancer in a family member. It involves programs and interventions that assist family members to add to their ways of managing the impact of serious medical illness on family members, including children. The overall goal is to enhance functioning and decrease distress.

As part of our commitment to assisting families and patients with cancer, we:

  • Develop and evaluate educational materials about how to help manage the impact of cancer on the family (e.g., materials for parents to use in talking with their child about their parent's cancer).
  • Train other health care professionals on how to assist patients and family members impacted by cancer.
  • Test new, innovative strategies to reduce the stress and to enhance quality of life while living with cancer.
  • Conduct interview studies of family members and patients that help health care professionals better know what it is like, on a day-to-day basis, to live with the challenges and opportunities for growth and well being when a family is affected by cancer.
  • Design and evaluate new, innovative ways to enhance the quality of life of persons, including family members, affected by cancer.
  • Develop and evaluate new research for measuring and describing family members' personal experiences in dealing with cancer in a family member.
  • Conduct training workshops for health professionals on helping families manage the impact of cancer on their family life.

All studies have been approved through UW Human Subjects Division and additionally through all IRBs at specific institutions where recruitment is active.

For more information about these programs, please call Mary Ellen Shands, RN, MN at 206 685-0837 or email

Please remember that we cannot guarantee the confidentiality of any information sent by e-mail.