The National Palliative Care Research Center

Curing suffering through palliative care research.


Justin Yu, MD

Assistant Professor

University of Pittsburgh

Grant Year
Grant Term
2 years
Grant Type
Kornfeld Scholars Program

Project Description
Developing a Behavioral Intervention to Improve Coping among Family Caregivers of Children with Medical Complexity
Children with medical complexity (CMC) have severe chronic health conditions, extensive health care needs, and high risk for poor health outcomes. CMC account for one-third of pediatric health care spending. Family caregivers are responsible for providing the majority of CMC’s care. Difficulty coping with these demands can negatively impact caregivers’ emotional well-being. This undermines caregivers’ ability to continue caring for their children. Developing evidence-based strategies to improve coping and emotional well-being among CMC caregivers is a palliative care and public health priority.

My long-term career goal is to develop impactful palliative care interventions to improve the health and well-being of CMC and their families. In this proposal, I plan to use qualitative and human-centered design methodology to develop a behavioral intervention that improves CMC caregivers’ ability to cope with stress. Specifically, I will (1) characterize the experiences of caregivers of CMC in coping with stress, and (2) develop and refine a behavioral intervention to improve CMC caregivers’ coping. This project will advance our understanding of CMC caregivers’ unique experiences and produce one of the first behavioral interventions designed for caregivers of CMC.

I have developed a rigorous training plan to accomplish career development objectives reflecting critical gaps in my expertise: (1) applying behavioral theory to a clinical problem, (2) developing behavioral interventions using human-centered design methodology, and (3) planning and conducting behavioral clinical trials. My multidisciplinary mentorship team of NIH-funded faculty investigators will provide methodologic expertise in each of these areas. Completion of this project will facilitate my progress towards research independence and position me to submit a competitive K23 application proposing to pilot the refined intervention program. As an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, I will devote 80% of my time to this proposal’s research and training activities and 20% to clinical duties as a pediatric palliative care physician.


Justin A. Yu, MD, MS, is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and works with the Supportive Care team at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. After receiving his medical degree from Temple University, he completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and then a fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. This was followed by a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, during which time he also obtained a Master of Science in clinical research. Overall, Dr. Yu’s research is focused on improving the health and well-being of children with medical complexity (CMC) and their family caregivers. His work to date has focused on using survey-based data to describe the health, health-related quality of life, and health care experiences of CMC family caregivers. Looking to the future, he seeks to develop evidence-based interventions aimed at improving the emotional well-being of this unique caregiver population.