Researcher Awarded Fulbright Scholarship for Comparative Study of Mindfulness Practices

David J. Lee, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Australia to conduct a cross-cultural study of meditation, yoga and other mindfulness practices.

“Ancient Eastern contemplative practices are increasingly being adopted in the West for stress reduction and coping with chronic health conditions,” said Lee, who is also director of graduate programs in the Department of Public Health Sciences, and project director/principal investigator of the Florida Cancer Data System at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “A growing number of clinical studies indicate there are positive biological, psychological, and neurological effects of mindfulness practices.”

A researcher in chronic disease and occupational epidemiology, Lee will co-develop and administer a cross-cultural online survey to students, faculty and staff at three different institutions – the University of Miami, the University of Sydney, and Stenden University of Applied Sciences in Bali, Indonesia.

“We will be documenting the prevalence of mindfulness practices such as Tai Chi and Qigong, as well as meditation and yoga,” said Lee, who will collaborate with Nikolaos Tiliopoulis, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Sydney. “The results may provide insights into reaching groups of people, such as teachers and blue-collar workers, who face a high level of occupational stress but may not be aware of the potential benefits of these practices.”

Lee will spend four months in Australia, starting in February, as part of the Fulbright Scholar Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, a division of the Institute of International Education in Washington, D.C.

“Our hope is that this study will help establish the University of Sydney as a leader in mindfulness research, inspire students to pursue this field of study, and lay the groundwork for future research into these practices in Australia,” Lee said.

In South Florida, Lee is collaborating with a nonprofit to conduct a study to document the benefits of providing mindfulness training to teachers in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “We believe that teachers who are trained in these strategies will be better able to deal with the stresses of their profession,” Lee said. “This training will also benefit their students, multiplying the impact of this initiative.”

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