Psychologist honored for work helping cancer patients cope

Woman drawing a geometric shape

Anne Coscarelli, the psychologist who directs the Simms-Mann/UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, has been honored by the Los Angeles County Psychological Association (LACPA) for her ongoing contributions in helping patients and their families cope with cancer.

Coscarelli was given the Distinguished Service to the Profession of Psychology Award at a luncheon Saturday during the organization’s 19th annual convention in Los Angeles. The organization recognizes someone each year who has made a significant contribution to the field of psychology.

As director of the Simms-Mann/UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, Coscarelli and her staff help patients and their families enhance wellness and address the physical and emotional challenges brought about by cancer and its treatments. The center is part of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The first step in managing cancer is getting the best medical care that traditional Western medicine has to offer, but this is not enough,” Coscarelli said. “Most patients want information that will help them maximize wellness of mind, body, spirit and emotions. Comprehensive cancer centers treat the whole person, not just the disease. Our center facilitates partnership between patients and practitioners in the healing process.”

Coscarelli received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in the psychology of women in 1980 from the California School of Professional Psychology and later received the “Outstanding Alumna of the Year Award” for her research in the area of psychosocial oncology. She has held faculty appointments at UCLA for more than 26 years, and serves as the founding director of the integrative oncology center. Coscarelli’s goal has been to translate research conducted in multidisciplinary fields into the practice of caring for the whole patient with cancer.

The center is staffed with a team of dedicated professionals who understand the biology of cancer, the psychological impact of the disease and who value the importance of healing both patients and their family members. Coscarelli has designed programs oriented toward maximizing healing and providing care that recognizes the importance of the mind-body connection.

As early as 1985, Coscarelli published a research study in the most prestigious journal in clinical psychology illustrating an integrative medicine approach. The study demonstrated the value of relaxation training, cognitive coping and physical activity management on the well-being and quality of life of cancer patients and their families. Coscarelli, as part of a multidisciplinary team, has received grants from the National Cancer Institute, the Veterans Administration, UCLA and private foundations.

She developed a unique quality of life tool to assess the diverse needs of cancer patients that is known nationally and internationally through medical and psychological publications. The tool was adapted for patients with HIV.

Coscarelli serves on the advisory boards for the UCLA-LIVESTRONG Cancer Survivorship Center of Excellence and the Susan G. Komen Support Research for Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Cancer Survivors. Coscarelli actively teaches nurses, physicians and mental health providers about the psychology of cancer, survivorship issues, mind-body medicine and compassionate end of life care.

“It’s such an honor to receive this award from LACPA, an organization made up of my peers who are dedicated to advancing the science and profession of psychology,” Coscarelli said. “I am so grateful to them for recognizing the importance of integrating psychology and medicine and valuing the work that I have done. I hope this will bring more attention to the needs of cancer patients and the role of psychology in their healing."