Dr. David K. Ahern is on special assignment to the National Cancer Institute under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) wherein he serves as a special advisor to the Health Communications and Informatics Research Branch within the Behavior Research Program. In this role he will assist the Chief and staff in developing a research agenda in health and behavioral informatics to enable enhanced care across the cancer care continuum.
Dr. Ahern focused his career on behavioral medicine, studying the intersection of behavioral and psychosocial factors with medical illness, and early on recognized the importance of emerging interactive technologies in health and health care. He left the clinical practice of psychology in 2000 to focus exclusively on research and program administration. Dr. Ahern has published across a broad spectrum of illnesses—chronic pain, cardiovascular diseases, and somatization disorders. Over the course of a 30 year research career, he has assumed investigator roles on numerous NIH grants/contracts in the areas of chronic pain psychophysiology, behavioral and psychosocial aspects of cardiovascular disease, somatoform disorders, and eHealth. While on staff at MGH, Dr. Ahern developed a nationally recognized Behavioral Medicine clinical and research training program and pioneered the use of innovative technology systems for outcomes assessment in health care. In 2001 he transferred his primary hospital appointment from MGH to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital to continue ongoing collaboration with Dr. Arthur Barsky on research on hypochondriasis and unexplained medical symptoms. In addition to academic activities at Harvard, since 1997 he has been a senior scientist for a technology-based, health care firm in Rhode Island, creating a successful Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program resulting in over 15 grants and contracts.
In May 2010, Dr. Ahern was appointed to direct the Program in Behavioral Informatics and eHealth to expand research initiatives at the intersection of health information technology and mental health within the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Current projects include an initiative to deploy and implement technologies for assessment and treatment of psychiatric disorders within the outpatient department of psychiatry and pursuit of grant opportunities in health information technology and mental health.