Scientific Advisor, Carolina Stress Initiative
Dr. Susan Girdler is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and also serves as Director for the UNC Psychiatry Stress and Health Research Program. Dr. Girdler’s long standing research interest is in the adrenergic and neuroendocrine basis of reproductive mood disorders, including premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and perimenopausal depression. Her research has focused on dysregulation in the HPA-axis and sympathetic nervous system responses to mental stress, and particularly on the predictive ability of histories of trauma and histories of depression to identify clinically distinct subgroups of women with reproductive mood disorders. Dr. Girdler’s most recently funded work is designed to examine the predictors of depression and cardiovascular risk during the menopause transition, as well as predictors of the beneficial effects of transdermal estradiol on cardiovascular health and mood in perimenopausal women. Dr. Girdler is also committed to minority health research, and her published studies on ethnic differences in endogenous pain regulation have implications for ethnic disparities in clinical pain. Her current research in this area involves the integration of ethnically-relevant psychosocial measures with stress-responsive pain regulatory factors in order to develop a more culturally and ethnically relevant biobehavioral model for understanding clinical pain in African Americans.